Why is it that the closer we get to death, the more alive we feel?
Adrenaline junkies . . . cliff jumpers . . . sky divers . . . risk-takers of any sort. It’s about getting so close to death that you truly grasp life. You “get” what it means to be alive only because you are looking directly at death. Even if you walk away with scrapes and bruises (or worse!), the experience puts a bounce in your step, a freshness in your outlook on life.
There is no such thing as ‘invigorating safety.’
For some of us, sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel, buckled in, feet dangling, seat swaying ever so slightly while new riders enter below is risk enough. But for many, it takes fear-busting, intentionally dangerous situations before we let out that whoop of victory. What victory, you say, in riding a roller coaster or bungi-jumping over a crocodile-infested African river (because I’ve done those things and, technically, both are quite safe–probably more safe than the Ferris wheel that is here today, gone tomorrow)? What victory, really, in climbing a mountain that, though difficult, has been climbed many times before? The victory over our fears and our physicality.
But then we ask ourselves why our spiritual lives are so dull and dry. In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul says, Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Look at this list of the challenges that Paul and his companions were facing (4:8-11): hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, given over to death. They were taking God-ordained risks that didn’t involve seatbelts or safety harnesses, and they were walking away with far more than scrapes and bruises. Yet they felt . . . invigorated. Constantly dying to self (a mental thing) plus frequent encounters with actual death (a physical thing) didn’t discourage them. In fact, those risks helped them stay fresh. Bonhoeffer (in Metaxas’ book, pg. 463) wrote, “The idea that we could have avoided many of life’s difficulties if we had taken things more cautiously is too foolish to be entertained for a moment.”
When I was in college, I began evaluating my experiences for truth and understanding. In the process, the Father gave me four “rules to live by”—personal things that aren’t in the Bible but fit with the principles of the Bible. Here’s #3: The greatest rewards are the result of the greatest risk.
In the spiritual realm, “risk reflects God’s value, not our valor” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life). What is the best way to enliven your spiritual life in this new year? Take a risk for His glory; do something inexplicable or out of your “comfort zone.” I can’t say what that means for you, but I know exactly what it means for me.