If you’ve spent any time around me at all, you’ve heard me talk about Wise Advisors, those wonderful people who speak life and growth into your spiritual journey. I am blessed with a handful of these amazing relationships, each of which plays a unique role in my God story. One of them is Jo Anne Lyons.
Now Jo Anne is a rock star disguised in the unassuming persona of a kind-hearted, down-to-earth grandma with a definite flair for fashion. To meet her, you would never guess at the amazing little dynamo she is, but you would immediately know you could talk with her for hours, learn a ton, and wish you could take up residence in a spare room in her house or something. She is, simply put, an amazing woman of God (to learn more about Jo Anne, click here).
As I settled in for a conversation, she asked me for an update. Much to my surprise, I went on for nearly 45 minutes. In the nine months since we had last talked, God had been busy, really busy, within The Dented Fender ministry and my life in a way I don’t think I grasped until I verbalized it. But as humbling and exciting as that realization was, what struck me most was Jo Anne’s parting comment: “God is really rewarding your risks. You need to speak more about that. Women have a hard time taking risks.” I didn’t think much of it in that moment, but as the day progressed it became the thought that wouldn’t let me go.
Jo Anne was and is right. We forget sometimes how much faith involves risk. And God has asked me to take some incredible risks. It hasn’t been easy. You’ve read as I’ve shared about my wrestling matches with Him, those late-night fear driven prayers of fighting to understand, to trust and ultimately to surrender. I’ve shared about how it feels to take a step out of the proverbial boat, like Peter, to do something that seems impossible to me but yet to which God has clearly called me. I’ve talked about leaps of faith, about the courage it takes and the incredible blessings that come from taking them. Sometimes these lessons have come from a place of needing spiritual healing, and the risk was to be vulnerable and messy enough with God (and others) to invite Him into my most tender, wounded spaces, trusting He would help me land on life-giving answers over time. But sometimes they haven’t. Sometimes they have come from choosing to run after God in my life. Running after God is, by definition, risky.
God isn’t always logical. He doesn’t always spell things out with every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted the way I’d like. He does things like call me to talk about issues I’d rather avoid so He can heal me. Then, He calls me to invite people I actually know into that process with me. Really God? That works? But what if they judge me? What if they hurt me? What if they let me down? I can feel skeptical, fearful. Or I don’t trust myself to actually stick with it, forgetting that when I’m actually inviting God in and listening, He gives me that strength (Philippians 4:13).
In my case, my risk was to start a ministry and divert my time and attention away from my day job and the certain financial security that went along with it, only to go running after something that seemed more like a loose sketch in my mind with no real idea of how to execute it. Seriously, God?! There have got to be a million other people more qualified than me, I argued. Yet God is tenacious. He wouldn’t let go of me and at some point, I had to make a decision. Do I really want to walk with Him the way I claim I do? Do I really want to experience what it is to find peace that passes understanding, a purpose the compels me when I don’t want to move, and a joy so rich it’s hard to put into words? Because if I really I want those things, it requires me to obey. Risks involve obedience.
Think of Peter being called out of that boat. He could’ve chosen not to try. Think of Deborah being asked to lead the nation of Israel, the first woman to have been chosen by God to lead His worldwide movement powerfully forward. She could’ve said no, could’ve decided she just didn’t have it in her. Think of the Apostles being asked to leave careers and join an itinerant preacher named Jesus with no certainty of how that would support their families or how that choice would go. But each of them chose to push past their fear, to push past their limited understanding of how God could actually use someone as flawed as they, opting instead for obedience. We read about their struggles, about how their journeys were challenging and hard sometimes. We read about their moments of doubt. But we also read about their breakthrough moments of faith, of the incredible, joyful growth they were able to experience and ultimately the powerful impact they were able to make on their world because they chose to take an obedient step of faith.
So yes, risk is a necessary element of our faith journey with God. It just is. Whether it’s to take the risk of building a friendship and letting people into your inner world, or choosing to go in a direction you know that you know you are called to whether it makes any sense or not, don’t be afraid to take that tentative first step. Trust me! God gets just how hard that can be for us. He knows how deeply we value control, and how hard it is for us to let go of that illusion of certainty (for it truly is an illusion—we all know this) and reach toward His outstretched hand.
But never forget the promise that comes with that risk. It’s the promise to bear abundant fruit, good, rich fruit that produces a harvest in those around us 30, 60 or 100 times greater than what was sown (