In 2007, I went on my first mission trip to Africa. As we drove through the poverty-ridden villages, one thing stuck out to me. At almost every gas station we passed, which wasn’t many, there were armed guards carrying semi-automatic weapons.
Don’t see that every day.
It is now 2017 and I do see that every day. An armed policeman with an intimidating gun is visible almost every day of my life. I live in New York, my office is a few blocks from the defining tragedy of my generation. A tragedy that changed the world and our illusion of safety forever.
Somewhere between that first trip to Uganda and my walk through downtown Manhattan today, I was at a church in Nashville, trying to convince our congregation to do an overseas trip. The main concern was safety. Long story short, we went to Belize that summer. And… a woman from our congregation was murdered by her husband while we were away.
Life is not safe. Yet, we spend so much of our time trying to weave a web of illusion. We hide and fight and kick and scream in an attempt to control the world around us, to make it safe for our bodies, our minds, our beliefs, our emotions.
The idea of uncertainty keeps us from trying. It keeps us shackled to the starting blocks, afraid of how the race will turn out. It is a freezing kind of terror.
In order for us to live the kind of life God has called us to, the life we have been created for, the life we so desperately desire, we have to take a risk.
I think it is because we are not God. We don’t know how things will turn out. At some point, our obsession with safety becomes an attempt to control our world, to manipulate our surroundings. And we are not ultimately in control.
For all of its discomfort, risk is the beauty of our world. A discovery of something beyond imagination. A dying to ourselves
Risk is a strange intersection between trusting in the Lord and taking ownership of our journey. It is the crossroads of faith and action.
We cannot hide from the necessity of risk. Nor can we make risk an idol, renaming safety under the disguise of adrenaline or adventure, tricking ourselves into a new brand of comfort.
The mirage of safety and the electric pull of risk tests our mettle. It lets us know what we really value. We only truly risk for that which we love most.
All throughout the globe, we have found ways to trick risk. We cover it by more superficial gambles. We turn ourselves into false heroes, taking on the inherited risk of those around us. We sometimes risk too much, thinking that the risk itself is the answer rather than the discovery of that thing truly worth risky behavior.
As we pursue for ourselves a life of meaning and purpose, mature risk is an essential ingredient. We must discover that which is worth our stability and that which is worth our uncertainty. We will no doubt discover the answer is one and the same.