“These risks I took, these dangers I have courted:”


When I got a job at one church, I had to set up my retirement plan in mutual funds. Let me just say, right away, I am terrible with discussions regarding all things financial, budgetary, or political. That being said, I remember sitting with the guy who was to help me set up all my mutual retirement fund stuff (See! “Stuff” is the best word I have to explain what is happening in this scenario!) He asked me what sort of person I am in regards to risk and gambling.

I told him I have played poker before with friends, and I won once. Something tells me he knew the answer with that response, but he still went on to explain, “On a scale of 1-10 how willing are you to risk things for the sake of potential gain?” (or something like that…honestly, my head is kind of tired by trying to remember this at all…much less repeat the terms of the conversation back to you.)

Let’s just make this short story shorter. When we are speaking my money, of which I make very little, I am not much of a risky gambler. I am typically a more conservative person in regards to how I am willing to INVEST my money. 

If it does not involve my little bits of money, I hope to say I am willing to take risks in my life. This is the life of faith and trust. I have explained trust in this way…this “equation” (if you will): Trust (an unrelenting trust) requires a risk. If you did not have to risk something, then you do not really trust this person/thing you speak of…but risk requires that you have a fear your face and step out on. If you didn’t face a fear, there was no risk, and if you did not take a risk, you did not actually trust. That is no trust; that is a guarantee. Trust has to step out onto nothing; hoping to land on something.

The only risk that came rushing to my mind was the one following my graduation from college in 2003. Tonya and I had only been dating for a few months at that time, because we had only been really really really good friends for 4.5 years previously. (One of us would have been just fine dating much earlier, but I’ll let you guess which one.)

Because Tonya was from California, and all of our story took place in Indiana, my family knew “us”. My family had watched our story unfold from the beginning, but Tonya’s family did not really know “us”. Here I was, knowing this was the girl I was going to marry some day, but her family barely knows me or who I am, much less the intricacies of our story together. I knew I would have to go back to California with her. 

A very short time after graduation, we loaded up her (soon would be our) white Honda Accord with everything we really had and drove away from the Midwestern life I had known my entire life. 

It was risky, and not just because it was a very old Honda Accord on a roadtrip across the country. Although sidenote: the moment we merged onto the onramp in Indiana the air and the radio went out on the car. This made for a long, hot, and loud trip across the country. Both would just magically turn back on the week after we had arrived in California. There is still a bit of cursing which comes from my heart at remembering that little coincidence. 

It was risky because we were only dating. Though I fully imagined this was the girl I wanted to marry, we were not engaged. Her family still had not come to know ME very well yet. Where would I live? I look that risk. We moved up to Sacramento because we had SOME common connection there. I got a job at a woodshop and she worked somewhere formally known as Linens-n-Things. I lived with a buddy and she lived with his family. We did this for a year while we tried to learn what life together was going to look like at this point in our life. 

That year was worth the risk we took to do it. I would propose a year later, and I got my first job working with students a few days before we got married. 

One of my top 5 favorite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There are elements of realizing the memories we wish we could eliminate, and how important even those memories are. It shows the parts of our hearts we often overlook as either expected or painful and thus necessary to cover up or forget. The movie really is wonderful, full of great quotes and scenes; like the very first spoken line, “Valentines Day is a day created by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.” But the very last scene is my favorite. The scene goes like this:

Joel: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you. 
Clementine: But you will
Joel: Right now I can’t
Clementine: But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that’s what happens with me. 
[Joel shrugs] 
Joel: Okay
[Clementine nods…Joel smiles] 
Clementine: Okay [Clementine cries, but laughs] 
Clementine: okay
Joel: Okay [They both laugh]

I love this scene and what it has to offer to us. It is a great reminder for those of us who are in relationships. We spend so much of our lives trying to run away from people because we are afraid of not liking something about them. We are afraid of getting bored with something they do. We get afraid that they will run away from us. We’re afraid that something will come up that we don’t like, and “then it will be too late.” I love Joel’s response, “Okay.” It signifies the realization that Clementine will probably find something boring about him. He probably will find something he doesn’t like about her later. But okay! If we thought we could wait until a relationship that would be absolutely perfect, without arguments, annoyances, pain, temptations, we will be waiting forever. By saying, “Okay,” Joel opens himself to trust Clementine. Real trust! A trust that says, “Okay! Fine! You will likely do something I don’t like, but I love you and I trust you. Let’s do this.” As if to say, “That’s a risk we gotta take.” Its not even that it was a risk. It was simply an expectation we have to be willing to take. We have to be willing to understand that things like that will happen. We will find something we don’t like, but are we willing to love them and trust that they love us anyway? Okay.