My six-year-old, Ava, and I walked hand-in-hand back to our house. It was after sunset, and we were returning home from a dinner with friends.
What should have been a leisurely stroll, wasn’t.
My heart raced. Small noises beckoned for my attention. Did Ava notice me nervously looking over my shoulder? Did she realize that our pace was faster than normal?
Since my battle with panic attacks had started almost two years earlier following a miscarriage, I’d developed an intense fear of being outside at night without my husband, Ted. At times it was debilitating. I turned down girls’ night out invitations. I refused to go shopping after the sun set. I even hesitated to open the front door in the evening.
Step by literal step, I fought the fear.
“I’m scared of being outside when it’s dark,” I confided to Ava.
While many kids may have latched on to my expressed fear, she didn’t. Instead, she simply said, “Be courageous, Mommy. That’s what we learned at school.”
Courageous. Having, according to my dictionary, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
It’s what Joshua showed as he fought the Lord’s enemies in the Promised Land. It’s what Esther demonstrated when she approached the king. It’s what Mary displayed when she accepted the role of Jesus’ mother. Yet courage isn’t restricted to the extraordinary. It isn’t limited to big acts. It’s an attitude I can practice during the mundane.
It was with my daughter’s timely words of encouragement still fresh in my thoughts that I sat down to watch Sherwood Picture’s fourth film, Courageous.
Written by brothers and fellow pastors Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Courageous hit theaters in September 2011. It opened at No. 4 and remained in the box office top 10 for four weeks. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, the exclusive collector’s edition features over two hours of special features.
While I have yet to see Sherwood’s first film, Flywheel, I enjoyed both Facing the Giants and Fireproof. Truth be told, I still choke up every time I watch Facing the Giants. Every time. Truth be told, Ted does too.
As a former film student, I was interested to see in Courageous how Sherwood has continued to grow in their movie-making skills since their previous picture. And within the first five minutes, it was obvious to me that the production value surpassed that of its predecessors. Handhelds were used. Jump cuts employed. And, they definitely seemed to be shooting on higher quality film.
Turns out, as I learned in the bonus feature, “The Making of Courageous,” the movie wasn’t shot on film at all. Instead, the filmmakers used three RED cameras — a cutting edge digital alternative to film. It’s a technology we didn’t use when I attended film school almost a decade ago, and I was impressed by the cinematic quality it brought to Courageous.
Yet the technical isn’t what the film’s creators hope impacts viewers the most. It’s the story.
Courageous is all about the challenges of contemporary fatherhood. It chronicles the lives of five disparate men and their families. Viewers watch as police officers Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, Shane Fuller, and David Thomas, along with their friend Javier Martinez, navigate their roles as husbands and fathers. These men learn that fatherhood is much more demanding — and valuable — than anything they encounter in their professional lives. The film explores this theme with a tasteful balance of sobriety and levity, something I’ve come to expect from Sherwood Pictures. I laughed out loud more than once.
While the film is marketed as a call for fathers to take their God-given role seriously, its message that “honor begins at home” is applicable to us all. It takes courage to live the way God calls us to, regardless of our role and responsibilities.
As I watched the characters interact, I found myself growing introspective. What do I resolve to do on a daily basis? Do I resolve to just make it through the day, to just do good enough?
Yes, too often I do. There are days when I watch the clock, anxious for naptime, rather than engage my children as I should. There are moments when Facebook captivates me more than Ted. And there are instances when I choose Netflix over my Bible. When one of the fathers in the movie chooses to watch TV from the couch rather than go on a run with his son, I felt the pang of conviction, knowing I too have put off my kids too many times, and that I could do better.
And that’s what I walked away from this movie with — a resolution to do better. A desire to have the strength to persevere — not merely endure — on those days when kids fight, food burns, and the laundry basket is hidden beneath a pile of dirty clothes. To be, as my six-year-old challenged me, courageous — even when it’s dark outside.
Maybe it is time for me to become a woman of courage. I can start by putting away the fear and letting my friends know that I can make girls’ night this weekend.