One of my favorite bands, For King and Country, recently released a new album. From the title cut, these lyrics jump out at me.
Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group
As I continue to journey into the second half of this life that I’ve been given, one of the core commitments I am holding onto is Risk – in order to live without regrets. This is so tightly connected to fear and trust, but draws me into action. Burning the ships is about completely committing to a course of action, holding nothing back.
This is no easy feat for me. I’ve recently connected with the personality typing of the Enneagram, and have identified myself, using the lingo, as a 6 with a 5 wing (such weird terms). The upside? That means, I’m a Loyalist – which means I appreciate order, plans and rules, I value community, and once you’ve won my trust, I’m with you for life. The downside? I’m full of doubts, worries, questions and anxiety. I can look at both sides of just about anything. According to Ian Morgan Crohn and Suzanne Stabile in their book on the Enneagram, The Road Back to You, Sixes, “keep their eyes peeled for possible threats and mentally rehearse what they will do when the worst happens.” Which means that taking risks isn’t in my DNA.
I can see so many times throughout my life that my aversion to risk has impacted me. Conversations that have been avoided or made worse, because I have thought through all that could possibly go wrong in having them. The D.Min. program that I still haven’t begun, because no matter how much I’ve been encouraged by Barb, by colleagues, and by potential leaders of said programs, it has never “been the right time.”
On the flip side, I can also number the times when taking a risk has led to incredible blessing. Asking Barb out on a date, though she was way out of my league. Challenging congregations to take God-sized leaps of faith that led to incredible kingdom-building fruit. Taking the zip-line tour in Honduras, even though I was 25 pounds over the weight limit – the lady at the desk said, “Oh, don’t pay attention to that.” 🙂 Trusting friends enough to share scary goals and deep struggles – only to find out that they hold that trust deeply and prayerfully.
And there have been times when risking led to failure – but was still worth it. There have been ministries started and stopped because it wasn’t the right time or the right idea. There have been staff members that were hired and were the absolute wrong match. There have been friends whom I’ve trusted who have hurt me and betrayed that trust. There have been fashion choices that I’ve risked, even against Barb’s pleading, that have gone horribly wrong. But most of those have been opportunities to learn. Some of them have left me with a limp in my spirit, like Jacob after wrestling with the angel.
But I think we still need to keep risking. While I’ve undoubtedly read it before, the advice of the teacher in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 hits me deep in this season of reflection:
Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s
womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will success,
whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
I don’t know if I’ll ever complete a D.Min program, or write a book. I’ll probably never skydive, because that’s just plain dumb. But I’m committing to take the kind of risks that connect me with others, connect me with a passion for the Church and the work of the Kingdom, and connect me with possibilities that I might not have yet imagined exist. I’m willing to have hard conversations, and to work hard at not being a jerk while doing it. I’m not shutting as many doors as I used to. And I’m hoping that I can hear Jesus telling me, like he did Peter, to get out of the boat and try walking on water. That’s a risk worth taking. And if I can do that, I’ll live without regret. Hope you can, too.