Risky Living

I was brushing snow off our Envoy yesterday morning when my phone rang. A scared, shaking voice on the other end said, “Dad, I just hit a pole.” Fear, helplessness, and guilt all balled up together and punched me hard in the gut. Fear because I didn’t know how bad it was. Helplessness because wherever Madeline was, I wasn’t there. Guilt because I was the one who told her, “Don’t worry, Sweetie. As long as you take it slow, you’ll be fine.”

            After throwing the scraper over the driver’s seat, I jumped in and drove off trusting that acceleration and the defrost would take care of the rest of the snow and ice on my windshield. A few questions and answers let me know that, no, she wasn’t hurt, and, yes, she was out of the traffic lane, and, yes, she thought the car could probably still drive. Four slippery minutes later, I saw her up around a corner with her hazards on. The malicious traffic gods stretched out my left turn red as long as they could before finally relenting. I made the turn, hit slush, and came within inches of plowing into the side of Madeline’s parked car. After exchanging a wide-eyed look with the girl, I eased up in front of her.

            Madeline checked out fine, other than being understandably shaken. The bike lane sign she side-swiped seemed stable. Her right front fender had a bit of a scrape, but when contrasted with the larger cow-shaped dent further back on her car it was barely noticeable (FYI, the cow received the ticket on that accident, which ultimately didn’t help much because it had let its insurance lapse). We got Madeline’s car secured in a Best Buy parking lot, then I took her the rest of the way to school. To her great credit, when I offered to drive her to work after school, she declined, got back behind the wheel, and took off.

            As I’ve thought about yesterday’s events, I’ve come to the conclusion that had I to do it again, I would still send her out in the storm. She knew it was a bit of a risk driving to school in that weather, and rather than deferring to mom or dad she took the risk head on. Then, after school when it was still slushy, she took the risk again. That’s stud-chick, character-building stuff.

            Life is meant for risk. Safety is not only boring, it can be stagnant. God has created us to take chances – to test what we can do in Him, to step out expectantly knowing that the only way that we’re not going to fall flat on our faces is if the Lord intervenes. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:39) Unfortunately, as we take stock of today’s American church, there is a lot more shrinking back than there is faithing going on.

            Following Christ is all about risk. The only real safety that exists is found in the knowledge that when this life is over, we’ll be with our Savior forever. But when it comes to the day-to-day of discipleship, all bets should be off. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Taking up our cross means that we are ready to die in the service of Christ at any moment – oh, and by the way, Lord, if the cross is the way you choose to take me today, I just happen to have one handy. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He said, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” (Luke 9:3) That’s risk! We don’t operate that way these days. Nancy and Madeline just spent five days in Florida checking out a college, and I saw a lot more than two tunics in their bags. Jesus tells the disciples to step out with nothing except the Gospel and some faith.

            Having just typed those last words, it’s hitting me that they really sum up what serving God is all about. It’s stepping out with the Gospel and faith. God will provide all the rest. Are you called to a ministry in the church? The Holy Spirit will give you the gifts and skills to carry it out. All you need is the Gospel and faith. Do you feel like the Lord is calling you to a short-term or long-term missions opportunity? If He is, He will provide the connections and the skills and the funds. Your pre-trip checklist should contain two items: the Gospel (check) and faith (check).

            Let us determine to not be of those who shrink back. Let us be of those who get behind the wheel in the snowstorm. Then, when we slide into a pole, let us be of those who do not cower or run away, but who get back behind the wheel to drive again. Take up your cross, step out in faith, love your God, serve your church, reach out to your world.

            In closing, I want to ask for prayer from you. Tomorrow night at 7:00pm, I am stepping out with the Gospel and faith as I open our home to a trio of Mormon missionaries. Even though I’ve done it many times before, the nerves are always there. I don’t want to fail God, I don’t want to fail these young men, and I don’t want to end up looking like a doofus. But I know who I believe in, and I trust that He will give me what is needed at that time. Pray for truth to break through to the hearts of Elder Rich, Elder Coleman, and Elder Porter, and that, at the right time, the Lord will bring them out of the deception they are trapped in and into the freedom that’s found in a relationship with the real Christ.

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