Risk

by Laura on December 4, 2012

My friend had a marketing guru say to him once that if you get to the end of the month and you haven’t failed at something, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

And I appreciate this sentiment. And think there’s validity in it. Because humanity’s natural tendency it towards fear. We think about the might-be’s and it kills any confidence to try-anyway.

And so, we typically sit on the sidelines. And we point fingers. Either at the star who had the guts to step on the field or at the idiot-looking first-basemen who dropped the ball on what should have been an easy-out. We shake our heads while we help our comfortable selves to another cup of water from the team cooler. We snack on the oranges that were meant for half-time and we huff-and-haw when our teammates screw it up or we huff-and-haw when they do really well and get all the attention from the cheering crowd.

Either way, benchwarmers tend to be critics.

And I’ll be honest, I’m married to a man who’s logged more hours on field than off it.

We’ve “risked”, for sure– bet it all on a hunch, moved around the world three times, took jobs that were long shots, and started business (multiple of them) that were hard work and a prayer (especially since since we’ve always lived on one salary and a youth pastor’s one at that).

And, ask me if we’ve failed. If we’ve swung for the fence and come up with air and a moan from the crowd.

Absolutely we have. We’ve had three failed businesses (the jury’s still out on one) and at least two major job fiascos. We’ve bought the wrong house, then sold it too early. We bought the wrong car, then kept it too long. We’re thirty-five, after all, and we’re back to buying basic household supplies from goodwill since the platters from the wedding were sold three moves ago.

I reckon most of our life has been spent out on the diamond, in the midst of dirt and grass and flying balls. And I reckon, too, that much of it has looked like a disappointment to the fans in the grandstand. Our family and our friends and the wide world have watched us drag  ourselves back to home plate after strike- out and strike- out and almost-out-of-the-park-but-caught-at-the-last-minute, so . . . strike-out, again.

But here’s the thing I’m learning-– I must stop assuming failure is a bad thing.

Because that time when we moved around the world and it ended in disaster? Well, we got an education in ministry and conflict.

And that time when we made bad business decisions because we were too young to know better? Well, we learned a lot then, too.

All those blog posts I wrote or articles I submitted that got zero likes, one comment (from my mom), or a rejection letter from the editor? I was actually smack-dab in the middle of honing my voice.

And that first year overseas that was heavy with errors? I tasted a deepness of the Spirit unlike any I’d ever known before during that very same time.

Because if the point is the result and the success, we might actually do better on the bench, caluculating risks and only stepping up to bat when statistically things will work out for us. If we’re only seeking his hand, and not his face, maybe sidelines is where it’d be wiser to camp out.

But if the point is the journey, the glory of being in the thick of it, that razor-edge walk with God, then we must expect (perceived or actual) failure sometimes–from ourselves and from others who’ve stepped out onto the field.

Because sometimes it’s the failure that teaches most, that reveals the heart of God more deeply, and that reminds us that we are not such superstars, after all.

**********

Risking anything lately? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000714631926 Erika Morrison

    Laura Parker. My whole life is one risk after another and there is much solidarity in my soul whenever I hear of someone like you who lives and sees this way too. I will always, always, always follow the risk-takers and mistake-makers because I find that they are the ones that God uses most mightily – He seems to really like ministering through messy people. :)

    LOVE you.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Erika,

      Loved this message today, to me.
      And I loved and agree with the fact that He tends to use messy people, in messy ways, to do good things.

      Isn’t that the beauty of the five loaves and two fish? That glory for any “success” goes rightly where it should, up. That people who applaud are really applauding the fact that it must be God, since these people tend to fumble the ball.

      Glad you are a risk taker, too. . . . think we would be friends in RL, for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.willard Wendy Willard

    Yup. We got to Nicaragua right around the time you got back to the US. Our kids are 11 and 13. We’ve never been to language school (which means our Spanish sucks). We are self-supported tentmakers. We were failures by most missionary sending organization standards, even before we hit the ground. One of our daughters needed emergency surgery in October, and somehow we made it through. We’re still here. We’re still plugging through… :)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      SO proud of you Wendy!

      Way to stick it out . . . love that your story of risk is also a story of PERSEVERANCE.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Excited to be on this journey with you, Laura. Let’s do our best to keep failure to a minimum.

    We’re certainly pushing the boundaries.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Right back at ya . . . .

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    “we’re back to buying basic household supplies from goodwill since the platters from the wedding were sold three moves ago.” LOL LOVE THIS. (as someone who has moved who has moved every year of my adult life.:p)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Girl, we are gaining some valuable moving skills . . . . haha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

    I’ve been mulling this over for a bit and I keep coming back to the fact that whatever we do, there is momentary risk inherent because we live in a fallen world. We may try to plan everything out so that life seems as sure as possible, determined not to allow unaccounted for variables or failure to enter the picture. And we risk that thrill of knowing God is leading; we risk missing serendipity. The alternative is abandoning ourselves to God, but then we risk the illusion of control and safety and predictability. God has wired us all differently, so some probably lean more one way or the other and risk becomes a factor when we choose to operate differently than our natural inclinations. I don’t think I mind so much the risk – it is the consequences that tag along with it that really get to me.

    So, we are definitely heading Stateside in 6 months… it is looking more and more like it may be an indefinite. And part of what is behind this decision is that we do need some bench warming time and it is driving me crazy because I want to stay out in the thick of it. At least right now, at this moment, going home in 6 months after 15 years on this path to maybe start all over again there or elsewhere seems like the riskiest possibility of all – worse than the disease, famine, flood or terrorism that seems to stalk the perimeter with an occasional foray into the neighborhood. And folks back home think that mindset is crazy.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Wow, Richelle, can I just say that I want to copy and paste that entire first paragraph? Holy cow, it is just perfect. As always, you lead with wisdom.

      And, BIG NEWS! I can totally get the fear of going back home and maybe the wisdom of taking a rest. 15 years is a long time, friend. I can’t wait to read about your transition. Know that we are walking with you in the virtual sense of the word . . . . And I totally get that risk for you may look very different from risk for most people in the States.

      Prayers as you prepare . . .

  • ngwilke

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today.

    We are risking a lot lately- relaunching a business next week that came out of nowhere. Pursuing going back to Africa. Major job changes.

    Just last night, I was telling my husband that God has been speaking to me about fear. That I want so many “confirmations” about His will as to make it a guarantee. But where is the faith in that? Where is the room for growth?

    And I think He wants me to get okay with failure, not because we necessarily will fail (this time), but because He doesn’t want avoidance of failure to be my main motivation- or my motivation at all, really.

    I have to redirect my heart, time and again, to reframe perceived “failure.” I don’t want to be someone who obeys God just so my life will look good or be easier. I don’t want a relationship with Jesus for what I can get from Him- He alone is more than enough.

    And I know deep-down, that when I really get there, I will have the freedom to fail, and the freedom to fear, that allows me to follow Him anywhere, with reckless abandon.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      This was perfect:

      And I think He wants me to get okay with failure, not because we necessarily will fail (this time), but because He doesn’t want avoidance of failure to be my main motivation- or my motivation at all, really.

      YES, the fear of failure can cause such havoc on our Christ-following.
      Glad you are risking right now in your corner of the world . . .

  • http://twitter.com/theBossyMom Susan Hill

    You simply have no idea how much I needed this. We are right in the middle of what appears to be a ‘failure’ after we stepped out in faith, following every open door that could have only been God. And it has been difficult not to beat ourselves up, thinking ‘how could we have messed up so bad’. Every time we have started to quit, a message comes along like this one. One that encourages. One that says ‘God is exactly in charge so don’t stop now. You’re almost to your miracle.’ And so we press on, waiting for the next ‘door’, but, honestly, no longer trusting our instincts. So thank you for this.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      And so we press on, waiting for the next ‘door’, but, honestly, no longer trusting our instincts.

      Praying that this would be deeply true for you and yours today. So glad you were encouraged by this . . .

  • Tricia M.

    Laura, it sounds like we have gone through much of the same failures as you have. It’s always so painful and embarrassing admitting failure, but once I can see with perspective, I’ve become so thankful for these experiences. We have lived a lot of life by our mid thirties (I’m 37)! And the thought that we might be reclining in our waterfront dream home, the envy of many, enjoying the good life with our clean-cut, well-dressed children, while justifying ourselves by the money we give to charity, makes me so thankful that He stripped it all away and taught us so many things in the process.
    But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (1 Cor 1:27)
    It makes me so humbled and honored at the same time to know that He uses us despite all our failures, that we can’t attribute any success to ourselves.
    To minister to others, there is nothing more encouraging than someone who has gone through it! And nothing more discouraging to mere humans than being preached to by someone who’s done it all right.
    Our worldly success may be small, but by abiding in Him, our eternal rewards are immeasurable!
    I love your transparency!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      This, Tricia, I think is the point:
      It makes me so humbled and honored at the same time to know that He uses us despite all our failures, that we can’t attribute any success to ourselves.
      YES. When we have it all together and succeed, where’s the miracle in that? It’s when we really only have five loaves and two fish and 5,000 to feed that when “success” happens, God’s miracles get underscored.

      Love your honesty, too. :)

  • Heather

    Your story is so amazing, Laura. You’re bravery is inspiring—a bravery that comes from pure faith. You’re teaching me to get off of the bench. And I’m learning that the sum of our mistakes is what God uses to create fascinating tapestries that we never could have imagined, much less created ourselves (I can’t remember who used the tapestry analogy first, but I love it). From these sidelines, your tapestry is rich, beautiful, and humbling. <3

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      You. are. amazing.

      Thanks for your words– you, my friend, are by no means a benchwarmer by any definition.

      This Sunday was a beautiful example of THAT.

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ Angie Washington

    How interesting that you were most likely writing this post at the same time as I was composing next Wednesday’s post for A Life Overseas. Go take if you want. Gonna be good!

    Love your heart. Love your passion. Love your tenacity. Love your transparency. Love YOU!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      great minds think alike? of course they do.

      :)

  • Jeni P

    A dear friend of mine (also a missionary) recently shared this quote with me from Bob Goff’s book, ‘Love Does’… “…I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” Resonates with your post, especially re: human tendency toward fear and the resultant lack of attempt. We’ll keep swinging, won’t we?

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Oh, Jeni– LOVE this quote and loved that book, too! So, so true. Thanks for taking the time to share it . . .

      and yes, KEEP. SWINGING.

  • evan

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    -Theodore Roosevelt

    I’m sure this crossed your mind while writing this, but I had to share it anyway. I love this so much. Our security is that its our part to step up to the plate, and we will never know if our mistakes were perceived or real, if we failed or succeeded. but thanks for being a family who gets up and gets up and gets up. id say that’s a success, and enough of a success to give others the courage to get up.

  • Gary Ware

    Absolutely we have. We’ve had three failed businesses (the jury’s still out on one) and at least two major job fiascos. We’ve bought the wrong house, then sold it too early. We bought the wrong car, then kept it too long. We’re thirty-five, after all, and we’re back to buying basic household supplies from goodwill since the platters from the wedding were sold three moves ago.

    Is the story of our lives and at 66 years young:

    But if the point is the journey, the glory of being in the thick of it, that razor-edge walk with God, then we must expect (perceived or actual) failure sometimes–from ourselves and from others who’ve stepped out onto the field. Because sometimes it’s the failure that teaches most, that reveals the heart of God more deeply, and that reminds us that we are not such superstars, after all.

    Is the result of every experience in our lives. We are in preparation for the best part of our walk with God in our latter years. It “feels” as tight, uncomfortable and, at times, scary as always because these are components of the class.
    I always explained to my students, in the introduction, that the only people that FAILED are those that quit class. I prepared for every mistake, error or failed task before they enrolled. EVERY event was included as a component of the learning.
    JUST DO NOT QUIT CLASS and in HIS eyes you have not failed. God bless.

  • Terissa Miller

    Risking love; entering a battle I know not what to do with. But stepping in, all the same.
    Freedom, release, hope, life – for girls, for women.

    My 1st post, helping to spread the word & work of The Exodus Road:
    http://www.StumblingAroundInTheLight.com

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Thank you so very much, Teri! This is beautiful and I am grateful you are taking this risk for us, for them. Off to share your post now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brook.blanton Brook Blanton

    Finally chiming in because today’s message went right along with the Ted talk I watched last night. It is by Brene Brown and you just have to watch it because it is exactly what you are talking about. She says vulnerability is not weakness, but the purest form of courage. Here is the link http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html Her talk original talk may even be better, such good stuff. She challenges people to dare to live greatly even if it is not pretty and that is what it sounds like you and your family are doing. Your blog has actually been a life line to me, because my family of five just moved to Bangkok as missionaries. Although I long to be here for over 20 years, the first month in I thought I was going to die. Now after the second month, we just may survive, but don’t feel like we are thriving yet. Blessings to your sweet family and thanks for helping us stay a float.

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