Learning to Risk

Letting Go of One World to Reach for the Next

You can’t move from one world to another world unless you are willing to let go of the former to reach for the future. We’ve applied what we’ve learned in grief to life’s big picture.

Learning to Risk 2

When our spouses died, Donna and I each lost more than a person, we also lost our world as it once was. We grieved for a lost person and we grieved  a lost world.

I’ve realized on so many occasions the necessity of letting go of what is behind before reaching for what is ahead. Letting go when you have no choice is one thing, but It’s hard to take a risk when the thing we must release is viable, sustainable, comfortable, and pleasant, and the thing we are reaching for is undeveloped, scary, risky, and unknown.

Throughout life I’ve had dramatic moments of coming to understand that a “bird in the hand” is NOT “worth two in the bush.” Yes, what we hold in our hand is a sure thing, we know what we have, but the “two in the bush”cannot be obtained without letting go of the one in the hand. Unless we let go of what we tightly grip as our present reality, we cannot forge with dedication into our desired future. When God directs the “two in the bush” as his plan, we must first let go of the “one in the hand.”

There comes a defining moment as dramatic in our minds as Indiana Jones reaching for his father’s hand as the earth quaked and the ground opened up. The elder Jones held the Holy Grail in one hand and grasped a quaking ledge with the other. He could not take his son’s hand unless he let go of the Holy Grail, something he sought his entire adult life. He finally let go of his treasure so he could grasp his son’s hand and be pulled to safety.

It’s that moment when we have to actually let go of, release never to grasp again, that which we are moving away from in order to lay hold of that to which we are moving.

How do we know it’s time to loosen the grip on the present and reach for the future? Here are four thoughts that help me.

#1 Build a Boat that Floats

Sometimes leaping into the future is like jumping from a ship in the middle of the ocean without a plan. Most of the time we are admonished not to jump from the ship until we have a boat that floats. If you must take the risk of jumping from the ship, start building a boat. It’s not going to be as accommodating as the ship, but it will be a viable first step in getting you where you need to go.

#2 Mentally Watch the Ripples in the Pond

I think too much, always have. It holds me back because thinking too much hinders necessary risk taking. The key to healthy risk taking is healthy calculation of the risk. When you throw a rock in a pond ripples result. Mentally “throw a rock in the pond and watch the ripples.” Think through worst case scenarios and how you will mitigate them if necessary. You cannot know what will happen and you cannot mitigate all of the risks, but you can think it through and have reasonable contingencies.

#3 Imagine your Deathbed

I specialize in happy thoughts (sarcasm). When I lay on my deathbed will I be glad I took the risk, or will I still think I was stupid in taking the risk? Why the deathbed scenario? It’s because when you are dying you know how it ends. There’s nothing ahead to figure out. It’s all behind. Fast forward to your deathbed and look back. Are you glad you did it? Are you glad you took the risk? Even if your risk blows up, at the end of your days, was it something you just had to go for?

On our sabbatical, on our second to last day in the French Alps Donna and I were discussing whether we would rest, since we did not want to wear ourselves out before moving to the next leg of our journey, or would we hop on a train to Zermatt, Switzerland and experience the Matterhorn. I said, “if we don’t go, at the end of the day, I will be glad we stayed here and rested. If we do go, at the end of the day I will be glad we went.” Donna then made a profound statement, she said, “would you rather be glad that you didn’t go or be glad that you did go.” As is evidenced by the picture with this post, we went.

I pose this question to you, if things are going to turn out positively no matter the path you choose, and if either path is a legitimate life choice, then which path would you rather be glad that you chose.

Trust God, and Trust God in You.

How do I know God’s will for my life? How do I know which path God wants me to walk? Yep, I’ve been asked that question a thousand times, and I’ve asked myself that question 10,000 times. At some point, when we’ve done our best to listen to God, and we’ve sincerely done our best to do the right things, we have to trust God. More than that, we have to trust God in us. We have to trust in God’s ability to guide us and reveal his plan to us.

I’m not sure why God puts the best things in life on the top shelves, but I know that you have to stretch to reach God’s best. Always. Come to grips with your pain points. When the pain of staying is greater than the pain of going, let go.

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