The Risk of Remaining

 

Island trip by boat with sunrise

We all love a good story involving risk, don’t we? The one where the hero sells all her possessions to move to a foreign land or leaves a great paying job to start a non-profit with the hopes of changing the world.  We’re inspired by the bravery of the one who risks everything to follow their dream. Stories of faith and courage and risk. After all, every great adventure requires risk. And deep down, don’t we all want to live lives of adventure? I do.

 

Adventure and change seem to go hand in hand and I happen to really enjoy change.  I would even go so far as to say I crave it. On the shaky ground of uncertainty when many anxiously strive towards stability I find myself energized by all of the possibilities of the unknown; excited at the prospect of adventure.

 

Unfortunately this also translates into a temptation to cut and run when things get boring, difficult, frustrating or stagnant. In these moments, risking everything to set out on a new adventure and trusting God with the details seems like a great plan. However, abandoning ship is not a brave, adventure-promising decision, it’s actually playing it safe. We never learn to weather storms if we jump ship every time the waves begin to rise. Living to tell the tale of the gale force winds, thunder and waves is an adventure. Heading back to shoreline-safety is not.

 

What I’m learning is that persevering in the midst of whatever your current situation is can actually require greater faith and risk than leaving everything familiar behind.

 

Maybe the greatest adventure awaiting us is the opportunity to view our present circumstances with unfamiliar eyes. To carry out the day to day with fresh passion and purpose. To discover new ways to more fully love those around us and pioneer the present moment with intentionality.

 

There are times when the biggest leap of faith you can take is the one you don’t.

 

To choose to stay planted where you are.

 

To risk putting your roots down deep into the soils of difficulty, frustration, discouragement or even injustice to see what grows out of it.

 

To endure and grow stronger.

 

To define your circumstances instead of letting them define you.

 

To chart new territory internally while staying the course externally.  

 

Everything in my change loving nature fights against this. But it’s possible that our longing for adventure is actually fulfilled in simply waiting to hear what God will say next. What simple thing will he say that could transform an ordinary day into an adventure? What area of my heart will he choose next to mold and carve and recreate into something beautiful?

 

We must choose either comfort or courage according to research professor and author Brené Brown. Uncomfortable circumstances provide an opportunity to embody a spirit of courage by facing them head on instead of running or hiding. To choose comfort is to choose stagnation.

 

Christine Caine puts it this way,  “the amount of pressure you can handle will determine your destiny.”  As our capacity to endure discomfort without breaking increases, the borders of our destiny expand. If we break under the pressure or jump ship early our capacity remains the same and we remain where we’ve always been.

 

Wherever you go, there you are.

 

So I’m choosing to believe that the grass is not always greener on the other side. I’m choosing to trust God is working even in the mundane and menial.

 

I’m choosing courage. The courage to embrace the stretching tension of my everyday circumstances. And the courage to remain and find risk and adventure right where I am.

Monday Morning Resolutions

New YearEvery year around this time people joke about how the gym is really full for the first few weeks of the year and then it eventually tapers off. This is pretty telling of how successful our New Years resolutions are. We start off strong. Motivated by the promise of a new beginning and the hope of changing our lives for the better or slimming down for summer. But then life happens. We get busy. We get sick. We get bored. Or it’s just too much work. We may miss a day, then a few days, then a week and before we know it it’s July and we’ve gained 3 lbs.

I’ve never been one to make New Years resolutions, because I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone’s life actually change by making them. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to vow to ourselves that we will change. It’s wonderful to reflect on the previous year and decide how we want the coming one to be different. However, I think most of us would agree that New Year’s resolutions are largely ineffective.

So why do we fool ourselves with these often lofty, life-changing goals?  Sometimes we just need a re-do after a bummer of a year. It feels good to say “Buh-bye!” to a disappointing 12 months with the hope of a better dozen ahead.  When the rubber meets the road though, many of us bend, buckle, and then break those resolutions.

A resolution is a great starting point. It’s a decision. The first step. It’s the recognition that something about us or in our life needs to change. Failing to recognize that at all is surely more detrimental than falling back on those decisions. The problem is that we tend to think that a one-time decision is enough to transform us.

Generally this isn’t true. We’re transformed when we are disciplined enough to make that same decision day in and day out.  A wise sage named Jillian Michaels once said, “Transformation is not a future activity, it is a current event.”  True transformation is the product of daily reminding ourselves of the decisions we’ve made. You might call it discipline.

So what happens when we inevitably fail at some point or another? This is where I think New Year’s resolutions are particularly ineffective. The implication is that each year we will make them and if or when we break them (or forget about them completely) we can always try again next year.

I think what people enjoy about New Years is the idea of a fresh start. A clean slate. We can simply put the previous year behind us and start over again. I’ve said before that I’m an “all or none” kind of person and so, unfortunately if I fail in May, January 1 is a long time to wait for a new beginning.

So this year I’ve decided to make one New Year Resolution and that is that I will make “Monday Morning Resolutions.” Every Monday is a new chance to start fresh.  If I don’t make it to the gym at all one week, I can just start back up again on Monday. Even if I fail for a few weeks I can treat Monday morning like a clean slate. It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how quickly you get back up.  Will it be the start of a new week? Or the start of a new year?

When we fail at something we tend feel guilt. Guilt is a terrible motivator. The fear of failure might work for a while, but eventually we end up just feeling awful about ourselves which is quite uninspiring and discouraging. But when we give ourselves the grace of a clean slate each week we’ll be far more likely to see lasting change.  Not to mention that God’s mercies are new every morning and if we actually lived like we believed that we’d probably be a lot happier and motivated to get back up again quicker.

Cheers to a new year and a new week and new mercies!