It’s interesting to note from the acknowledgments page (which you all read first too, I know you do), that this book grew out of conference talks and encouragement of friends. That, to me, is a good indication that this isn’t just another book the author cranked out (which is to say nothing about those that don’t derive from such sources. It simply tells me this information was pondered an unusually long time before hitting the page and my appreciation of it should take that into account).
The first chapter is an interesting account about how Luci Shaw came to be immortalized bungee jumping off a New Zealand bridge. She admits that while proving gravity is not nearly as significant as other risks involving service to God’s kingdom, the return to solid ground held a wonderful reversal for her in the sense of what it must be like “reaching heaven” after spending time in a dangerous and uncertain place. You might think she was just being whimsical (and no doubt there was some of this present), but this wasn’t something she did for a personal thrill. As one can assume from her poetry, she lives always looking for the metaphors. This author spends her life cultivating the stories. And right off, she dedicates some time discussing the origin of her death-defying impulses, the genetic tendencies passed down from her globe-trotting evangelist father, finally arriving at the summation that for her, life lived requires risk.
I should note to some of you other jaded readers here that there are questions at the end of the chapter that stuck in my jaw for a few moments. I can’t help but feel these are usually implanted by some overeager marketer bent on adding some “perceived value” to the package. But when I actually took some time thinking about them, they weren’t bad. “What was the biggest risk you ever took? … What was the result?” Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t think of any true risk I’d taken that turned out badly, with no redemption. And that’s really the point here, to get to the redemption, as Luci puts it, to “Live the Resurrection.” (More on this next time.)
I’ve only read about 1/3 so far, but I’m really trying to make the short book last. Her thoughts create. They state in such a way as to suggest a response of wonder and further reflection. Some examples:
* The idea that the master returns to find the steward who did nothing with his talent, calling him a criminal, in Eugene Peterson’s version. How often we forget that sometimes doing nothing isn’t simply a waste, but a criminal act against God.
* The idea that another book might be written on “the blessing of rest and contentment with who one is, what one’s life is about.” “But this is not that book.” There is balance offered here, not extremism or fanatical one-sidedness. There is, of course, an equally opposite truth to this ideal of risk-taking. Balancing the ideal of risk with its opposite seems to me we’re talking of one of those stronger truths that involves paradox and leaves room for more. Something akin to the sermon on the mount.
* The idea that perfect love casts out fear. In this context, you can feel the weight of that idea. If you could know greater love than the greatest love you’ve ever experienced, what would that be like? Would you be afraid? I remember the song “I Can Only Imagine” and think of the line “Will I be able to speak at all?” In the presence of God, love will cast out fear. We fear God here and retain dignity. But there, fear will be banished. I can’t imagine it, but it’s awe-inspiring to try.
These are only thoughts from the first few chapters. There are many more, like the thought that trust requires acceptance of risk in the same way faith requires acceptance of doubt. Inherent in both trust and faith, we must all accept the presence of “some potentially dangerous unknown.” Without it, one can assume, both are dead.
I’ll have more to share soon, but for now (and for those of you who missed the ad playing at Marriott’s during the convention because you were watching static over at Tom Bodett’s) imagine this respected, dignified, well-bred older woman with her toes out on the edge of that platform. Confronting the stereotypes, the assumptions, the expectations, the reasoned advice and subjective prejudices from both sides—the extreme sports fanatics and the disapproving Christians—flinging it all off to stand at the edge and look out into the unknown. It’s an image I want to hold on to as I look for the balance she’s trying to inspire here in us, to find that place of consistently living into the unknown, wedged between contentment and risk, and leaning slowly out into the fall.