"There once was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played.
He never risked, he never tried
He never sang or prayed.
And when one day he passed away,
His insurance was denied,
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died."
Years ago, I heard John Maxwell, pastor and motivational speaker recite this little poem. For much of my life, that could have been me. I was raised by good and godly parents who were careful to instill in me a cautious conservatism that served me well in many ways, but which also served as a bulwark against risk-taking that for years blinded me to much of what God had in store for me. In Jesus' parable of the Talents, three men in middle management were entrusted with various amounts of money to invest while the boss was away on business. Two of the three invested wisely and were richly rewarded.
The third simply stuffed his money under the mattress. When the boss returned, he presented the money, safe and sound, without any increase, and with the excuse that he knew how hard a bargain the boss was known for driving. The boss was furious. "You knew I was a tough negotiator, did you? Then at the least you should have put the money in the bank to earn interest." He then had this third manager unceremoniously shown the door.
Jesus' message eluded me for years, but I finally figured it out. Jesus isn't as risk-aversive as I had once thought. We aren't to be stupid, but failure to risk for the kingdom of God is a sin for which his people will be held accountable. Life is filled with greatness, and God expects us to rise to the occasion, to take risks for him. Failure to do so reveals a failure of faith and faithfulness that he takes very seriously.
When I finally learned the truth of Jesus' parable, I began a determined effort to reach forth towards goals I once thought risky and dangerous. Some of my efforts succeeded, others failed miserably. But the issue isn't success or failure; it's faithfulness.
I was reminded of this tonight by my wife. All her life she's been afraid of the water. Growing up in the country, she never had the opportunity to learn to swim, and the older she got, the more it scared her. But a few months ago, she decided it was time to change that, and began taking lessons. Tonight, Abi was lifeguarding at the Panama pool, and Linda decided to show the girls what she has learned. I am so proud of her! She took a risk and in retirement has conquered her fear to become a real honest-to-goodness swimmer. Don't let anyone (even yourself) put a lid on what you can be or can accomplish. God is bigger than even your fears, so reach for the stars!