SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Respectful risk brings rewards
We live in a risk-averse society. And while avoiding unnecessary risk is commendable – even wise – many people have become quite paranoid about risk.
I’ve always ridden motorcycles. As a 10 year-old, the moment I was allowed to side astride a BSA Bantam (anyone remember those?) in the safety of a grassy field in the UK and felt the rush of joy as the bike began to move under my control, I’ve been hooked. For only 3 of the past 64 years have I been without a bike. So I’ve enjoyed 61 years of motorcycling pleasure – including one epic trip in 2007 around Australia covering 15,300 km in 21 days. Awesome! As well as that, I’ve ridden a Royal Enfield motorcycle through Nepal, over the Himalayas in Bhutan and through northern India. A group of us have also negotiated the old Ho Chi Minh Trail through the mountainous region of Vietnam, parallel to the border with Laos, on smaller Chinese bikes.
Earlier, while undergoing some conversion training to fly a different type of aircraft, I arrived at the private airstrip on my motorcycle. My flying instructor stroked his chin thoughtfully and ruefully remarked that I was engaged in two of life’s riskiest activities. “Yes” I responded. “But they are also two of life’s most enjoyable!”
Risk in anything can be mitigated – with knowledge, careful preparation and the thoughtful development of skills. Taking blind chances and deliberately pushing boundaries is an entirely different thing.
In Portugal, a monastery sits on top of a 3,000 foot cliff. To gain access to the monastery involves a terrifying ride in a swaying basket, suspended by a single rope pulled by several strong men – perspiring under the strain. An American tourist who set out to visit the site became very nervous part-way up the face of the sheer cliff when he noticed the rope was old and frayed. Hoping to relieve his fear he asked: “How often do you change the rope?” The monk accompanying him replied: “Whenever it breaks!”
As we negotiate our way through life, it’s natural for us to desire calm seas and an easy passage. In reality, we ride the bumps and bad weather with varying degrees of composure with the wise among us recognising that a calm sea does not produce a skilled sailor and new oceans will never be discovered unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Life itself is a risk, and if we are to achieve anything worthwhile, we have to be prepared to accept new challenges and be extended beyond our comfort zone. Someone once said: “It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man’s ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relationships.”
But this is not what God intended for us. He wants us to be bold, full of faith and to put our trust and our future in his hands. When we take that first step to embrace his plan and purpose for our lives – the real adventure begins. And like any adventure, it comes with risks and rewards. But the risk of living as a disciple of Christ in this faithless modern world, fades into insignificance in light of the promises of God and the joy of a constant hope-full and purpose-full life.