Posted by: ritagone | April 25, 2012

Taking a Risk

When’s the last time you took a risk?

What was it?

And how did it turn out?

Most of us are extremely risk averse.  We don’t like to push the envelope and do anything that will cause us to jeopardize our safety or our security.  In fact, most of us settle somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to ranking how much risk we are willing to take.  Then, at either end of the spectrum, you have the person who stays at home, never venturing outside for fear of almost everything: germs, interaction with other people, the danger of automobiles and potential accidents inherent in just being out and about.  They might have a job outside the home, so they have established a routine that takes them back and forth to work, but that routine shapes everything they do, and the risk that they are unwilling to take is anything that moves them beyond the parameters they have established for themselves.  On the opposite side of this spectrum is the sky diver, the bullfighter, the downhill skier, anyone looking for the next thrill, the person who lives life on the edge, changing jobs frequently, always wanting to meet new people, plunging into the next scenario with gusto and with abandonment because life just might get boring, which to them is the worst thought imaginable.

Late author Barbara Johnson talks about risk in a humorous fashion, when she learned how to use the Internet: “Some of us are technologically challenged.  I understand that.  It can be intimidating to get into a brand new mode of communication when you’re used to old-fashioned tools like telephones, typewriters, or even fountain pens.  Once I sat down at a computer to log on to the Internet.  The screen directed me to PRESS ANY KEY.  I looked all over for the “any” key and couldn’t find it!

I put my disk into the slot.  Nothing appeared on the screen, so I called Computerland for help.  The service department told me to put my disk back into the slot and be sure to close the door.  I told the customer service guy to hold on.  When I got up and closed the door to my office, the disk still didn’t work.  The screen scoffed at me, chiding BAD COMMAND, and called me INVALID.  The serviceman said I shouldn’t take it personally.  But what was I to think?”

(Some of us can remember the risk involved in taking our first baby steps into the world of computers!  And it wasn’t as funny as Ms. Johnson wrote about!)

What are you willing to risk for what you believe in?  Are you willing, if need be, to put your life on the line?  To put everything you own on the line?  To sacrifice years and health and family and friends?  I just finished an amazing book that challenged me to think about this in my own life.  It’s called “Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea,” and it recounts the recovery of what was at the time (1988) the largest treasure of gold and artifacts lost and then recovered at sea.  In 1857 a sidewheel steamer called the Central America left the California Gold Rush area with hundreds of miners aboard, men who had spent the last years collecting gold in various forms to bring home to their families on the East Coast.  Off the coast of Carolina, in a horrendous hurricane, the ship went down, taking with it over 400 of those men.  The women and children aboard the ship were rescued.  For over 100 years the ship sat on the bottom of the ocean, 8,000 feet down, but no one was able to retrieve the bounty because the technology was not up to the task.

A man named Tommy Thompson, a young engineer, spent years of his life in the early ‘80’s putting together investors, scientists, technicians, and a crew to retrieve the gold.  Against all odds, and at incredible risk, Thompson oversaw the project and managed to eventually accomplish something that had never been done before: film, photograph and retrieve a sunken ship’s treasure, lay claim to it for his investors, and at the same time advance oceanography and science because of the painstaking care he maintained for the work that was done.

He risked everything to accomplish what he believed in.  Against all odds, he pressed on, and the story of this remarkable feat is worth reading because of the example and challenge it was to my own heart.

If men can risk their lives and devote their entire being to an enterprise that brings them merely material wealth and scientific acclaim, as wonderful as those things might be, why am I not willing to risk more for my God?  I asked myself that question as I read the book, and that question keeps whirling around in my head days after putting it down.

It’s worth pondering for all of us: what is worth the risk for me?  Anything?  Anyone?  What does risk look like in my own life?

Because you never know when you – or I – might be asked to risk everything.  And I want to be ready.

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