You know which one just doesn’t belong?
It may have started when I stopped wearing my bike helmet. Or when my shower came while I was on my bike, miles from home.
It wasn’t exactly free-solo climbing or cliff jumping. Still, hearing thunder crack yards away as my calves brushed the metal bike frame wasn’t exactly tame. Whatever the reason, I’ve been contemplating RISK a lot lately.
A late summer rodeo might have something to do with my recent risk assessment, too.
Gabe’s premonition came well into our first rodeo. We yahoo’d through bronc riding, tie down roping and breakaway roping. The ladies’ barrel racing was riveting. All an opening act for these last thrilling minutes.
Mom, I think someone’s gonna get hurt in the bull-riding. Can we go now?
Seven-year old intuition is strong. It should have tipped me off; that it wouldn’t end well.
Bull riders live for the most dangerous 8 seconds. A few die for them. Each rodeo they don face masks, neck braces and grip the bull rope. Bull riders rush to it. No guts, no glory.
Do you play it safe? Is your MO to risk or run? What should it be?
If you run from risk, you’re in good company. Especially when it come to love’s liabilities. C. S. Lewis described his own risk tolerance in The Four Loves:
Don’t put all your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of…I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love on makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in my that pleases Him less.
Risk exists because of ignorance. If the outcome is unknown, it’s a risk.
Absent omniscience, our lives are risky. Our decision to adopt our family’s first indoor pet is laden with risk. Dinah’s already lunched on a lamp cord. Who knows? Rosewood victrola legs could be next. There’s always the risk of carpet stains and fetid smells.
There’s risk and then there’s risk for the cause of God. Carefree bike rides, indoor pets and bull-riding are one kind. Red Kool-aid is the other kind.
My friend took a huge risk last week. Quiet, reserved Kelly was convicted. She knew our ladies’ growth group had outgrown its host home. So she crept out of her comfort zone and took a righteous risk. Kelly opened her pristine home to a dozen ladies and their crumb-tracking, juice-toting toddlers. And I do mean pristine.
One tyke had red Kool-aid in his sippy-cup. It leaked. A bright pink spot- a la Cat in the Hat Comes Back– appeared in Kelly’s beige frieze. We froze. Oh that spot! It may never come off. It may not!
Kelly scrubbed. And scrubbed. The pink spot paled. Then Kelly sighed-and smiled at us. We exhaled. All that was left of the red Kool-aid was a faint rosy splotch.
Risk is right, precisely because it might not turn out.
If your risk doesn’t turn out, it doesn’t mean you were wrong to risk. That’s why it’s called a risk. If it were a sure thing in the short term it wouldn’t require faith. And without faith it’s impossible to please God. Your guts, God’s glory.
Which means risks taken out of love for God please Him. It also means it’s wrong not to take risks for God. Some of Christ’s harshest words were for the security loving Pharisees. Remember his condemnation for the foolish servant who risked nothing? He cautiously hid the talents, rather than take a right risk to expand His master’s wealth.
Taking risks for God is right. Sometimes we see success even in the short-term:
- Joab’s, Be of good courage, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. (2 Sam 10:12) Israel won.
- Esther’s, If I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16) She didn’t.
- Jonathan’s, Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. (1 Samuel 14:6) He did.
- Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s, God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace…but if not… (Daniel 3:17) Unsinged.
- Paul’s, For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 21:13) Imprisoned, not killed.
God does not promise short-term success when we risk for him. John Piper’s words are sobering:
It could be a wild ride. You might want a helmet.
(See 1 Thess. 5:8 & Eph. 6:17 for the right one for this ride.)
And, yes, the answer is c) red Kool-aid. You know why, right?