MARTIN: What’s your definition of word courage?

Published 7:09 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017

By JERRIA MARTIN | Drug Free Communities of Selma and Dallas County

What’s your definition of courage? Nelson Mandela believed, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Thus, we all have the power to be courageous.

Can you believe that there was a time that I was afraid to speak or even pray in front of people?

I remember sitting in a small prayer group as a freshman at Stillman College. Usually, the president of the campus ministry would lead us in prayer as we all prayed silently amongst ourselves.

But this session was different. The young man stood up before us and asked us to join hands, then before praying he announced that God had put it on his heart to do prayer differently, in a more inclusive manner. He explained that he would end the prayer after each person in the circle led the entire group in prayer. At that time my mind’s eye was searching for the nearest exit, but as I began to step away, the minister pulled me closer.

So, the first person began, and she prayed a solemn and sweet prayer. The next few went and they spoke in tongues, shouted and prayed with high energy.

The person before me prayed for what seemed to be 10-15 minutes, reciting every scripture that came to his mind and blessing every person on campus whose name he knew.

When it finally got to me, my heart was pounding like a hammer inside my chest, my head was drenched in sweat, my soul was filled with fear, but I remembered the prayers of my peers, I remembered all the great speeches I watched the presidents and other political leaders give, and I remembered all the scriptures I knew, then prayed, “Jesus Wept! God bless you and God bless America! In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.”

I thought that my prayer was insufficient and void of any real substance. But the minister spoke with me after prayer and told me that my prayer was an act of courage. So I continued coming and that next year I was elected president of the campus ministry. I led the prayer groups. I was licensed as a Baptist minister that summer and became youth minister at my church. I overcame my fear, with courage.

We are surrounded by courageous men and women in Selma, from our EMTs, to our policemen and firemen, to the doctors and nurses who were once afraid of blood, and the teachers and professors who once felt that their knowledge was inadequate.

However, nothing compares to the unselfish courage of our veterans, who make tremendous sacrifices out of their love for our country and her people.

Let their great courage inspire you to conquer your own fears and to be the change that we need in our communities; because there is liberating, empowering and auspicious hope in courage.