Risk and I have had our run ins. In fact, I plain don’t like her. I don’t like her boldness, I don’t like the daring little glint in her eye and I really don’t like the way she offers no guarantees or incentive. None! She taunts me. She knows she offers the only pathway to the new, the bigger, the potential… Potential. I’m not a fan of hers either! She sounds almost comforting and exciting when you are young; she’s like a promise of greatness in your future. She’s the best friend you always wanted; she’s so positive and always believes the best for you. The problem with Potential though is that she is all talk. Blah, blah, blah… it’s the same old story on repeat. On repeat. On repeat. It’s true that the story bubbles out of her with enthusiasm and excitement as she repeats it, but over time you realise she has no way of transferring her fantastic tales into the realm of the living. It remains this ethereal thing – somewhere out there. Completely unattainable.
This is where you discover my nemesis, Risk. She’s always suggesting the many and varied ways that you can kill yourself! You think I’m being dramatic, but I’ve seen where she lives and it is way out on the edge. No one in their right mind would take up residence there, right?! She hasn’t got a lot of friends and every organisation dedicates a slab of time and maybe even an entire department to managing her. To trying to contain and minimise her. This is how much trouble she is. She generally has more friends that are beginning life or facing the end of life. In between she is way too confronting.
The biggest problem with Risk – and she knows it – is that nothing truly great, unique or grand is created without her. Potential is all talk and Risk is all action. Risk is about creating opportunities for Potential’s comforting and ego stroking words to become reality. She serves up a pathway, shines a dazzling light on it, but will never promise success. She is mostly happy just to push you over the edge. She doesn’t think in terms of consequences, cost or failing. She just screams her mantra, ‘but, what if?!’
I’ve had my run ins and sometimes I’m so grateful for her and others I’m left counting a cost that is higher than I was prepared to pay. It’s a love/hate relationship that is so annoying because I know I can’t live without her. Not if I want to experience success in my life. Not if I want to see the promises of Potential become facts and not floaty theories. Not if I want to have character traits that include courage and strength. This relationship is a frustration! It feels like Risk has the fun and I have the work. She might be the one to boot you over the line, but the outcome depends largely on you. She’ll get the glory and you’ll get the work – no wonder she has that glint in her eye!
The dilemma is this… no Risk, no reward. Nothing changes, the greatness you are sure exists within you (thanks Potential!) will remain dormant and never truly exist in the world. To embrace Risk is to first encounter her two big ugly gatekeepers – Fear and Doubt. They are merciless and will use your thoughts as a merry-go-round in the hope you’ll head back to the comfort of Potential and never approach Risk again. So how do we ever win? We need Risk but she is dangerous. We could remove Risk from our lives, but then what kind of life is left?
I’ve been camped in Risk’s front yard for a little longer than I care to admit pondering who she is and how can I find any assurances? The stakes are high in my world and I’ve built things I don’t want to lose in a reckless moment with her. I’ve seen success through my relationship with her and I’ve gone through grief at my failures with her. There were times when I shared that glint in her eye and leapt over the edge in total abandon. But here I sit looking at her front door right over the precipice and I’m wondering who can help me here? Where is my Father and what would He say? Where is my brother and what would He do? Can anybody find me some encouragement? I’m so aware of my aloneness. I’m painfully aware no human can help me in this moment of decision. I’m aware of the dreams I carry and I’m painfully aware Risk is the only one that can help me… but did I mention I don’t like her?! I painstakingly plan, plot and procrastinate for the sole purpose of carefully avoiding her!
Though I had made it past the gatekeepers to sit here in Risk’s front yard, here they now sit with me, helping me to feel the weight of what I’m putting on the line by partnering with Risk. Fear and Doubt are familiar companions and they’ve seen me here before – sometimes they’ve helped me walk back out and avoid Risk again, other times, like now, they’ve sat close by as I sit here rendered immobile. They’re comfortable here in this darkness with me.
I’ve never wanted to live in the small confines of safety. I’ve never wanted a life like everyone else’s. I’ve never truly been satisfied with the status quo. Words like ‘average’, or ‘mediocre’, or worse still – ‘normal’ actually churn my stomach. I feel like a complete oxymoron! I don’t want to leap with Risk, but I don’t want to have Potential as a flatmate. I want a life that is unique, that has influence that brings a yield of extraordinary outcomes yet don’t want to sacrifice my life and my very self to have it. But I think perhaps that’s the only price acceptable. As Fear reminds me that to sacrifice my life and self can only bring death, I finally remember what my Father says. That death brings life, that those who will lay down their lives will gain life. That just as the seed will not grow unless it first surrenders to dying and breaking open, neither will these seeds in my heart.
The darkness is beginning to make sense. This really is life and death. It’s my life and my death! Only I’ve had it wrong all this time! To leave Risk and remain safe in the warm arms of Potential is actually death – it’s like palliative care, it keeps you comfortable wears a sweet smile but in the end what’s kept you comfortable kills you. To go with Risk and hand my full self over is life. Its uncomfortable and hard, its organic and I can’t guarantee the outcome but its real and it wreaks of eternal murmurings. The gravity of this lie I have learned hangs thick in the air. Fear and doubt recoil as though I’ve just wounded them by my revelation.
My legs have mobilised, my mind is racing and a lump in my throat stifles the projection of my voice as I call to Risk. I try to yell but it sounds more like a teenage boy’s voice awkwardly breaking. My feet are struggling to keep up with my forward movement and my heart attempts to beat its way out of my rib cage as all becomes clear. Risk is the only one willing to kill me so I can truly live. I need Risk. She swings the door open as I leap up to the porch, casually spins on her heel as she sarcastically calls back to me, ‘about time!’. I follow her in to a home like no other. She stops. She looks me straight in the eye with all her usual boldness and demands, ‘what price are you willing to pay?’
Before I can even find words that glint in her eye is back; a smile spreads quickly over her knowing face and seems to beam out of her entire being as she reads my quiet but steely resolve…
‘I’m all in.’