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The Risk of Living

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.

In the summer of 2006, I was fortunate enough to visit 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 – whitewater rafting.

Small boats or rafts and I have had an uneasy relationship for as long as I can remember. It didn’t help 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 warms only to a chilly 38 degrees during the summer. “Yikes!” I thought to myself, “I sure hope there’s a patron saint of whitewater rafters and their guides.”

While I’m still not sure that anyone will ever entirely convince me that whitewater rafting is an 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?). Teens, by their nature, are more open to risk-taking than adults. Sometimes the risks they are willing to take have to be offset by the watchful eyes and protective nature of their parents. In many instances, teens are very open to experiencing that which is new or different or challenging, while we adults might tend to shy away from experiences that take us outside our comfort zones. I am constantly amazed at how young people can be so open to exploring and experiencing new ways to deepen their relationships with God.

Having a relationship with God entails a degree of risk, too. Jesus comes to us, like he did 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 to 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.

Father Dwight Ezop is editor of FAITH Magazine and pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Jude. E-mail: [email protected].