I have a simple piece of advice today. Take nothing for granted.
You can stop reading now if you understand and take that advice... otherwise buckle up, this one got a bit wordy.
Yesterday marks the 46th time I've taken this trip around the sun. In that time there have been some amazing adventures, memories I will treasure for the rest of my life. There have also been some awful tragedies, and I will have those memories as well for as long as I live. Among all of that, I can't tell you how much time I've wasted. There are entire years of my life where I didn't move forward, where nothing of any real importance took place. I was merely existing. I've been a passenger on this journey far more than the driver.
Close to 12 years ago, I met my soulmate. In that time, she has loved and encouraged me (and occasionally dragged me kicking and screaming) to push myself out of my comfort zone. Since then I have grown, experienced so many amazing things, and have so much excitement for the future. But even still, I can look back and see so many wasted days and weeks where I was just going through the motions of the day. Many time there was that familiar anxiety, stress, worry about the day-to-day things which kept me even deeper inside my comfort zone. But I wasn't actively taking part in my life and the things I could possibly do to change it.
You see, inner joy has very little to do with circumstances. Someone on the outside could see my life, my family, my career, my accomplishments and imagine me to be living the dream. I saw the failures. I saw what I could have done that I didn't, due to fear. I saw the mistakes I made and that I didn't deserve what I had, let alone any more. I would just live in a quiet depression hoping that tomorrow would -- somehow -- just be better.
It is as I write this that I begin to see the correlation between these feelings and taking things for granted. It is a safe place to be when you just know certain things are a constant. Even if it isn't the dream life you want, at least you have those things you can count on... until something happens and shakes your foundations. I had a situation unfold on Friday during an otherwise relaxing day with friends on the river surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. The ordeal took all of a few minutes but it rocked my world along with my wife (who was sucked under a big pile of logs thanks to the current of the water in that one particular place). She is fine with a few cuts and bruises, but we both receive a hard reality that in that quick of a moment I could be a widower, without my life partner, having to not only tell our children they won't see their mom anymore but then having to spend the rest of my life picking up those pieces. I read a news story on Saturday of a similar situation that ended up in tragedy. Their world will forever be changed by an event that nobody expected.
I realized... I take my comfortable life for granted.
After much thought, tears, processing all of this over the past few days, my take away is this: Every day, perhaps multiple times per day, each of us has situations that DON'T happen. Occasions where someone I have never met could make a choice that could cause me or someone else in my life to be killed in a car wreck (for example), but it didn't happen. What happened on Friday was an event that almost became life altering, but didn't. I mean it did, but in a very positive way because it jarred me from my safe place and made me realize that I have to be much more *on purpose* with the way I live. I need to pull those who are close to me even closer. I need to stop fearing what "might" happen if I take a bold step, and just take the bold step. I need to love more fiercely, including myself. I need to get out of my own head and find someone to inspire, serve, help, or simply love.
And I am so thankful that this happened. It was, in the grander scheme of things, a very gentle nudge to me. I believe my wife was never truly in danger because she was being protected, but I also believe this was supposed to happen where it did, when it did, surrounded by the people it was, so we would all wake up a little and check ourselves. I am forever changed. My comfort zone was disrupted, and I am better for it.
Take nothing for granted.
I was driving home for lunch today when I saw a little boy, elementary school age, riding his bike on the grass. As he tried to make a turn, he fell over. He was fine, got back up and started riding again. That small event caused me to think about something that we all deal with in our lives, at every age.
Taking risks is scary. The amount of fear it generates has much to do with the type of risk and the expected outcome the risk can bring. In other words, the larger the risk, the more fear. Why? Because in order to take a risk, you must realize that you will get hurt. How many people have never fallen when they learned how to ride a bike? None. Everyone falls. Even after riding for a long time, there's always a risk of falling and skinning your knees or worse. We can implement safety mechanisms such as helmets, knee pads, and making sure the bike is in the right working order. But even with all that, you can still fall, you can still get hurt. So why would we even consider riding a bike? Because the reward makes the risk worth it.
In order to take a risk anywhere in your life, you have to realize that you stand a chance of getting hurt. In fact, you will get hurt. You will skin your knees, you may break a bone. Sometimes worse things happen no matter how much you prepare. You must be willing to accept the pain. The same goes for every risk you come across. From riding a bike to starting a business to building relationships, and even to your relationship to Christ. You will get hurt. There is no way around it.
By nature I am not a risk taker. It's easier to sit in my comfortable bubble and hide from the world. It seems safer too. But if I didn't leave my comfort zone and apply at my first radio station, I wouldn't be here doing what God called me to do, doing what I love and loving what I do. I wouldn't be married to an amazing woman. I wouldn't have been blessed with raising kids. I wouldn't have stretched myself and grown in my talents and gifts. I'd be working some job that pays the bills and wondering why my life was so unsatisfied and lonely.
I credit God for dropping the right people into my life, and helping (sometimes forcing) me out of my comfort zone. But *I* had to make the choice, knowing I might be rejected, I might fail or not get something right. I might skin my knees. I might not be "ready" to raise a family or start a business. But then I remember the wise words I've heard: "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." And if God is calling you to something, He will give you what you need to fulfill it. Will you skin your knees in the learning process? Yep! Will you perhaps break a bone? Quite possibly. Will it take alot of attempts and learning and falling and getting back up? Absolutely! It has to. You can't -- and shouldn't -- avoid it because it might hurt. Feeling pain is just as much a part of being human as every other feeling. It can't be avoided, and you shouldn't try.