When my Australian friend was describing me to her mother, she called me “sporty.” That is a really good description of the younger me, but these days I’m not sure how much “sport” I have in me. I wouldn’t say I was a rough and tumble type back in the day. I enjoyed sports and played as much as possible. But as far as physical contact sports, I shied away from getting hurt. In my younger years, my best friend was a boy named Jack. He was a year older and had a few pounds on me. Whenever we played together, I was leery about playing aggressively against him because he would always take it too far. I was not a cry baby so I would always shrug it off. Getting hurt took the fun out of the game!
When I was in my mid-thirties, I decided to try my hand with martial arts. I loved it in theory; but on sparring days, I hoped my sparring partners would be skinny little kids. However, it was always the ladies with a weight advantage and would put me on my butt more times than I would like to admit. My Mom was quite concerned with my new sport due to the possibilities of getting hurt. Me too. And one day it happened; I had to call Mom and tell her she was right. However, the injury did not come from sparring partners; it came with learning a new kick. It put me out of commission for about two months – in a wheel chair; cast on one leg and a leg brace on the other. My dream of earning a black belt was over. I was done. The fun of it was gone.
Needless to say, I have a few scars from a few misadventures. However, that tumble with martial arts didn’t leave a physical scar; it played with my psyche. Two months in a wheelchair gives you a different perspective. Even though I have always had an aversion to getting hurt, I became more apprehensive about falling down. I became more conscious of playing it safe; making sure my footing was sure on slippery slopes. Anything that looks potentially hazardous I avoid doing. Sometimes I have missed out on the fun just because of a new fear of getting hurt. Is the fear rational? Possibly, but it doesn’t mean that I have to sit on the sidelines because of it.
A few years ago, I went with the church ladies to a mountain retreat. It was in the fall of the year, and the leaves were at the peak of color. The house where we were staying had a breath-taking view of a lake surrounded by the color of autumn. Upon arrival, we all decided to hike down to the lake. The path looked easy enough. We rounded a bend, and my fear raised its ugly head. The way down from that point on was filled with loose rocks. My prayer life took on a whole new dimension that day. I arrived at the bottom of the hill; and it was a glorious time of rejoicing – not only for the beauty that surrounded us, but for the relief of making it to the bottom without incident.
The other night I read an excerpt from a message from C. H. Spurgeon in my Streams in the Desert devotional that had me thinking of my fear of falling. He mentioned the soldiers who had come home from battle showing their scars and talking about the battles they had come through. There was a (not noted) quote in the devotional “God will not look you over for medals, degree or diplomas, but for scars.” Think about when we get to heaven, we will not talk about playing it safe. We won’t sit around and tell of the things we didn’t do because it was too difficult or a possibility of getting hurt.
The Apostle Paul wrote of his many sufferings as a badge of honor. He had survived beatings, shipwrecks, jail time, and even stoning. At the end of his life, he wrote that he had fought the good fight; he finished the course, and kept the faith. There will be many seated at the wedding table who display battle scars, and we can anticipate hearing all the stories.
It’s not about playing it safe for Jesus. The fun is being in the game. The slippery slope is meant to give us a thrill on the way down (and draw closer to Jesus) and a foothold for the way up. When I began the ascent back to the mountain retreat, I realized going up was much easier because of the rocks placed along the path. I kept looking up to find the next step. Each step took me closer to my destination. Once I made it back, the view was still stunning; but I knew what it was like at the bottom of the mountain, and I could appreciate the view all the more. The journey is always better with a little adventure – even if it’s scary. We might get a few scars in the process, but the stories will be incredible. We are meant for so much more than playing it safe.
This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (MSG)