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.

The Space In-between: When Faith Looks Like Foolishness

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

-Hillsongs “Oceans”

Faith looks like foolishness in the space in-between the word God speaks and its reality. Noah looked like a fool building a giant boat for a supposed flood and planning to somehow get two of every animal on board to live peacefully together for months. Until the rains started coming. And coming. And water bubbled up from the ground and began to accumulate. One inch, six inches, two feet, 7 feet and on and on until the waters covered the earth. It was only then that the strength of his faith was evident.

In preparation for a major battle, Gideon pared his army of 32,000 down to 300 in obedience to God. Then they took torches to the edge of the enemy’s camp, blew trumpets and broke jars causing the enemy to fight against each other and flee. A foolish move led to victory because of Gideon’s faith in God’s word. Joshua put his trust in God when he told him to march his army around the walls of Jericho for seven days and blow trumpets. As they stood before crumbling walls his soldiers were able to see the miraculous hand of God at work.

A young shepherd boy named David killed a giant with no armor and no real weapons—only a slingshot and a rock. The soldiers must have cringed at the thought of how badly Goliath would soon slaughter David, or maybe even laughed at the lunacy of such a small boy fighting a battle-hardened soldier. But the risk paid off and the soldiers’ laughter was silenced as Goliath’s massive body crashed to the ground.

Let’s talk about Mary the mother of Jesus for a moment. “Joseph, I’m pregnant and the father is the Holy Spirit.” Really? Really. Why did God choose her? Maybe it was because he knew her heart and that he could trust her to carry his promise with faithfulness and integrity. He knew that she wouldn’t cover up what God had told her in order to save face and protect her dignity. She faced serious consequences in her day to be unmarried and pregnant. She had no guarantee that Joseph wouldn’t simply call off the engagement and abandon her to an unfortunate fate. In the end her foolishness was revealed instead as faith, but she had to be willing to lay down her pride in the process.

The list of biblical accounts similar to these goes on and on. When God finds a person who fully trusts him, he can then trust them with the secrets of his heart. If it always made sense to us, if it worked according to human wisdom and the laws of nature, it would be so much easier. But it wouldn’t be faith. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.” Faith always requires a risk. This is why we take a “leap of faith.” There are no step by step instructions. There is no map. There is no checklist. We simply hear God speak and then leap into the unknown, trusting that God’s prepared the way ahead of us.

Peter looked pretty foolish stepping out on the water at Jesus’ invitation. Surely expecting him to sink below the waves, the other disciples must have watched in wonder as Peter began to walk on the surface. It’s in the space in-between the word God speaks and its reality that faith appears as foolishness to those around us.

Why doesn’t God just function within our framework? Why not ask us to do things that make a little more sense? Why make us risk failing or looking like fools? Because then the extraordinary would be reduced to the ordinary. Then the miraculous could be boiled down to science. And God would be lessened to a god that fits in all of our boxes.

If we are willing to risk looking foolish in the space in-between, God can show up in a big way. These are the moments when the atheist can no longer deny the existence of his creator. These are the moments when the unloved can see that their Father will go to any length to make them aware that the creator of the universe knows and loves them. If we desire to be greatly used by God, and we should, we have to be willing to be foolish in the eyes of the world. 1 Corinthians 1:25 says that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. Even the greatest wisdom of earth is merely foolishness compared to God’s wisdom.

As Christ-followers we have a choice. We can relegate God to a status slightly above our own, believing that Jesus was just a teacher here to show us how to be good people. We can put God into our box of what we understand with our finite minds, claiming that anything outside of that is foolishness. We can choose to worship a God that exists to answer small prayers and provide a support crutch in our tough times. We can essentially choose to worship a god of our own creation, who follows our rules, formulas and equations.

Or, we can take God at his word, believe he is the God of the impossible, and step into what he’s calling us to do even if we appear completely foolish in the process. We can choose to worship a God who is actually worthy of worship because he’s not simply a greater version of “us.”

He is altogether higher, greater, wiser, more loving, more powerful, more merciful and gracious than we as humans will ever be on our own.

And as we live out the space in-between the foolishness and the revealing of our faith he continues to reveal his character to us. As we put our faith and trust in who he is he will provide the strength we need to persevere and will shape and mold us to be more like him. When we reach the other side of our test of faith we will see the hopeless find hope, the unloved find love, the broken and depressed find healing and joy, and the dead come to life in Christ.

We’re not simply here to exist on earth and live a cozy life full of comfort and convenience. We were given an assignment to share with the world a God who loves so deeply and desperately that there is literally nothing he wouldn’t do to ensure they receive that love. He knows the hairs on their heads, the tears they’ve cried and the needs of each life. But he won’t do it without us. We are the tangible, visible expressions of God’s love and if we are going to be that love manifested on earth we will have to step out of our comfort zones and onto the waters of foolishness.

To the rest of the world, it is the picture of foolishness as our foot slowly travels through the air, over the edge of the boat and finally reaches the waves. Only as they see the surface of the water unbroken and our feet resting soundly on top will the reality of our faith become evident to those around us. And only then will we truly change the world around us.

ab24cfe9-10d1-43ea-b265-77fd1119f2c9

“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep my faith will stand.”