Taking a risk. Stepping out in faith. Being vulnerable.
Some find it exhilarating. Others find it unpleasantly unpredictable. Some just never do it.
When *J* was a baby the song Standing Outside the Fire by Garth Brooks was popular and I sang it to my boy frequently. I loved the verse, "Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire." I'm not sure he got it (although he is pretty brave about stepping out for what he believes in) any more than I think my very rigid boy got the lesson I was trying to teach him by showing him that you could indeed put the stacking rings on in different orders and get a different effect. (Aren't I a rebel?!)
I was trying to teach him to be bold because I am not. I didn't want him to stand outside and watch out of fear of rejection like I did..and sometimes still do.
But I'm learning. I am learning to reach out even when I'm not sure if I will be accepted. I am starting to volunteer because, gosh darnit, I have something to offer. I am starting to believe, in the words of Stuart Smalley, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me."
But if I never took that risk, if I never volunteered, if I never joined this group because I didn't know anyone to begin with...I wouldn't be making new friends now.
Seven years ago, my husband took a huge risk. He entered seminary. He quit his job and we packed up and moved our family to a new state where we knew no one. But guess what? Total strangers unloaded our U-haul with him. Someone brought food and the following day, when I came down with strep throat, someone I now consider a sister by heart brought me to a doctor. My husband is not a pastor today. Three courses shy of graduation and ordination (2008) he was informed he was not [denominational] enough and would not be endorsed. Ouch! That's a lot of time and a boatload of money invested and then he didn't fit. We've been asked if we regret it. Financially? Absolutely. It's tough to rebuild and refocus. But as people? No. We have met some incredible people and had life-changing experiences. We've grown in ways unimaginable, ways we couldn't have grown without that experience. We are stronger individually, as a couple and as a family.
Risk can bring pain. By definition, taking a risk does not have a guaranteed result. But if we only go with the sure winners and never stretch ourselves to use our talents, are we any different than the slave in Matthew 24:18 who buries the talents given him by his master out of fear rather than try to increase them?
We're not always going to succeed; sometimes because we don't have the talents we thought we had (ever heard some of those American Idol auditions?) and sometimes because people or circumstances stand in our way.
The one thing taking the risk can guarantee...you won't ever wonder what would have happened if you had tried. Sometimes you will end up with pain, shame or heartache but it will always give the payoff of knowing you tried. And maybe, just maybe you will find joy regardless of whether your risk gets the planned result or something you never dreamed of.