You will never know how much you believe something until it is a matter of life and death. –C.S. Lewis
I saw the red lights flashing on the butt of the car but didn’t pay much attention as I passed it coming over the mountain. It wasn’t until I saw the three figures walking on the side of the road that I came to some dawning of comprehension. It was 9:30 at night so the darkness kept me from deciphering if they were men or women. I could tell at least one was a child.
The car behind me kept me from pulling over right away. Or did it? The game I played with myself as I continued driving caused me to let up on the gas and move a little slower. I needed time to think.
At the pull-off for the overlook I parked and prepared to turn around. As I sat ready to take a left, the game started again. Someone else will do it. But what if everyone says that and then no one helps them? It’s late at night. You’re alone. It’s dangerous. But what if they really need help?
I concluded that someone else would help them. A married couple, or a man who had no fear of being kidnapped or raped. I turned right out of the gravel lot and continued my decent of the mountain.
At the bottom, however, I couldn’t shake it. What was I so afraid of? Getting hurt? Being robbed? Having both of those things happen and then being judged by the outside world for being careless?
When I reached the bottom of the mountain, one thought caused me to finally turn around and go back: I was going to regret not helping them.
I drove back the way I came, glancing to the side ever so often for the three dark figures I had seen coming from the other direction. I reached the car with the flashing lights and turned around in the road so my headlights were pointing at it. I saw a woman and two children climbing into it as I was getting out of my own car.
“Are you guys okay?” I called to the woman. She turned towards me as I was approaching.
“Someone is going to get us gas,” She answered.
“Okay good,” I said.
“Thanks anyway,” she said mechanically.
I got back into my car. Nothing bad happened. Why was I so friggin’ scared all the time?
The chronic fear of making a mistake can be a mistake of its own. It’ll cause you to take ten minutes and two pull-overs to decided to help people who’ve run out of gas. It’ll cause you to try so hard to not be reckless that sometimes you sit still and do nothing.
I do take risks, but not without ripping and pulling and pushing and pounding. Not without agonizing question games and battles with the fear of messing up.
A pastor at my church says he likes to ask elderly people if there is anything they regret about their lives, if they would do anything differently. One of the most common answers is that they would risk more.
A strange answer coming from the most common generation to issues the mandate: “Be careful.”
So what are we to do? Choose caution or choose risk? My conclusion is that to swing towards one or the other is neither right nor wrong. God had a way prepared to help the people who ran out of gas that didn’t need me. He took care of them when I didn’t.
But the blessing of being the one to rescue someone, provide relief, go on an adventure, stick your neck out and see what happens—that only comes with a little risk.