The Cowardly Lion

Acts 18:9: “One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision,’Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent.'”

So tonight I went to a Blazer game (we won – and got free Taco Bell Chalupa coupons.  what what?).  On the way home, my friends and I were skipping and singing “We’re off to see the wizard….” (I’m not sure why, except that four people skipping arm in arm naturally leads to this song.  It’s like one of Newton’s laws of motion.)

Anywaaay… we were trying to pick which character we would be and I chose the cowardly lion. The lion is my favorite animal, and next year for the Portland AIDS Walk, I’m going to be a boy lion on the team Wild Wild Kingdom.  (Boy lions have manes, you see).  But as a theologian always looking for deeper meaning, I realized it is fitting that I picked the cowardly lion, because I do wish I had more courage.

The picture above (love!), shows me with my “oh yeah, I’m all that!” face, as I pose with (hot!) bestie Andrew Shayde. I definitely have moments when I feel I am courageous. It took courage for me to help lead the year-long process which culminated in a church-wide meeting (115 people!) to adopt our Welcome Statement that includes a specific welcome for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  It took courage for me to sign up for the Ride4CAP and ride my bike from Seattle to Portland, asking for donations for the Cascade AIDS Project for months. And I’m proud of that.

But I still identify with the cowardly lion.  Tomorrow I have a phone meeting in which I will need to be assertive, and that will take several deep breaths and I will probably be literally quivering with anxiety.  It makes me nervous to speak to those in authority, or to speak up to those who might be angry with me.  It makes me nervous to say something that may offend someone or make someone not like me.  It made me nervous to make this blog public and share my thoughts on faith on the internet.  I want to stay in my comfort zone where I don’t rock the boat, don’t face scary downhills on my bike, don’t have to challenge power structures or risk confrontation.

“Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent.”  This is the exhortation from God to Paul and to us. This is the life I choose, though it is scary and takes me outside of my comfort zone.

  • I pray for God to grant me courage and strength to speak the truth that God’s love extends to all, without exception “regardless of ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, education, income or family status.”  
  • I pray for God to grant me the courage and strength to speak out against stigma for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • I pray for God to grant me the courage and strength to speak up when people are being mistreated, either individually or societally.  
  • I pray for God to grant me the courage to respond to those in need (the hungry, the homeless, those in violence torn Democratic Republic of Congo, victims of domestic violence, ….).
  • I pray for God to grant me the courage to speak up to those who are outside my comfort zone, for you never know what may come of the encounter.
In the Wizard of Oz, the cowardly lion doesn’t lose his fear, but acts in spite of it.  I may not ever get over that shaking feeling when I’m standing up for myself or someone else, but I think it will get easier.  I will practice.  I think I will get better at it, regardless of what fear I may still have.  
And I still pick the cowardly lion because I want to dress up as a boy lion with a mane for next years AIDS Walk. (Wild Wild Kingdom, yo!)
Gracious God, grant us the strength to stand with those who may need to hear the assurance of welcome.  Grant us the courage to choose lives boldly proclaiming your love.  Grant us the compassion to speak out for those in need.  Amen.

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