I’m in the bookstore at Laity Lodge, near Kerrville, Texas. I’m here for a retreat, with a cross-discipline group of people who have come together to talk about work, faith, leadership, mental health, art, music, and digital media. An eclectic mix, to be sure, but there is a common thread: we share the thread of faith and a desire to live it in the world.
The bookstore is small, a quiet place. There are some fiction and poetry on the shelves – which my eye seeks first – but most of the books are about faith, devotions, prayer, theology and philosophy – matched to the themes that the lodge and the rugged Texas Hill Country inspire. You see names like C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle.
And the poet Luci Shaw. I pull a slim volume with her name on it from the shelf; I’ve read her poetry, and enjoyed it, but this isn’t about poetry. The title is The Crime of Living Cautiously: Hearing God’s Call to Adventure. At first I think it’s about leadership, but it turns out to be about how to live a life of faith.
Indirectly, though, it is about leading and following – following Christ and following the leading of Christ. Shaw uses the prism of her own outdoor adventures to examine why she considers living cautiously a crime. And her experiences include bungee jumping, a rowing expedition, a week’s sailing with a woman friend. She enjoys adventures with excitement and a thrill of fear and risk.
Without explicitly saying so, Shaw seems to say we tend to follow Jesus in a rather safe, orderly and secure way, but that we should be following him in order to dare, to risk, in order to truly live. Her physical risks stand as a kind of statement of faith and exhilarating test of self.
Physical outdoor risk (like bungee jumping) are less important to me; here at Laity Lodge, the closest I will get to risk are a hike (mostly upward) and the two scorpion traps in my guest room (for the record, I never see a scorpion on this visit; I’ve seen them before, however).
But I understand what Shaw says; my own sense of exhilaration comes (tinged with risk and fear) have come from taking career risks – risking everything to do something new, something important, something that changes the status quo, something that leaves people (especially me) never the same again.
I’ve taken career risks in two large areas. One is writing a series of corporate speeches that branded me inside the company as a “radical” but which permanently changed the company and the industry. The second is the area that I represent at this retreat – digital media. Interestingly enough, I’m not here to represent what I do at The High Calling (part of the same organization as Laity Lodge); I’m here because of what I do at work, and what I’ve done.
I look back and some of these career risks and smile, but I remind myself that, in their time and context, they threatened and upended the status quo, and there was always opposition, sometimes rather ferocious. An email newsletter for employees (it sound quaint in 2013 but in 1993 it was a revolution that I fought people for months to do and then realized I could do it without permission). Another battle: a corporate web site (“Waste your money if you want to, the web is like 8-track tapes. The future is Lotus Notes”). Then blogs. And then social media.
Did I succeed every time? Yes. And no. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, a cost was paid. When people have a vested interest in the status quo, they don’t take change lightly.
But this is what happens trying to live a life of faith. Jesus is not status quo; what was status quo was sin, and he came to upend it as only he could do. To follow him, as Shaw explains in her book, is to live a life of risk, daring and adventure.
I buy The Crime of Living Cautiously. It turns out to be well-paired with another book I’m reading, David Platt’s Follow Me. It also turns out that Shaw wrote a considerable portion of the book right here at Laity Lodge.
Follow him and change the human heart, starting with your own. And then change the world.