“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)
I am not at all adventurous. Nor am I a risk-taker or a gambler.
Predictable is good; spontaneous is terrifying. Conventional wisdom is more appealing than radical reform, and tried and true trumps untested and unknown every time. I will never be an inventor, an entrepreneur, or a trailblazer. I won’t intentionally find a cure for cancer, and I’ll never be on the cutting edge of anything (unless I’m clipping coupons).
Most writers I know live exotic lives so they can infuse their writing with captivating stories and unexpected dangers. I don’t. I prefer a quiet and peaceable existence with no possible risk of danger and zero threat to my daily routine. Every day I go to the same coffee shop to write, sit at the same table, look out the same window, and order the same drink – non-fat chai, no water. I walk the same three mile loop every morning, drive the same route when running errands, and buy the same food at the same grocery store all within a five-mile radius from home. I get up at 5 and go to bed at 9.
Every. Single. Day.
Basically, I’m boring. I am. I freely admit it. While I do like “new” occasionally; gutsy, daring, and death defying make my blood itch. You will never see me jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet or swing upside down from a bridge in New Zealand tethered only to a wing and a prayer.
It won’t happen. Ever…
…but if I actually got daring enough to be honest, I’d admit to a faint “want to” that bubbles just beneath the surface of my monotony. I’d really like to be bold and outrageous, but I can’t seem to match my “want to” with any available opportunities. That’s because I sabotage every available opportunity that inadvertently captures my attention.
Enter my sister, Sandi. She refuses to let me get away with boring and predictable. Last week Sandi came out to Colorado for her first visit since I moved here from Oregon. My family used to live in Colorado Springs in the 70’s so there were lots of things we wanted to see and do together. Most of all, we wanted to experience the familiar and remember.
While I was waiting for Sandi to get ready for our first day of adventure, I flipped through a magazine on the kitchen counter. A quote from actress, Diane Keaton, immediately grabbed my attention. She said, “You have to live life all the way, you know? Take risks. Do things you can’t imagine.”
Well, hmmm, how do you define risk exactly? What I know to be a risk for me is most certainly not a risk for you.
Sandi entered my unexpected muse moment ready to go. Since we don’t have a car yet, I rented one for her visit. Instant problem: there are no gas station attendants this side of the Continental Divide. Well, not any that I have found. That may not sound like a problem to you, but for me it was a problem. It’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon so outside of one other opportunity, I haven’t filled a blessed tank by myself in more than twenty years.
Why can’t Oregonians pump their own gas? I don’t know and I don’t care. I do know I absolutely love that law. During all the years I lived in Oregon, I never had to stand in the rain wrestling a gas nozzle into a tank, I never had to wear eau de fuel to whatever function I was going, and I never had to keep towels in the car to wipe petrol spit off my hands; it was great!
My last foray to the gas station had been a disaster so I was hesitant to go, but we had to; the gauge was almost on empty. Sandi and I stopped at Starbucks for a cup of courage before I tried once again to defy my ignorance. Sandi put in our order while I stared out the window at the station next door. “What about the elderly or disabled?” I wondered. “How do they get their gas? Who helps them?”
In the three minutes it took Sandi to get our drinks, I had mentally reconstructed the entire gas station to accommodate the elderly, disabled, and unable who might need assistance when filling their tanks. Despite the fact that Colorado Springs probably has assistance for the elderly and disabled already, I created a perfectly ideal solution to “their” problem.
Why is it that it’s a lot easier to solve someone else’s problem than it is to confront my own?
Yes, this unexpected “adventure” was a problem for me, but for Sandi, it was sheer entertainment. She was way too eager to capture my fumbling attempt with her phone’s camera, but she also saw my ignorance as her opportunity to push me to grow. She couldn’t wait to drag me into a new adventure even if it meant having a laugh at my expense.
Sisters are that way.
Brothers are too.
Last year on my birthday my brother forcibly drove me through a car wash for the first time thinking it was a good idea. It wasn’t. Water and I have never been particularly friendly so I saw no compelling reason to run myself through a gauntlet of spewing water and spinning blades. Randy assured me they were brushes not blades.
Blades, brushes – whatever.
I howled through the entire episode. He laughed.
Did I mention I am not adventurous? I’m NOT a risk-taker.
Does it matter?
It does matter. Growth matters. Taking risks produces strength, so risk is a good thing. Conquering my limitations is important to my development as a person and to the molding of my character. It is vital that I challenge myself often with new and difficult things. It makes my own life more interesting and equips me to be more beneficial to others. So, yes, taking risks is important.
But here’s my question: Since God has made each of us with different temperaments, should I (who am more timid) have to put myself in a life-threatening situation in order to take a risk?
Apparently some would think so, but I don’t. Of course I don’t! There’s got to be an easier [safer] way to handle [control] risk. So, how do I balance my temperament with the need to stretch my own faith?
I listen to the “want to” in my heart. By nature I am not adventurous, daring, or brave, but I long to be. So, I pray to be. I pray for God to put me in situations that will force me to be courageous. Despite vigilantly maintaining a safety corridor around my life by holding fast to routine, I do sabotage my own security perimeter from time to time. I’ve asked the Lord to drop challenges inside my 5-mile radius and he’s been happy to do it.
One morning while walking my usual route, I stopped by the Post Office to mail a letter. As I waited in line with several other people, a car suddenly crashed through the front of the building. It shattered the plate glass window and sent metal debris flying everywhere. In the first split second, I thought I was watching a television sitcom; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Then, above the roar of the engine that was still running, we heard a faint cry for help. The car had pinned a man against a bank of mailboxes and he couldn’t get out.
Instantly, chaos erupted. People started screaming, the Post Office filled with carbon monoxide, children in line started crying, and several men tried to pull debris off the man in the corner. They couldn’t reach him. One man hurried the woman driver out of her car, backed it up to free the man, and turned off the engine.
No one spoke to the driver. Everyone ignored her.
Suddenly, my “want to” engaged and I responded. I grabbed a chair from the lobby and asked her if she wanted to sit down.
She didn’t answer, but she did sit.
I got her some water and asked if there was someone I could call for her.
She stared straight ahead without response. She looked angry and embarrassed.
We could hear the men yelling back and forth as they assisted the injured man, so I went over and closed the inner door and stayed with her until the paramedics arrived.
After leaving the Post Office to start my walk home, I began to shake. The emergency was over and now my system could let down. What was odd, however, was that “my” emergency seemed connected to the woman, not the crash. I was more afraid of talking with her than I was about the car crashing through the building. I was shaking because I had just assisted someone I’d never met.
We’re all made differently. I am timid; you are brave, but each of us can rise up and demonstrate faith when we surrender ourselves to the unfolding plan of God. Listen carefully to the “want to” rumbling in your heart; it’s the Holy Sprit prompting you to grow. Don’t be afraid of him or ignore his invitation; it’s his call to adventure. When the Spirit provokes your “want to,” follow that leading and you will always, always live on the cutting edge of daring.
You just won’t have to scare yourself to death to do it!
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.