The highway is framed and divided by road construction, the right lane penned off with traffic cones. The dump truck in front of us, in lieu of actually slowing down and using his blinker, does a wild maneuver with agility usually unseen in construction equipment and whips into that right lane, just barely brushing one of the cones — it wavers, but doesn’t topple over. Pretty impressive, Alaska.
I’m not saying it was safe or responsible. It was reckless and probably the impulse of a moment, not a practiced move. And it’s easy to take risks on impulse.
Risks that ride sidecar to obedience are harder: Confronting a loved one. Loving a hardened one. Taking on a new ministry. Opening our homes. Being transparent and vulnerable. Choosing life in all of its pain and uncertainty. Choosing faithfulness in spite of failure. Choosing to do the right thing when the wrong thing seems so much more appealing.
These are calculated risks. They are the ones that really make our hearts palpate, hefting the weight of bravery or cowardice.
He tells us to do something bold and sometimes we stall, spinning our wheels and skidding in fear. Dirt flies everywhere and we lose traction. We’ve been burned before, maybe, and aren’t sure we can take it again. So we tend to shrink back, flinching into isolation, fear, or depression. Our footprint constricts and we lose ground, eroding a tiny hole for ourselves in our comfort zone where things are safe, familiar, quiet.
It was foolish indeed – thus to run from farther and farther from all who could help her, as if she had been seeking a fit spot for the goblin creature to eat her in his leisure; but that is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.
– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin
That is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.
We burn that hole right into our comfort zone, and it gets deeper as the walls go higher. If we’re not paying attention, we find that the safety net we’ve made for ourselves isn’t a sanctuary at all…it’s a pit. A dry well with no water, no oxygen, walled high all around from the limits we’ve put on ourselves.
Pa and Ma were both turning the windlass. The rope slowly wound itself up, and the bucket came up out of the well, and tied to the bucket and the rope was Mr. Scott. His arms and legs and his head hung and wobbled, his mouth was partly open and his eyes half shut…
Mr. Scott had breathed a kind of gas that stays deep in the ground. It stays at the bottom of wells because it is heavier than the air. It cannot be seen or smelled, but no one can breathe it very long and live.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
It takes that holy stubbornness to kick our toes into the hard-packed earth and dig a stairway out of it. We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls…
Steadfast. It’s a quiet word we might not pay attention to, like the kid in the back of the classroom who works two extra jobs after school to help his family and still manages to graduate with honors, while his classmates make their own assumptions and garner C-averages. It’s not showy, not impulsive, and rarely wavers.
Steadfastness is the alloy of humility and dogged perseverance, the power of a strong will channeled for holy purpose in the face of fear. It is where bullheadedness meets obedience, the faith in action that happens both behind the scenes and in front of others.
I’m not saying it’s safe or responsible. It is always created under pressure.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
– 1 Corinthians 15:58
We try a new foothold – a friendship, a book, a course, a conversation, an event, whatever He says – lest we hem ourselves in too deep without oxygen and fresh water. A step gained, a little more light, a bold move, and new thoughts stir up ideas and victory that otherwise would’ve stayed unearthed.
What could God do with a family, or a church, or a city, who knew no fear? What if we didn’t shrink back from getting our hands dirty, clawing our way out of the comfort zone?
We’d be the ones who changed history. Any coward can stay in the comfort zone, but those who obey in the big and little things, who do the brave thing in spite of fear, are those who determine the headlines of the future.
P.S. What if that pit is full of mucky regrets, a rotten past, and more pain than you know what to do with? Sign up for the newsletter coming later this week. xo