Of all the words that made up the soundtrack of my life as a child, the two that were heard above all the rest were “be careful.” When heading to school: be careful. When playing sports: be careful. When walking to my grandmother’s house next door: be careful. When going down the stairs: be careful.
When doing anything at all: be careful.
There is no doubt that my parents cared about me as much or more than any parents ever. There is also no doubt that what they cared about the most was that my ugly brother and I remained safe at all cost. So every day, several times a day, we were told to be careful. I don’t fault my parents for doing this; they loved us, still love us, and did a marvelous job of raising us. And it wasn’t just them telling me to be careful. I heard it from teachers, preachers, television, and everyone else. Or at least it felt that way.
If anything, I fault myself for taking those two words and making an idol out of them. They were my mantra, the banner that I carried at the forefront of my thoughts.
When a young boy who is naturally shy and nervous hears these two words continually over the course of a childhood he does more than merely “be careful.” He becomes careful. Timid. Scared. Indecisive. Emotionally paralyzed.
That was me and it is all too often still me.
I am too often pessimistic; looking at what could go wrong instead of what could go right. I am too often ultra-conservative; choosing the option that provides a safety net instead of the one that could garner the greater reward. I am too often cowardly; the darkness of the future squelching the courage needed to enter it bravely.
Because of this and so much more my one word for 2011 is risk. I announce this with trepidation since revealing this publicly will force me to adjust how I act privately. It will remind me while in the valley of decision that I have declared this to be the year of risk. It will cause me to throw out my old, trusted playbook in favor of one that I have not tested, that I do not yet trust.
I have been addicted to safety for far too long with soul-deadening consequences. My goal for this year, then, is to risk what I have in order to achieve what I have not yet achieved.
I must risk my reputation to follow God’s plan for me, my family, and my church.
I must risk precious time and resources in order to be more fully obedient to the One who graciously provides both.
I must risk the danger of failing so that I can overcome a lifetime of playing it safe.
It will not be easy and I will certainly falter. There will be starts and stops, potholes and setbacks along the way. It doesn’t matter. I have learned that what can bring colossal failure is the same thing that can bring unimaginable reward. It is summed up in my one word for 2011.
I plan to take a few this year and I hope that you will join me.
(What is your one word for 2011? )