Words of My Life: Risk
In ongoing celebration of my Jubilee year of 50 years in ministry and 70 years of life, I am sharing some of the words of my life. Sometimes we have to take big risks.In some ways I’m risk averse.
I didn’t used to be. When I learned to ski, I was bold and daring—and probably a little foolish. I rode my crazy, unpredictable horse fearlessly. I went places I wasn’t supposed to with no concern of consequences.
As I got older, some of that changed. Now I am more likely to be more cautious, especially when it comes to risky, life-endangering activities. Usually I pass on those.
When it comes, however, to opportunities to impact a life or right a wrong or fight for the underdogs, I’m in—in my heart at least. And sometimes in action, though hopefully not without applying wisdom.In reality, life is a risk. We have no real control—of circumstances, consequences, even our own choices.But God has called us to take a risk on Him. Actually, following where he calls or leads is no risk at all from His perspective. But from ours it can seem like giant gamble. We hazard things like security, reputation, failure, inadequacy, rejection—even our lives.I have taken lots of risks over my 50 years of serving God. I said yes back when I first met Jesus—“I choose Your way, not mine.” And again when I said yes to serving Him with our ministry—“I will give up the man I love and my lifelong dream for You, Lord.” And many others large and small.
Three major risks overshadow the rest—and have been life transforming.
1. I started a magazine.
When I joined our ministry right out of college, I loved my job of working on an evangelistic magazine for college students—a fun and meaningful adventure. But we decided we needed a magazine to encourage and disciple friends and donors of the ministry.That meant going from quarterly to monthly, from student audience to adult audience, from 32 pages to 64 pages. At 30 I was the oldest on the team—we hardly knew the people we were writing to.Risky. Scary. So over our heads.Gratefully God gave grace and creativity and the magazine was far more successful than we deserved. It is still going 40 years later, and is far more beautiful and effective, produced by capable staff. I cheer them on often. You can see it here.
2. I confronted the status quo.
I always felt freedom and encouragement in my roles as magazine editor and publications director. But I noticed sometimes our staff women there were no open doors to serve the ministry with their gifts.
The reasons were multiple: Some men and women didn’t believe they could exercise their gifts. Often they did not receive development and experience to grow in areas of giftedness. Leaders had not observed how capable to lead many of staff women were.
A group of us set out to change that, beginning with developing the leadership capacity of the women at the Global Women’s Leadership Forum—450 staff women from 95 nations gathered in Thailand.
We were told it was too risky. Do something smaller. Cultural restrictions were too great. Even if they gained a greater vision for how God might use them, it would probably be crushed or ignored as they returned home. And we had to raise so much money.
But we did it, totally dependent on God. They came. It was wonderful beyond our imaginations. Lives were transformed as these sisters grew in competency and confidence. They multiplied it to others. Ten years late we have seen minds changed, faith increased, doors of opportunity opened. You can read about it here and here.
3. I invited a son into our lives.
Having children is certainly joyful, but it is also a huge risk. You do not know the implications or outcomes. Adopting a child in need is a beautiful thing to do, but it also represents a significant unknown.
Every child includes joys and trials, happy surprises and surprising challenges. So when we said yes to inviting a 9-year-old boy into our home, we knew all this, even that his difficult early years would add to the potential jeopardy.
We had no idea what lay ahead. His life seemed to be one destructive choice after another, with staggering consequences. We talked and pleaded, we prayed, we set boundaries and clarified expectations. We all got counseling… we tried everything. There were weeks, even months, of sweet respite, followed by another precipitous drop on the roller coaster that was his life.
He’s in a much better place now, with mostly good choices and hopeful stability marking his days. He and we are grateful for the gift he has become. You can read about it here and here.Were these risks worth it? Oh yes. For what they accomplished in blessing, motivating, equipping, challenging and changing people—who read our magazine, who received a bigger vision of how God might use them, for a young man alive and thriving. And oh yes, each was worth it for what it did in my life.
With God, it’s not a risk.
What about you? What have you been willing to risk?
C 2015 Judy Douglass