Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Taking The Risk

It has been about three decades since I first read these words:

“The bride, bent with age leaned over her cane,
Her steps so uncertain need guiding,
While down the church aisle
With a wan toothless smile
The groom in a wheelchair came gliding.

“And who is this elderly couple thus wed?
You’ll find when you’ve quickly explored it
That this is that rare most unusual pair
Who waited till they could afford it!"

I remember that couple today because the lesson they teach is as profound as their story is silly: virtually every decision we make involves risk!  I long ago noticed how hard it is for people to make a decision about marriage after they have lived for many years as a single adult.  It could be that the years make them more picky about a mate, but it is far likelier that they are ever more aware of the risks the decision carries. Consequently, they tend to move away from any such uncertainty.  On the other hand, people just moving into adulthood quickly dive into decisions like marriage because they have no real idea about the problems and the pain that could follow.

When we are young, we get married even when we can’t afford it.  We have kids without considering the full cost of bearing and raising them, nor understanding that those same kids just might break our hearts in a few years.  When we are young, we think nothing of moving to another state, even though we aren’t really sure we can find a job.  When we are young, we make big decisions about things like cars and houses, not knowing for certain that we can fulfill our commitments.

It’s when we mature a bit that we pay more attention to Jesus’ warning, “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?"  Luke 14:28 (New Living Translation)  Those simple and wise words can have an effect on us, though, and I’m convinced that it’s a result which Jesus himself never intended.  Counting the cost can focus us only on the risk and cause us to freeze when we face an important decision.  Sometimes we SHOULD make the hard choice IN SPITE OF the risk.  After all, it’s the risk that can lead to the rewards.

Consider the couple in the poem above.  They may begin their long-delayed marriage with financial security, but they will forego the joys (along with the trials) of a lifetime together.  They will never have the possible happiness of children climbing into their kitchen cabinets or smearing cake all over themselves on their first birthdays.  They will have missed graduations and awards ceremonies and ball games and proms and weddings with their offspring.  Even more, they are never going to feel the overwhelming pleasure of a tiny grandchild’s first smile at them.

I could go on and on.  The simple truth is that risk is a part of life and risk ALWAYS involves trade-offs. Though God is God and He knows everything, He was willing to create humankind, knowing that we would reject Him.  He did it anyway!  He sent His Son into the world, knowing that He would be beaten, spat upon, crushed with a Roman whip and nailed to a cross.  He did all this, knowing that you and I would taste His love, then walk away from Him.  Depending on your doctrinal position, you may or may not consider all this a risk, but the result is the same: He had to give up something in order to get something better!

That’s really what risk is about; letting go of something we value with the hope of receiving something better in return.  Another word for this process is FAITH.  Faith is at the core of Paying It Forward.  That’s our topic this weekend at Stone Ridge Church and I am excited to share it with you!  Can’t be there?  Catch the podcast!

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