There is something deep inside a man’s heart that longs to be heroic. I don’t know what little girls dream of, but I do know that little boys dream of carrying those girls out of a burning schoolhouse so they can be admired as strong and brave. Teenaged boys dream of fighting in a war not so much to blaze away at the enemy as to perform an act of heroism that will mark them as tough and noble and worthy of honor. Though older men may no longer be prone to such fantasies, they, too, are drawn to heroism and are convinced that they would be equal to the challenge, that they would stand where others fall, that they would run forward when others run back.
The reality, though, is that few men will ever commit the kind of acts they have so often pictured in their dreams. Few men will ever find themselves facing grave peril and impossible odds to emerge victorious and heroic. Few men will ever live the kind of lives that will even afford them the opportunity. Yet many men choose to sit idly by, wishing they would encounter the field of battle or the place of challenge so they could finally prove themselves.
To such men I have two things to say. First, I urge patience and second, I urge action.
First, I urge patience. If you wait and allow life to unfold, you will eventually come to an opportunity to prove your character. At some point, a great challenge, a great sorrow, or a grievous loss will come to you and you will need to decide how to respond.
I know many heroes who have never dashed into a burning building or tackled an armed man. One man’s heroism was shown when his child became terribly and mysteriously ill and he led his family prayerfully and faithfully as together they passed through their darkest valley. Do we not regard it as heroic to lead through the darkness when the enemy lurks on every side? This man led his most precious people through their most difficult hour. That’s heroism.
For another man, it was shown when his wife fell ill and he was more attentive to her than any doctor or any nurse. He fed her, he bathed her, he clothed her, he loved her. It was shown again when his wife finally succumbed to that illness and he had to take on all the roles she had left behind. Sometimes the truest hero is the one who learns to braid a little girl’s hair.
For still another man it was shown when he himself fell ill and he determined he would live out his final days as a trailblazer. He would set an example before his wife, children, and friends of how to live out the final days well, of how to approach death bravely and victoriously. And in so doing, he left behind an inspirational legacy that has caused them to honor him all the more. He is a hero to each one of them.
So first I urge you to be patient, for the time will come when you will be called to display heroism of that kind.
Second, I urge you to take action now. I urge you to behave heroically in front of the people who most need you to help them and bless them. Rather than waiting and pining for an opportunity to display your heroism on a world stage, be willing and eager to display it on a small stage. Be heroic before your wife. Be heroic before your children. Be heroic before the few people God has called you to serve.
Your wife doesn’t care if you never have a medal to pin to your chest or a plaque to fix to your wall. But she does care deeply about how you live before her today. She cares deeply about whether you are living before her in a way that expresses love and care, whether you are leading her as a servant, whether you are growing in godliness and grace, and whether you are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
Your children don’t care if your name is never present in the headlines, but they do care whether you are present in their lives. It concerns them a great deal whether you are active or uninvolved, whether you treat them as a joy or a burden, a mere responsibility or a tremendous privilege. Any dad can be a hero to his children when he relates to them as God calls him to—with love and joy, with tenderness and servant-heartedness. Why care whether you are loved and lauded by others when you are loved and respected by them?
If you come to the end of your days and your wife says that you loved her well and that you led your little family with grace, you have the highest commendation you can receive on this side of the grave. If your children honor you as a faithful father, if they acknowledge that you blazed the way through the darkest of valleys, you have been as heroic as any man is called to be. There may be no crowds to cheer you, but I’m sure the hosts of heaven stand and applaud. There may be no medal for bravery, but I’m certain there will be reward in heaven. For you have been heroic in the most important field of life.