Bicycle touring comes with some risks. Debbie and I became aware of this firsthand when we ventured coast to coast on our bicycles in 2010. Even in the planning stages, we began to realize that things we took for granted in car travel would disappear when traveling by bicycle. With little protection, we would be exposed to high-speed traffic while navigating roads with narrow shoulders–or dangerous curves. Simply the thought of large, leashless, aggressive dogs, with barks and growls to match, was enough to send chills up and down my spine.
We wondered what staying overnight in a tent in the wild would be like. Staying in campgrounds rather than motels seemed more risky. Would we encounter wild animals and poisonous snakes? Would we be traveling through the heart of high crime zones and not even know it? Would we encounter a tornado in the Midwest, and how scary would that be?
Our inexperience and lack of mechanical prowess also prompted anxiety. Would we need to repair a flat tire–or worse–in remote areas? Would our gear be vulnerable to theft when we left it unattended? Or would we need to tend our bicycles at all times?
Just like bicycle touring, life itself comes with risks. We can assume more risk depending upon how we choose to spend our time, the people we associate with, and the places we frequent. Our selection of work may be indicative of our risk profile. And how we invest our money also reflects our appetite for risk.
I was faced with two other risk propositions just before our bicycle trip. What would it be like, after 52 years of life as a single, to be married? And would Debbie and I get along as a married couple? After all, we would be trading in our freedom as lifelong singles, investing instead in companionship, our love for one another, and a completely different lifestyle. Being in love is one thing, but living with one another day to day could be quite another!
And then there was the prospect of leaving behind a steady stream of earnings. Although there was no guarantee how long my steady stream of income would last, the perilous economic times accentuated the risks of leaving behind what many would have considered a sure thing and good compensation.
With increased risk, of course, comes the potential for greater reward. Ultimately, with my 2010 decisions, the risk/reward phenomenon has proven itself powerfully once again. Our bicycle trip was so rich and rewarding. To have forgone such an opportunity would have been lamentable.
I have enjoyed honing my writing skills and exercising the privilege of sharing my thoughts using them. There has been so much to learn about publishing. I’m participating in a business world with wider boundaries than I have ever known. Time will tell how the finances pan out, but I have confidence that God will use what I learn along the way. For now, that is enough.
My new life has also freed up time for me to participate as a hope coach for thehopeline.com. I have discovered a set of skills that I did not realize was within me. And I am growing deeper spiritual roots as God helps me with these Internet chats with youth in crisis. My experience on TheHopeLine has been most rewarding, and one that I would have missed had I not taken some chances.
Life as a married couple has helped us grow together as well as individually, allowing God to further refine our character as we submit to one another. I’ve experienced great joy in sharing life with Debbie. She’s warm, loving, and delightful. We enjoy common interests and discover more about life and ourselves when our interests diverge. Sure, it is not always easy. Breaking new ground never is. But learning and growing is worth the effort. The future may be uncertain, but facing it together is more fulfilling and exciting than being alone, squirreled away in a small apartment, collecting a paycheck, and waiting for the next sporting event.
Are you willing to take a risk? You can mentally rehearse all that can go wrong beforehand, just as I did before I plunged headlong into the adventure. The easy answer to avoiding the risks of life is to coast along or withdraw. But how much more would I have missed had I not taken the plunge? Staying the course may be the safe route, but isolation and running on autopilot will only get you to where you’ve already been.
Be willing to take a risk. Calculate the risks to avoid the reckless ones. But don’t live in fear of the unknown. Meet life head on. Walk with confidence in God’s ability to see you through the challenging times, to bring you to new and exciting places. Taking risks is a necessary ingredient for living the abundant life. You were made for more than you own comfort. Engage the world. It’s still waiting for you.
Last week, I wrote an article for a special insert to the Main Street Journal entitled “The Spirit of Christmas.” You can view all of the articles in that insert by clicking here.