Don't Be Afraid To Fall

Risk Assessment.  

That's what I woke up thinking about today.  For some reason those words were in my head--probably from something I read yesterday.  

The words didn't go away, though.  It happens for me like that sometimes.  A word or a phrase will take up residence in my thoughts, and will refuse to leave until I understand why they are there.  

So I decided to chase the reason why and began by looking up the definition of "risk assessment" this morning... 

risk as·sess·ment (noun)
  1. a systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity or undertaking.

I also discovered that there is a chart that you can create when you are making a decision, or planning a project. Here's an example of one: 

In this particular matrix, you can see how the person who created it has calculated the risks for what they are about to do based on criteria that enables her to place a score on the possible outcomes.  

Here's the thing... I think that without fully realizing it, most of us probably create matrices like these in our heads when we are trying to determine our next steps in any given situation. 

It's natural that we want to minimize needless risk as much as possible, which isn't always a a bad thing. Sometimes it's just the smart thing to do.  
But for the most part, I think that we go through these processes simply to maintain a sense of control---especially when things seem uncontrollable.  

And far too often we find ourselves vacillating between our need for control, and the fear that comes from the uncertain, secret knowledge that we can't control anything, really.  

Dwelling on the fear of the unknown risks we might face can have a particularly paralyzing and agonizing effect on us, if we allow ourselves to dwell on it.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:   
Some of your hurts you have cured, 
And the sharpest you’ve even survived. 
But what torment of grief you’ve endured
From evils which never arrived. 
I can't tell you how many times I have agonized over a decision, or been paralyzed from moving forward because I was overcome by unfounded fears over negative outcomes that were never realized.  

If we are being honest, even when we've experienced the reality of some those imagined negative outcomes, we can look back and see that we often had more than enough strength... more than enough support to wade through them more easily than we thought we would. 

I recently read an amazing quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer's book Braiding Sweetgrass that speaks to this directly:  
Whether we jump or are pushed, or the edge of the known world just crumbles at our feet, we fall, spinning into someplace new and unexpected.  Despite our fears of falling, the gifts of the world stand by to catch us. 
If you have been struggling to keep moving forward in this new world that is emerging... If you are finding yourself paralyzed by the unknown... know this: 

You have a soft place to land even if you fall.  The gifts of the world given through God's great grace are there to catch you.  You are not alone.  You are stronger than you know.  

Don't be afraid.  Take another step and believe.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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