I was walking along the sidewalk wrestling with my future and verbally processing, which is often the case. My friend Matt, the strong silent type, was walking alongside me. I rambled on and on about ideas for going to seminary and maybe becoming a pastor. He listened and asked questions. After weeks of this he finally let out a sigh and asked one final question, “Bro, what are you afraid of? You keep talking about this stuff but that’s all you’ve been doing, talking. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of happening if you go to seminary?”
I don’t really remember what I said in that moment. I do remember the feeling though. It was that feeling of someone seeing right through you. When you are called out so clearly and with such intensity that you can’t help but come up short. My “wrestling with God” was more about my desire to avoid pain than it was about seeking God’s will.
What I learned through that process was that to move forward in life requires risk.
Risk is something that we tend to shy away from. There are men and women whose sole job is “risk management.” They live their lives to help companies and organizations to figure out how to limit their risk. We have, by and large, come to see risk as something that is a negative.
“Determine your risks and rewards.”
“That is awful risky, are you sure?”
“I don’t think I’d be willing to risk it.”
Risk, by its very definition holds in it the possibility of pain, failure, and regret. Therefore, we avoid it. Yet, risk by its very definition hold in it the possibility of joy, adventure, and success. Therefore, we are drawn to it.
This whole risk business is a tension, a tension of possible joy and possible pain. When we weigh our options we are often weighing whether or not the possible pain is worth the possible joy.
Too many of us are unwilling to risk it. We are like the batter with a 3-1 count that will only swing at the absolute perfect pitch at the absolute perfect speed and location, so they let the nearly perfect pitch pass them by.
We become stagnant in our lives because we are afraid to risk.
When we worry too much about the possible pain and yet grow weary or frustrated with the life we are living often we begin to change the wrong things. We think that maybe it’s our marriage that is the problem, or our kids, or our house. The fact of the matter is that it is us. When we feel stuck it is because we are afraid to risk.
Typically, this comes in terms of relationships. Often in our lives we feel isolated and alone. This isolation is usually due to not being willing to enter into relationship with another. To really enter in with someone demands that we let them in and that brings an inherent risk of pain.
It is said of Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)” There was great risk of pain in Jesus’ mission. There was pain in Judas’ betrayal. There was pain in the death of Lazarus. There was pain in being human. There was pain in the act of dying on the cross. Yet all this pain was worth the risk for “the joy that was set before him.”
I was deeply afraid of transition when I was “wrestling with God” about going to seminary. I was afraid of not having enough money. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid of pain. The cost was going to be real and the risk of pain was scary. Soon, the thought of missing out on the joy of obeying my call was too much to bear. I was finally willing to risk the pain to move forward in my life.
What about you? What risk are you being called to step into? What’s holding you back?