“Be careful!” I yelled toward my two oldest boys as they traipsed out the back and slammed the door behind them. They were off to play with their cousins around the family greenhouse that adjoins our property.
Even as the instinctive words left my mouth, I caught myself. Is this really what I want for my boys? To be careful?
Granted, my boys can be reckless and impulsive, but as they mature, do I really want them to remember that their mother’s greatest concern for them was that they’d be careful?
I’m well aware that we live in a safety-oriented culture. (Think car seats, insurance, cabinet locks, extended warranties, and outlet covers.) I’m aware that my upbringing has conditioned me to think a certain way. It explains why my automatic impulse is to remind my boys to be careful as they leave my protection.
But is that my highest value?
When I stand outside as the clouds mound and a storm blows in, the wind in my hair still stirs in me a deep sense of adventure–just as it did when I was a kid. And as any reader of good books knows, you can’t find adventure until you leave the safety of the shire.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8
Our own adventures with God have taken us halfway around the world because we were willing to take risks–calculated, Spirit-filled risks for the kingdom that swept us out of our comfort zones and into other cultures. This kind of risk is right because the God we serve isn’t concerned with safety.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
So when it comes to my boys, I don’t exactly want being careful to be their number one priority. I want to prepare them to take risks for the kingdom of God. And I don’t want to stifle their own innate sense of adventure.
Instead, I want them to make wise choices, to stand up for what is good and right, to look out for and protect one another, to value others as more important than themselves, to love God with every ounce of their boyhood (and manhood), and to seek His kingdom first. But in order to do these things, they can’t play it safe–they have to take risks.
So when is the risk of a broken arm worth climbing that tree to test the limits of strength and reach new heights?
When is the risk of a smashed finger worth the confidence they’ll build using real tools?
When is the risk of mockery worth standing up for the weak and vulnerable?
When is a relationship worth the risk of a broken heart?
We now have a baby girl, fourth-born. I see her reaching for a toy, so I stoop to help her, then I stop. I step back and let her struggle a little longer instead of stepping in to make it easy. She finally succeeds–and she is stronger for it. I have shown her what she can do for herself by refusing to do it for her. Have I done this well with the other three? It’s food for thought.
No more playing it safe. Next time I send them out to play, I’ll not warn them to be careful, but to watch out for one another; to protect one another as they adventure out together.
I want my boys (and my little girl!) to be willing to take risks–the right kind of risks.
Don’t play it safe, kids. The God we serve is not safe.
No, but He is good.