Fear and self-preservation are part of human nature. However, sometimes we are called to go against those natural instincts and take risks.
I am a worrier and I’ll be the first person to admit that. If the roads are potentially bad, I won’t go out. If the words “potentially fatal” or “may result in bodily harm” are on a release, I generally won’t participate. I always have taken the stance that if there’s no real reason to put yourself in harm’s way, then why do it? This past summer I was introduced to a quote that has made a huge difference in my life and made me reconsider my philosophy.
“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships were made for.”
I had to hear it several times before the message really hit me and I slowly began to realize how true that is. Whether it’s emotional risk, physical risk, or spiritual risk, we often cheat ourselves and our brothers and sisters around the world because we are afraid of risk. As I think about the most rewarding experiences I have had, they were all ones that involved a huge amount of risk. From going to college out of state to building a house in Juarez, Mexico, some of the most faith-based decisions I have made have been the boldest and riskiest of my life.
The one risk that stands out to me the most was my decision to study abroad for a month in Tanzania last year. I remember when I first felt called to go abroad I also began to feel terror. How would I survive such a trip? I was used to having a hospital within a fifteen minute drive, to having food that had passed quality checks, and falling asleep without the fear of getting malaria. The thought of spending a month in a country with none of those basic assurances I had in the United States was more than enough to raise my blood pressure. However, I still went on the trip because I knew this was a risk I had to take and because I was incredibly lucky to have a family that supported my decision and a school that promised me the safest experience possible. I remember the night before I left for the trip I cried to my roommate, giving her careful instructions on what she should do if I died while I was in Tanzania. The next morning I grabbed my bags and left, unsure if I’d ever come back.
What I found in Tanzania was the beauty of living in the moment and the freedom of living in a society that values people. At the end of the trip I realized most of my fears were unfounded and the trip proved to be one of the most catalytic in my 21 years of life. That month I learned about the huge payoff that can come from taking a risk like traveling abroad. I plan to return to Tanzania this May to study more, but mostly because I feel called to return. Again I feel anxious at the prospect but I am continually learning to trust God to care for me.
As humans we can spend our entire life being careful, avoiding illness and injury. But the bottom line is, if we are always careful and not willing to take risks, not only do we miss out on awesome opportunities, we aren’t the best Christians we can be. It’s about going to spend time eating with people at the food bank and hearing their stories rather than just donating a few canned goods every month. This calling means that we take the time out of our busy weeks to volunteer with disadvantaged children or in the hospital. For you, this calling probably means picking something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious, and embracing it. Being a person of faith means taking those risks-be they emotional, physical or spiritual-because we know that while a Christian feels safe at home and in their congregation on Sunday morning, that’s not what we were made for.