They say that every family needs somebody like me. Your family probably even has someone like me. I am ‘The Careful One.’
I am the kind of person who moves the glass away from the edge of the table to avoid spills and a broken glass. If a wrinkled throw rug may cause someone to trip I straighten it out. And when driving I approach busy intersections with caution because too many people today are driving while distracted by their cell phones.
I look at most situations for signs of danger, potential disaster, or foolish risk. My guess is that my ‘wiring’ causes me to consider the worst case scenario in every significant situation and then figure out how to lessen or avoid that risk altogether, if possible.
You might think I need therapy. But I would have to pause to consider the risk of foolish or unsuccessful therapy before making that decision.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ridiculously cautious or paranoid. It’s just that I consider foolish risks to be a scourge of mankind upon which many corpses of the best plans may be found. Before you become completely exasperated with me, however, let me assure you that I’m not a hopeless case. I am becoming increasingly better at becoming the best kind of risk-taker despite my earthly caution.
The Three Types of Risk Takers
As far as I can tell, there are three kinds of risk takers in this world. The first kind take foolish risks. They usually risk too much for too little. The second kind do not actually risk anything. They falter because they spend far too much time analyzing risk-reward. The third kind, however, take purposeful and passionate risks. They are able to fulfill their destiny consistent with their life purpose and goals. Let me briefly discuss each type
The foolish risk-takers generally have their priorities upside down. They are also usually about as organized as my youngest daughter’s bedroom. Too often they have not bothered to figure out exactly what is most important in their lives and what is trivial or superficial for them. Either that or they have indeed figured out what is important in their lives and what they consider important is actually destructive or useless to their ultimate destiny.
An example of the foolish risk taker is the guy who risks his life to recover his inexpensive sunglasses from a railroad track. The lady who risks her job to go drinking with her friends is a charter member of this club as well. These folks have not realized that life and job are more important than sunglasses and booze. Or, worse still, they have actually decided that sunglasses and booze are more important than life and job. Either way, we should pray for those folks before it is too late.
The faltering or hesitating type generally sees life as a math problem or puzzle to be solved with as little so-called collateral damage as possible. They do not admit to avoiding risk even though they place far too much emphasis on preparation. They wait for just the perfect moment to pounce on a risk. What these poor slobs do not realize is that life will never provide just the perfect moment to do anything.
There may be those who pretend (or convince themselves) that we can fulfill God’s destiny for us by hiding our talents in the ground like the foolish servant did (Mt 25:24-26). However, time and time again we are reminded that this world, and this life, is a testing ground where our ability to trust in the right direction is most often tested.
As followers of Christ, we know and believe that that direction can only be Christ and his example. Ultimately, those who do not trust enough to risk for Christ do not love enough to try. Christ loved perfectly and so he did not avoid the imperfections of this world but, rather, dealt with and ultimately transcended them. He invites us to transcend them through our imperfect but well intentioned efforts to follow in his perfect footsteps.
The final type of risk taker is the one who takes purposeful and passionate risks toward Christ. I am increasingly learning to become this kind of risk taker through the grace of God.
Of course, such people are not confined to those seeking Our Lord. We see many successful people who have purpose and passion toward becoming great chefs, hero athletes, renowned scientists, and wealthy business people. There is nothing wrong with such pursuits as long as one intends to use such success to make this world a better place and not just line one’s pocket or bolster one’s ego.
For the true follower of Christ, however, there must be something more. And there is something more.
As Our Lord frequently reminded us, this world is fleeting and superficial on its own terms. Its importance and relevance is ultimately based on what it can provide us in terms of opportunities and testing grounds for eternity. At the end of the day, and of our lives, this world is merely the minor leagues – the prerequisite class or the opening act to something much bigger. Nobody attends the theater to see previews and leaves without seeing the main attraction. No person strives toward a main goal of being a minor league ball player or an opening act. We all ultimately realize that the value of anything is what can be achieved from or through that thing.
As children of God and followers of Christ, then, our ultimate prize is Christ, and our ultimate goal is eternal salvation. Anything which detracts from that is a waste of time. And anything which helps us achieve Christ and salvation is worth eternal gold. Our faith allows us to believe this, and our trust in God invites us to embrace those two wonderful possibilities.
Life can often be a mess. But Christ taught us that it is precisely that mess which tests our mettle to follow in his footsteps. Our Lord’s own life and ministry is all the proof we need that things can get pretty sticky on the road to serving God and others. That is why being passionate about serving God and others, and directing that passion toward the purpose of fulfilling God’s Will and saving souls using our God-given talents is all the risk-taking that we will ever need.
I suggest that risks taken in this way are not even risks at all if done so with the faith that we are trying to do what God wants us to do. As we begin Lent, let us embrace the wonderful opportunity to risk our lives for Christ!
“Are you capable of risking your life for someone? Do it for Christ.” — Pope St. John Paul II