| By Father Dwight Ezop

Faith hope and love

The greatest risks

This may come as something of a surprise, but I am not a risk-taker by nature. However, I have also learned that sometimes taking a risk can open the door to an experience I would otherwise have missed, and more often than not, I am the better for having taken the risk.

Just a few weeks ago, I visited Alaska for the first time. It was a remarkable experience that surrounded me with some of the most beautiful scenery ever created by God. The mountains are breathtaking and the wildlife is diverse. Much of the trip was quite safe, involving nothing more adventurous than climbing in and out of many modes of motorized transportation or walking through the wilderness. There was, however, one venture that, in my mind, entailed a great deal of risk: white-water rafting.

Small boats or rafts and I have had an uneasy relationship for as long as I can remember. It didn’t help matters when our guide told us (after the obligatory safety training) that the glacial lake where we were beginning our journey is between 400 and 600 feet deep and its water remains a chilly 38 degrees during the summer. “Yikes!” I thought to myself, “I sure hope there’s a patron saint of white-water rafters and their guides.”

While I’m still not sure that anyone will ever entirely convince me that white-water rafting is the enjoyable thing to do, I will say that taking the risk to get into the raft made possible an amazing (and, in the end, safe) trip through a stunningly beautiful corner of our God-given world. Without taking the risk to climb into the raft, I would never have seen an iceberg face-to-face, nor would I have seen the emerald green of a natural spring-fed river. I would never have had the experience of traveling in a small group through a pristine valley that, even to this day, has been visited by relatively few people. The risk was worth it.

There is something both exciting and scary about taking a risk. Risk involves a certain degree of vulnerability (Will I fall out of the raft?) and it can bring a reward (Did you see that beautiful mountain?). Like any relationship, that of Ben Creger and his Big Brother, Rod Pender, involved a certain degree of risk for both Ben, who had been abandoned by his parents, and Rod, who would eventually open his family’s life to Ben. Other risks involve the decision to stand out in the crowd, like Caitlin Riley, whose baldness due to alopecia makes her instantly recognizable. Having chosen to eschew a wig, Caitlin took the risk of standing out so that others might accept her for who she is, not how she looks.

Our relationship with God entails a degree of risk, too. Jesus comes to us, like he did to those first disciples, and invites us to climb into the boat with him. Sometimes the waters of the lake are smooth, sometimes there are storms and waves. Whether placid or turbulent, Jesus is always with us in the boat. As we travel the path of discipleship, he is always there to guide and govern, to comfort and protect, to challenge and heal. If we take the risk to get into the boat with him, we will never be the same, for he will take us to places we never dreamed – to become a people who are God’s own, in a Kingdom that is not of this world. And so our journey in FAITH continues.