“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
Fortitude is another word for strength. But not the strength we equate with our physicality.
Rather, it is our mental strength, our emotional strength, our moral strength.
I have told myself I have not always had the gift of fortitude. But I am beginning to wonder if that is the devil trying to convince me I am not strong enough to make it to the end. To tell me I cannot endure the passions through which I must pass before I too must face death on my final cross as Jesus faced death on his.
In Gethsemane, Jesus himself asked before his arrest, “My Father,* if it is possible, let this cup pass from me..” (Matthew 26:39)
Do I have the fortitude not to ask God to spare me whatever agony waits me in the end if Jesus himself was tempted to do so?
Probably not. But Jesus then went on to say in the same verse “..yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
Will I have his fortitude then? His moral character to let God’s will be done? I don’t know.
For now, all I can do is look back at all the times I thought I was defeated, by myself or by others, and take solace in the fact that somehow I have carried on.
I am sure it has been God’s will I do so as much or more than my own. The temptation to quit, to avoid any more pain in the name of life and love, is overwhelming. Like Ophelia, sometimes I just want to let rue take me deep into the dark, where the bough breaks, the currents stop flowing and all is silence.
Yet somehow the buoyancy of God’s call on my life has been greater than the devil’s whispered seduction that to feel no more means the end of suffering.
Living is painful. There is no way around that basic fact. Not even for Christ himself.
But it is also joyful and adventurous, thrilling and interesting and kaleidoscopic. It changes one moment to the next. Paradoxically it is also peace and serenity and the timelessness of the night sky lit full of a million stars that appear fixed to the naked eye.
Yet they whirl to their own gravitational pull if seen through the eyes of God or a powerful telescopic lens. Because God created them that way and man can only invent a device to see what God has wrought.
For man himself still cannot bend the entire cosmos to his will. Only God retains that power, has that omnipresent strength.
Still, it takes fortitude to live a life both fixed yet mutable from every encounter with person, place or thing.
To be fully one’s authentic, cardinal self yet still allow oneself to be touched and moved by emotion and circumstance. To be strong enough to take on feeling and not let it bring you to your knees or shatter your heart completely.
It takes fortitude to keep this pledge of challenge for 90 days – even when I am more than an hour past the end of the twelfth day and into the next.
You can say I lacked the fortitude to complete the challenge on its due date. Or you can say I had the fortitude to finish the race, albeit late.
In any case, what more can mortal man do to me than offer a judgement, on it or the life I lead?
I am not afraid.