Risks motivate me as long as I feel they are safe, in the same way that spontaneity thrills me as long as it is planned. Needless to say, I need courage to take risks. Risks to be uncomfortable because of my faith; risks to be truthful and bold when truth may not be appreciated; risks to experience cultures that aren’t known to me; and risks to embrace the lives of others when they complicate mine.
Yesterday, I learned a lesson from the birds that took residence in my hanging geranium plant on my front porch. I was blessed, a few days before I left for a European business trip, to peek into the recently built nest as mama bird laid her eggs, one by one. As I twice daily climbed onto a chair to peer into the nest when it seemed time for the eggs to hatch—I just happened to glance at the exact time the first bird was hatching. I marveled at the process that took place. As I checked the nest throughout the day, one bird after another hatched—until all five eggs were replaced by five tiny, bald, awkward looking, bird-like creatures. For several days I watched the mother and father bird feed the babies as they oversaw their little brood while perched on the utility wire above the nest. Then, I had to leave town for ten days.
When I returned, I realized that while I had flown nearly 10,000 miles— the baby birds had flown nowhere. They remained on the nest, even though they looked like fully developed little birds. They ventured beyond the nest on the branches of the plant, but did not go beyond the safety of their known geranium-world—into the wild, blue, and unknown sky.
I wondered how long they would stay safe in their nest, and what it would feel like to fly for the first time. Would their wings be strong enough? Would they be able to survive on their own? What would it feel like to face the first thunderstorm?
In the meantime, my sad little geranium was thirsting for water. I had at times carefully watered around the nest, but yesterday’s heat was showing stress on the plant. So, with water pot in hand, I stood atop the chair and carefully watered around the little birds—assuring them I wouldn’t hurt them.
Evidently, the looming prospect of “death by geranium drowning” was all the motivation this little family needed to take the risk—to fly away. Suddenly, one of the little ones “just did it.” It successfully flew away to the nearby tree. As soon as this little bird left the nest and hit the airways—the others followed. Poof—they were gone, not to return. It will be a whole new world for them, complete with today’s thunderstorm.
While I would like to think I am always motivated to “fly” and take new, scary steps because of deep faith and the thrill of the unknown — too often it is because I realize what might happen if I don’t fly. While I likely won’t be submerged in geranium water—I realize that when I don’t step out on faith there are consequences. Most importantly, I can’t please God without faith. People I could serve may not be helped if I hesitate; I’ll withhold truth; and someone who may be searching for the life that God offers may not hear about it. While I realize each person is responsible for their own life, I am also called to live by faith—faith that allow God to work through my life. If I don’t, my faith will atrophy and I’ll “die in the nest.” That’s motivation to fly with.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel …
…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:1-4, 6
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
What holds you back from taking a fresh leap of faith? As I remember the scriptures and those who have courageously stepped out before me, I am encouraged to take new steps of faith, even though it’s scary. I realize there are always risks….but the risks are even greater if I don’t leave the nest. Thankfully, God will always be the air that lifts my wings—and Jesus “flew first.”
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31