WiW: Taking Risks

Yesterday being the first of January, I also knew it to be the first of the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge. I duly began Anne of Green Gables, which I intend to re-read, along with its sequel Anne of Avonlea over the course of this month. (I also intend to complete at least one additional article of clothing for my doll wardrobe based on the Anne series).

Early on in Anne of Green Gables I came across a passage that’s never really stuck out to me before, but which certainly stuck out this time. Marilla is explaining to Mrs. Lynde why she agreed to adopt a boy from Nova Scotia, despite the risks:

“And as for risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world. There’s risks in people’s having children of their own if it comes to that–they don’t always turn out well.

It’s true. Everything in this world comes with risks. It’s risky to adopt, but it’s also risky to have one’s own children. It’s risky to fly, but it’s also risky to drive. Exercise is risky, but so is being sedentary.

This life is full of risks, some small and some large.

Not that our emotions always know which is which.

Most of us probably recognize that driving a car is quite risky, just as risky as flying in an airplane. But that doesn’t stop some of us from being massively fearful of flying while being completely nonchalant about driving.

Many expressed terror when I told them I was skydiving last year–when, in fact, skydiving isn’t anywhere near as risky (statistically) as many presume it to be.

And then there’s the risk of not taking risks. I read a study once (that I probably have bookmarked or saved somewhere but don’t know where) that suggests that people who do not die taking risks live longer for having taken them. It seems that calculated risk taking can actually, paradoxically, be good for us.

So how does one determine which risks to take and which to avoid?

Marilla took this one out of a sense of duty, at first:

“I don’t deny there’s something in what you say, Rachel. I’ve had some qualms myself. But Matthew was terrible set on it. I could see that, so I gave in. It’s so seldom Matthew sets his mind on anything that when he does I always feel it’s my duty to give in.”

Later, when things didn’t turn out as expected, she made the final decision to keep Anne when she realized that if she chose the lest risky option for herself (giving Anne up), it would mean great risk for Anne (living with “that Blewett woman”).

Ultimately, I think, the Christian has the perfect grid for evaluating risk-taking.

As I taught my Sunday School children yesterday, God is sovereign. Sovereign means that He is the ruler, in control of all things. We discussed how this is a scary thing for the person who does not trust in Jesus, because God hates sin. But we also discussed how this is good news for the person who trusts in Jesus–because God has already said what His plans are for the people who trust in Jesus. God has said that His plan is to conform them into the image of Christ.

So the Christian can evaluate every risk by asking the question: “Has God commanded it?” If so, whatever the earthly risks, there is a heavenly benefit far surpassing: that the believer will be conformed to the image of Christ. Beyond this, the believer can evaluate risks using the grid of I Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23-24: Is this permissible? Is this beneficial? Is this going to bring me under its mastery? Is it going to do good for another?

Presuming that a risk fits those criterion (it’s permissible, beneficial, and does good for another while not bringing you under its own mastery), it is a worthwhile risk.

After all, as my pastor occasionally says, “We’re immortal until God decides our life is over.”

The Week in WordsL. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeDon’t forget to take a look at Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”, where bloggers collect quotes they’ve read throughout the week–and Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge to see what everyone else is working on.

What You Meant

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post gives away almost EVERYTHING.*

A fellow heard the prophecy regarding how the baby Cor would one day save Archenland. Desiring the downfall of Archenland, he purposed in his heart to thwart the prophesied end.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when Cor, now known as Shasta, grew up doing menial labor in the house of an uneducated Calormene fisherman, completely unaware of Archenland and unconcerned with its fate.

But what the fellow meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. His evil action only set the stage for Aslan’s great plan–the prophesied deliverance.

A Tarkaan saw the boy working hard in the fisherman’s tent. Desiring a slave with whom he could do whatever he wished, he purposed in his heart to buy the teenaged Shasta.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when the fisherman begins to barter, selling away his “son” for a few crescents.

But what the Tarkaan meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The Tarkaan’s evil intentions only gave the impetus for Shasta to begin his flight.

A stepmother sees her step-daughter and hates her. Desiring to have away with her, she purposed in her heart to marry the girl off.

Her purposes seem to be accomplished when the engagement goes through and the girl leaves her home.

But what the stepmother meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The stepmother’s evil intentions only made a way for Aravis and Shasta to meet, and to become traveling companions.

Dozens of characters, each with their own purposes. The pleasure-seeking Lasaraleen. The lust-driven Rabadash. The conquest-happy Tisroc. The favor-currying Vizier. Even Shasta and Aravis have their own selfish motivations.

Evil actors seem to drive the story to its deadly end.

But all the evil actors, however much evil they meant, had no power against the purposes of the main Actor.

Each actor is a free agent, acting according to the intents of his own heart–and it seems that every actor’s intents are evil. Even the “good” choices were often made with poor intentions: pride, self-preservation, shame. Every bad choice is fully the actor’s responsibility. He clearly chose, of the evil in his own heart, to act as he did.

Yet every evil perpetuated out of the evil in man’s heart was turned into good by the sovereign hand of Aslan.

Conversely, any good that any actor did was not out of the good in his own heart (as though he had good in his heart out of which to act), but was generally the result of the direct hand of Aslan–the Lion at their heels, driving them wherever He willed, compelling them to ride faster than they thought themselves capable of riding.

As such, no actor deserves glory for his good actions; each actor only deserves punishment for his evil.

Yet Aslan, in His mercy, withheld just punishment from many who did evil–and justly received glory for every good deed.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
~Genesis 50:20

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Appointed Times and Places

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post will give away quite a bit.*

While Shasta dreams of Northern lands, a Tarkahn rides up from the South on a Narnian stallion.

While Bree (the horse) talks of being a free horse among his own people, a roar out of the darkness leads him to cross paths with one of his own people–another captive horse dreaming of freedom.

When Shasta’s only wish is to avoid notice, he is taken to be the missing Prince of Archenland–and overhears the Narnian nobles’ plans to sail out of Calormen unnoticed.

When Aravis is only trying to sneak quietly out of a planned marriage to an obsequious toad, she finds herself sandwiched behind a couch, hearing the councils of the Tisroc, the Prince, and said Toad.

Time and time again, the characters of The Horse and His Boy find themselves in just the right place at just the right time.

Not that they always thought the times and places were right.

Shasta didn’t think so when he served practically as a slave in the fisherman’s hut.

Bree didn’t think so when terror of a lion caused Hwin and him to travel the same path.

Aravis didn’t think so when she came within an inch of discovery.

These were frightening experiences, exhausting experiencing–things they wish they’d never have had to go through.

But an unseen breath propelled Shasta’s boat across the sea to Arsheesh’s hut. An unseen hand guided the meetings of Shasta and the Narnian nobles, of Aravis and the Tarkheenah. An unseen hand hid them behind the couch as they overheard the Tisroc’s council.

All throughout their groping journey, it seemed as though Someone had gone on before, marking out their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.

Someone was giving life to their bodies, purpose to their movements, reason for their being.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.'”
~Acts 17:26-28

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.