When I was living in Papua New Guinea, I took up a few new sports. One was bike jumping. That was not so successful. I jumped onto one of my kid’s little bikes and raced down the dirt path as fast as I could. I hit the ramp we’d constructed of dirt, got some serious air, and them came crashing down in a not-so-pretty heap. I earned some cracked ribs from that one.
The next sport was paragliding. Now, THAT was some big-time fun! I perched at the edge of a tall mountain and strapped myself into a harness that was attached to the large fabric “wing” of the paraglider. Then I pulled on the wing to inflate it with the surging wind. When the cells of the wing were filled with air, it lifted into the air, taking me with it. Gliding high above the mountain ridge was exhilarating—just me, the wing, and the gentle sound of wind! The only mishap I had with this was when I misjudged my landing and ended up in the upper branches of a tree. It took me a while to extricate myself from that one!
The third was playing on a pebble strewn basketball court. The local Papua New Guineans went barefoot, and their broad, tough feet and strong toes gave them the needed traction for such a slippery surface. I was not blessed with such feet. I wore shoes, and they were not as grippy. Kicking a playground ball with the kids, my feet left the safety of the ground and went into orbit.
My feet sailed awkwardly skyward, for a brief moment of air time, and I completed the move as I crashed down to earth, breaking my left foot for the third time in my life.
The point is, a life lived fully can sometimes be less than “safe.” Did you know that it’s the same way with our faith? C.S. Lewis wrote a delightful tale called “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” in which Aslan the lion is the characterization of God. In one insightful passage, Susan asks a question about Aslan: “Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” To which Mr. Beaver responds, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
It reminds me of something my cross-country coach used to drum into our heads: “Run out of your comfort zone.” Running a race comfortably may feel better at the time, but it does not help us grow into better, faster runners.
The apostle Paul did not say at the end of his life, I have lived comfortably and safely, and now I’m ready to go lounge on the heavenly couch and eat potato chips. He said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He could just as well have said, I have lived dangerously. I may have a few bumps and bruises, experienced some pain and regrets. But by the grace of our “dangerous God,” I have lived by faith. Can you say that, too?
Ron Olson serves as pastor of Bowman United Methodist church.