Courage, Chivalry and the Relevant Life
What if someone walked up to you and told you they were going to give you a chance to change the world? What if the only qualification for the opportunity was a test proving your
And passion to live a
Shouldn’t be too hard, right? But what if the test wasn’t on a piece of paper? What if it was in an open field, atop a steed, with a shield in one hand, a sword in the other hand, and a fully trained knight charging you from the opposite direction with lance leveled at your chest?
Would you accept the challenge?
What if the lives of your entire family depended on it?
As a culture, we love stories about courage and chivalry. We love to see the underdog step up to the plate, face the looming foe, and come out victorious because they dared to do what seemed impossible. We love a story in which someone comes to the rescue in the moment of absolute distress. We love stories of dedication, of commitment, and of bravery; but sometimes I wonder:
Do we love the stories because we’re afraid, maybe even convinced, that we can’t live courageously ourselves?
We find inspiration in those stories; we find hope. For the few moments required to take the DVD out of the player, pop it back into its case, and stick it up on its shelf, we feel we could be that person—and then we flip the lights out, go to bed, and forget we ever dreamed of courageous living. Because, in our minds, that could never really be us.
So here’s the question: Are chivalry and courage just unrealistic, impractical ideals or do they really matter?
Jane hurried across the busy parking lot, through the fragrance of a thousand flowers and into the humid shop of her neighborhood nursery. An anxious glance about the bright room told her no one was around. She’d been to this place a dozen times, maybe more, but today was more than just a casual shopping trip. Today it seemed life depended on the next few minutes.
A year ago, Jane had felt like someone, not someone important, but someone just the same. Now that was gone. For months, she’d struggled with feelings of failure and worthlessness. Every aspect of life had changed. It seemed nearly everything that identified her had been stripped away. Sorrow had led to sorrow. Grief had led to more grief. Now, she dared to hope that in this place she might find a ray of hope.
A small, bright-eyed woman came in from the greenhouse and stepped behind the counter. She smiled at Jane. “Can I help you?”
Jane stepped up to the counter, producing a set of papers, and a nervous smile. “I saw on your sign that you are hiring. I called a few minutes ago and someone told me to try to be down here before five. I didn’t think I’d make it, but here I am.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful.”
A man strode in from another arm of the greenhouse. He sauntered up to the two women, his face emotionless.
“This is the gal who called a few minutes ago,” said the woman behind the counter, “She’s looking for work.”
“Oh, great!” The man extended a hand to Jane. “What made you contact us?”
Jane shook his hand and smiled. “Your sign,” she said. “I have an interview coming up for a permanent job, but I didn’t know that until I was on my way here. It’s been a rough year. I know you’re only open a few months out of the year, but I thought maybe I would be able to work here until something more permanent opens up.”
She slid the set of papers across the counter. “I brought my resume, but most of what’s on it won’t really apply to this job. I love working with flowers. I spent four hours on Monday in my own flowerbed. I’m a hard worker.” She stopped, the nervousness returning.
The man took up the resume and glanced over it. “Our staff works six hours a day, six days a week. The pay is $9 an hour. Would you be able to do that?”
“I think so. Are the days set or is there some kind of rotation?”
“The days are set unless you’re a floater,” the bright-eyed woman put in, “but we already have a floater.”
Jane nodded her understanding. She glanced toward the greenhouse. The work would be more physical than what she was accustomed to, but she’d get used to it. And it would help even if just a little.
“You can start tomorrow.” The man said flatly.
Jane stared. “Really?” she finally managed.
“Yes. If you’re available.”
Gratitude swelled in Jane’s chest. They knew nothing about her. They hadn’t even read her resume, let alone checked her references. She stammered something incoherent, even to herself. Then she smiled. “Thank you.”
They talked for a few minutes more, deciding they would wait to start until after the interview, then Jane began the short drive home, still stunned. That morning she had stood on her front porch and looked at her flowerbed and said, “Lord, it’s all cleaned out, but I don’t know if there will be anything in it? Please provide flowers this summer?” Was it possible that instead of filling her flowerbed, he’d just given her an entire greenhouse full of flowers?
A week later, Jane arrived at the greenhouse for her first day of work. Nothing had come of the interview with the more permanent position, but that was okay. At least she had something to tide her over until a better position came along. The work was pleasant. Each day brought something new and yet something not completely foreign to the woman. She’d have to get used to dragging hoses around the tables of flowers. That obviously wasn’t an area in which she excelled in grace and agility. She was glad for moments alone, picking dead leaves off of plants, rearranging plants in their trays so they’d have enough room to grow, watering the lobelia that so quickly dried out. In those alone moments, she often donned her headphones and listened to the quiet, encouraging tones of music that centered her heart back on Christ. Sometimes she even sang along. This place was healing her. She could feel it.
She began to take note of her fellow employees. The little they told her of their lives began to paint a picture. Each had come from a background of struggles. Each had heartache and pain in their eyes. Each was so grateful for this place of safety and peace.
Jane had barely worked a week when she got a call for another interview. This one worked into an immediate temp-to-hire position. The thought of leaving the greenhouse stirred emotion in her heart that she hadn’t expected. As she bid her goodbyes to the bright-eyed woman, Jane felt a lump rising in her throat.
“The last year has been horrible,” she said, “but this week has been wonderful. Thank you.”
The other woman hugged her and then hurried away, wiping the tears from her own eyes.
As Jane walked home from the nursery one last time, she thought again about the hope that had risen within her heart over those few days among the flowers. For the first time in months, she felt a small worm of confidence returning to her heart. She’d always thought of that greenhouse as just an unusual fixture in her otherwise normal neighborhood. She’d been glad it was there, but now she saw it was much more than it appeared to be. It was a place of new beginnings. A place where fresh starts and stepping-stones were offered on a daily basis. It was a place where two people chose on a regular basis to be courageous, to act chivalrously, and to be relevant in a handful of lives—And to each of those lives it mattered.
I’ve heard that chivalry is dead, but it can’t be. We can’t allow it to die. Because when chivalry dies the weakest among us suffer. When chivalry dies, a great deal of good dies with it.
Several years ago, God put in my heart the importance of living a relevant life. Over the last year, I have seen a new side of it: Relevance requires both courage and chivalry. The three go hand in hand; but they don’t always go charging across a field in a battle—sometimes they simply press a much needed flower into a maiden’s hand. It is possible to change the world, not just for well trained knights in shining armor but for you and me.
This blog is an exploration—an adventure—to discover the intricacies of courage, chivalry, and relevance; and, for those who dare, it is a challenge to live what we discover. Here, I hope to share with you not just ideas and ramblings but also real life examples and simple steps of of action through stories, essays, inspirational fiction, and much more.
This journey will most likely be a winding path. Only God knows to what destinations it will lead us. It will be worth the shadows, the curves, and the unknown, of that I am sure. I hope you’ll join me in seeking out what it is to live a courageous, chivalrous, relevant life.
“Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is right in his eyes.” – 1 Chronicles 19:13