For some folks, taking a risk comes with feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and eventually, maybe a strong refusal to budge from the safety of status quo. However, taking risks are key to growth in our Christian journey, both as individuals and as a community. In a recent article on the “Faith and Leadership” website of Duke Divinity School, Tom Arthur wrote, “Failure is a key to growth. Joshua Foer in his book, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything,’ introduced me to the ‘OK plateau,’ a place where we are no longer risking failure. We don’t take risks anymore, because we’re ‘OK’ as we are.”1 Arthur asserts that a willingness to accept failure in our endeavors especially when it comes to our spiritual journey, is key to maturing in Christ. In other words, it is essential to accept some risk so that we may grow in a deeper love and commitment to Jesus Christ.
Risk taking is nothing new in the biblical narrative. Great biblical risk takers include people like Moses, Ruth, Noah, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Paul, and yes, even Our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these folks recognized that answering God’s call, following their particular ministry call, came with inherent risk. Moses risked safety and heritage to sojourn with a people in the desert to lead them to the land of promise. After the death of the family patriarchs, Ruth risked her own safety to stay with her mother-in-law rather than go to her own people. Noah faced ridicule and rejection in order to build the ark that sustained humanity through the flood. Mary Magdalene, Peter and Paul risked everything to follow the Messiah. The Almighty risked ultimate rejection so that through the Incarnation, God in Christ, through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord, we might come to know grace, mercy, reconciliation, and love.
When we are willing to step out of our comfort zones, when we try something we have never done before, when we attempt to venture into the unknown, we are taking steps of faith recognizing that God is not finished with us yet. From first breath to last, God is actively working in us to draw us unto Godself, to fashion a people of love, mercy, grace, and reconciliation. Whatever stage of life we are in; we are clay that is constantly being formed into a beautiful vessel that holds unimaginable love and grace. In order for sanctification to take place, we must embrace a pliability that is inherent in clay. Clay is a beautiful medium that moves and responds to the pressures and the nuances of nudges that the potter applies. If clay remains on the wheel without moving, it becomes no longer malleable and becomes rigid, and it cannot become the potter’s vision. By its very nature, clay risks its present form trusting that artisan will bring it into a new state of being.
Finding comfort in the possibility of “failure” is not a simple thing for any of us. We truly are a people who want to do it right and minimize risk. My father always told me, “If you are not going to do something right then, don’t do it at all.” I admire my Dad’s persistence and desire to be the best in everything. His drive was a great model because he was able with very little education himself, to put three children through not only undergraduate educations, but each of us were encouraged and driven to pursue and attain post-graduate degrees. By wanting to do it right, my Dad may have been seen as a perfectionist, but he was a risk taker. In the 1950’s he took a huge risk. He left the comfort of a supervisory position with a local electronics manufacturer to open his own small business. In this instance, doing it right did not mean doing it perfectly, it meant taking a risk with the knowledge that he might fail.
We as a community have in the past, and will in the time to come, layer on to our common life, creative new ministries, inventive programs, alternative processes, and “out of the box” education opportunities. May we be willing to accept the risks associated with stepping out of our comfort zones. May we be willing to risk failure to answer God’s call into the unknown. May we be like clay, willing to have the Spirit lead us and guide us, nudge us and forge us into the people of God, to whom we are called. Blessings, Fr. Eric+
1 “Tom Arthur – Plan to Fail”: Faith and Leadership: an offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity http://www.faithandleadership.com/blog/10-16-2011/tom-arthur-plan-fail