More to Risk

A girl looks out to sea.When I started freelancing in 2016, I felt as though I were taking a huge risk—a step that felt akin to Abram walking into the desert. I never heard God say, “Freelance,” but it seemed like he wanted me to pursue it. I felt a certainty about the action that could only have come from him.

And yet…

Two years later, I’m discovering that there is yet more to be risked. I thought I trusted God, however haphazardly. Trust, though, seems to be a thing that requires continual growth to remain alive and influential.

Then again, maybe I stopped trusting God a long time ago. I never stopped believing in him, but I hesitated to ask him for anything. Why pray when he’d said no to healing me so many times before? How could I address someone so distant and removed?

However, the more I treated him as distant, unknowable, uncaring, the more out of control and disgusted with myself I felt. I coped with that, not by rebelling or turning to a parent, but by retreating inward. The motion led to self-harm; I skirted the edges of anorexia in high school. By the time I was fifteen, I weighed somewhere between ninety and 100 pounds, and my endocrinologist was threatening me with hospitalization and a feeding tube.

The starvation method stopped, but it has its consequences: It tempts when life gets hard, when someone breaks my heart, when I hate myself for doing the one thing I promised I’d never do. I want control, even if it’s a false one. The desire to punish myself — instead of repenting and moving forward — takes hold for a moment. Fortunately, I know where anorexia leads. It may tempt me, but its lies no longer work on me and are thus never acted upon.

And yet…

My lack of trust, though, remained. In college, it appeared in quiet rebellion: I went to church, occasionally participated in the Baptist Student Ministry, and served in AWANA, but the actions meant little to me. They were rote, rudimentary, removed. They belonged to a girl who followed the rules either to follow the rules or because she was afraid to break them, not because she loved the rules or the Rule-Giver.

Graduate school brought a shift, although, looking back, I didn’t do any of the shifting. God did. He made me tired of rote actions by settling me at a church focused on social justice and moral living. The messages irritated, sort of like the sand that gets into an oyster’s shell.

The pearl: finding Three Rivers Community Church. There, the process of walking back toward God started. The pastor and his wife adopted me into their family, demonstrated that God cared about me, a quietly rebellious rule-follower.

They also showed that God cared about the arts, something I’d yet to see or hear at any church. Three Rivers’ pastor, in a previous life, studied and worked in graphic design. His background affected everything, especially how he communicated biblical truths. He used stories and imagery, sometimes giving the congregation a take-home aid like a seed or stone.

In doing that, I felt more at home than I’d felt in a long time. God seemed close and knowable again. He wasn’t far off but invested deeply in me, one of his daughters.

And yet, there’s more…

I’m still working on the trust issue; it may be something I work on for the rest of my life. Other churches and pastors have helped along the way, included Beth El Bible in El Paso. Today, it occurs at The Austin Stone and through Creative Missions.

It also happens with the books I read. My “baptism” into a church where the arts were present has led me to ponder how faith and art intersect and inform each other. It’s also caused me to think about how art might be a way to build bridges with and transform a culture unfriendly to the gospel.

And yet, there is more to risk.

All of that is healthy, an indicator I’m returning to the unshakeable trust, the unswerving faith, I once held. God, though, seems to be pushing for more lately. That, or he’s placed a desire for more in my heart.

Either way, it’s made the past year somewhat difficult. I’ve felt something akin to growing pains but without knowing what I’m growing toward. Try to describe it, and I fall silent, grasping for words I don’t yet know.

The words, perhaps unsurprisingly, arrived from outside myself. Perhaps somewhat ironically, they appeared on Twitter, the same place I once learned about Creative Missions.

Are you gifted in research, education, and writing with a passion to see others equipped? Join this residency to work alongside our experienced staff to lead and equip others through process, content, and training.

I read those words and responded with a resounding “yes.” However, a residency requires a whole new level of trust because, if accepted, I will have to raise support. I might as well as be going overseas on the mission field or…or fighting the final battle with King Koopa. If I die, I’ll have to start the game all over again.

That place is dangerous and hard. It’s also simultaneously good and exhilarating. Freeing, even. Living in it means I’m risking everything for the sake of the kingdom of God. In doing so, I’m returning, maybe, finally, to the little girl who confidently prayed to be healed, but this time, I’m asking for something much bigger. I’m asking for God to be glorified in and through my life and the work of my hands.

And yet,

there is more to risk,

for to God belongs

all glory and praise.

He is more than enough.

Image: Giuseppe Milo (Creative Commons)

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