A couple of my friends recently recommended Andy Crouch’s book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & Flourishing. So far, I’m enjoying it.
God wants us to be flourishing, as evidenced in Jesus’statement of his life’s purpose, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Obviously, the Biblical view of flourishing differs from what the worldly view of flourishing would be. Real flourishing is not dependent on wealth or even our physical health. It involves a high degree of authority (defined as the capacity for meaningful action) and also vulnerability. Vulnerability can be defined as exposure to meaningful risk.
The author uses the simple 2 x 2 grid below to explore flourishing and the other alternatives of exploiting, withdrawing and suffering as well.
Many of us find ourselves withdrawing in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. As I have been reading this book, I thought about something that I wrote before we left for two years of missionary work in Argentina called, “Safe or Brave”. We felt like God was inviting us to follow Him in a new level of sacrifice and risk to do what we could to be a blessing to the materially poor in Latin America. It was a long process and it was a very strange thing to leave my secure job, sell our cars and half our stuff and move to Argentina with our three young boys (that was eight years ago). Here is what I wrote to myself (from the perspective of God) as I thought about staying safe or being brave:
Safe or Brave?
What’s it going to be, Chris? You have had moments of risk and bravery in your Christian journey, but you generally kept relatively safe. You have a conservative nature. But, I am calling you to take a huge risk with your life because I want to use you and your family in new and exciting ways. I will not force you to step out. I only knock on the door and invite you to join Me. You can stay safe and live out a good life that honors me. But, I have more for you. But you must take a big step, which feels like a leap to you. But that leap is, ironically, the safest thing to do.
The deep hunger in your soul to help others, to represent me to the needy grows. I have put that in your heart. How can you sit at your desk trying to figure out the latest Cobra regulation, do a financial analysis or add up the checks? Don’t you want more for your life? Don’t you yearn for more? Come, an adventure awaits you. But, you will only be given enough to get through each day.
Stop worrying about your kids, about a fallback plan, about your retirement savings, about security. I will take care of you, and being used by me for my glory is fulfilling what I made you for. Forget about all of the practical concerns and anxieties for now. Each day has its own trouble, and you do not need to worry about the future.
So, how about it? Will you follow me to the ends of the earth if I ask you to go? Are you willing to let me be in charge? Will you trust the One who made you to take care of you and your family? Come, adventure awaits. I await. Come with me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know. It’s okay for you to count the cost. But, once you have then come. You have no idea what I would like to do with your life. I want to use you in ways you never imagined. I know you. I watch you. I’m with you there in your office. Your “true self” that I created you to be is in hibernation. But, I’m here to wake you up so you can be alive. I mean really alive!
I love you and I want the best for you not just what’s good or okay. And, I have prepared you and grown you for such a time as this. It’s time to step out, to respond to my invitation. I will not force you. I will only invite you. You must come on your own free will.
Be brave. Be strong and courageous. I know that you have a brave heart. Come and live a brave life. Put your big brave heart into action.
I’ve only given you one chance to live out your life on earth. Make it count. Don’t waste your life dealing with pettiness. I have great things to show you.
If you close your ears and your heart to my invitation, it might be harder to hear me when I speak to you, when I call you next time. Let’s go. It’s time. I’m on the move and I want you with me.