Reflections on Risk Taking

I was able to spend the lunch hour yesterday with 30 men from a variety of industries discussing the challenges to taking risks, through the Iron Project.  The leaders led us through the 5 areas that men need to risk: physically, in friendships, in our faith, emotions and jobs.

We highlighted that the largest hinderance to risk is FEAR.  (Perhaps this is why Jesus 17 times tells people “Do not fear”).  In many of my recent conversations with others considering church planting, or pursuing a new career, ultimately our conversation turns to the practical reality of money.  I believe that this not because money is the only concern, but because it is the easiest to wrap our brains around.  

Money is a very tangible marker…a balance sheet clearly declares whether you have the “margins” to make the move.  And if anything, hopefully our market crash of 2007/8 taught us the danger of leverage very little margins.

As a result, I left the gathering convinced that to make major risks in life, we have to have confidence.  Therefore, the question is how do you gain confidence.  I believe that in order to have the necessary confidence, we need to build out “margins” in our lives.  Not just financially, but also physically, socially, and spiritually.

Like wise financial training that teaches us to nest away portion of our profits in order to build the necessary margin to take a risk, our discussion made me wonder what would that look like in these three areas of our life.

1)  Physically:  If you want to take a risk like running a marathon, one of the most vital components is the taper.  You cannot train hard all the way up the race.  You have to back off, storing up energy to complete the 26.2 miles. 
Similarly, if you want to bench 300lbs, you cannot just keep living on the edge putting more and more plates on the bar.  Your muscles need time to be restored.  You have to build up, and time it just right to peak at the critical point.

2)  Socially:  Taking a risk socially is harder to quantify.  Perhaps it is asking out “that girl.”  Or opening up to a buddy to go deeper than the Duke/UNC game.  A friend who does campus ministry says that he will often tell a freshman boy who he knows has absolutely no chance, but  is asking nervously, “Do you think she would go out with me?”  “Definitely.  Go for it.”  He is pushing this boy to take the risk, to fail, to pick himself up, because by doing so he is building up a confidence margin that will allow him to do it again the next time.
True community is formed through shared time, space and a common mission.  So to forge the bonds socially requires that we start set aside time and space on a common mission with other people.  This will then give us strong friends we can call upon when the stuff hits the fan in life.  

3) Spiritually:  I have often seen, heard and experienced the mantra that those youth who grew up in the church will return once they get married, an illness or have children.  However, whenever I can grab the ear of a 20 something, I try to explain that by that point they are drinking from the firehydrant of life desperately grasping for something to hold onto.  They struggle to understand why that perfect love is now a bit pedestrian; they realize they have to tell their spouse where they are going when they want to get a loaf of bread; and then discover that those rugrats need yet another diaper change. 
To “come back” to church to learn how to listen and talk to God in this season is why its so hard to hear Him.  Life has gotten too loud with bosses, wives and kids all screaming for attention.  
What is vital is building out that relationship in the calm and quiet seasons.  It’s nesting away 15 minutes with God’s word, trying to pray when there isn’t anything pressing, looking for God in the ordinary.   This builds out the margins in our life that give us the confidence when we are about to take a risk.

For me, it wasn’t that risky to leave the stability of a successful church to go out without a paycheck, without an office, without a phoneline, without much…but I believe that is because I had built over the past 12 years a healthy body, a strong marriage and a deep faith.  In a way I am cashing out all the margins I had stored up in my life–my savings account, my energy, leaning on friendships, and clinging to my faith.  Becaue at the end of the race, I long to hear God’s promise, “well done, good and faithful servant…”

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