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Finding Security in a Life of Risk

As I sorted through the papers that have collected on my desk, I found a scrap on which I had scrawled these words from Terry Tempest Williams’ introduction to Wallace Stegner’s novel, Crossing to Safety:

“. . . part of the tension of being human is found in our desire for, and love affair with, both risk and security. What do we risk in our quest for security? What do we secure in a life of risk? And where are the motivations behind creating a life of meaning in the presence of uncertainty?”

They’re wonderful questions: “What do we risk in our quest for security? What do we secure in a life of risk?” But even though I’ve written a whole book (coming out this winter) which wrestles with these themes, I don’t have a tidy one-sentence answer for either of them. Rather, they’re questions worth asking myself often, as I did last week when I found myself frustrated because I didn’t receive an answer I needed when I needed it to move forward as planned. (Let me pause to whisper a little not-so-secret secret: growing to be like Jesus happens as much in the rub of daily life when we pause to let Jesus into our frustration or sadness or joy as it does in our moments immersed in Scripture.)

In those days of waiting and frustration, how was I grasping after security? Why? And what was I risking in my quest for it?

I wanted the security of control. Control of the timeline, and control of my desired reputation as responsible/reliable. (That security of reputation and the approval of others is a big one for me!)

Here’s the truth: I like security. It feels predictable, safe, comfortable. Even necessary. Sometimes I like the comfort of security so much that in the moment it feels like that’s all I want.

But then another part of me speaks up, an adventurous part that dreams bigger, that knows I’m made for something more, something that requires the risk of trust. These two parts war. The security-loving part is terrified of the part that wants more, and the part that wants more thinks the security-loving part is a wimp and a bore.

As I welcome both these parts of me into a conversation with Jesus, I return again to these questions, among others: What do I risk in my quest for security? What do I secure in a life of risk?

What do I risk in my quest for security?

  • The thrill of seeing God provide
  • The chance to experience God’s greatness in my smallness
  • The peace that (eventually) comes with releasing control and trusting God.
  • The freedom and joy that (again, eventually) accompany peace
  • The ability to love well
  • The opportunity to love God by trusting him
  • And, this past week, sleep. I was gripping control so hard that my mind and body couldn’t relax and sleep.

My quest for security affected my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. (The costs are high!)

Slowly, over days, as I prayed and asked others to pray for me, I began to release control and shift more deeply into trust. Singing along with worship music helped. The choice to pray for myself and others (including the one who hadn’t yet been able to give me the answer that I needed) helped. And I have no doubt that asking others also to pray played an important role in my growing freedom, as God answered our prayers and began to bring more freedom and grace. Coming out of those days, I can better answer this question,

What do I secure in a life of risk?

Here I need to remember that risk doesn’t have to be going to Afghanistan. It can be something as small and challenging as speaking to a neighbor, risking putting down the do-list and taking a nap, or choosing again and again to worship when I feel more like complaining or trying to assert my own way. And in risking trust and rest, as best I can with God’s help, I gain:

  • Dependence on Jesus, and the intimacy that comes with that (because I sure can’t live a life of risk in my own strength!)
  • Finding myself loved (by family and friends who prayed with and for me, and by the One who keeps calling me closer through life’s unpredictability)
  • The chance to grow (in patience, grace, and love)
  • And the aliveness that comes with that

As I biked this morning, again praying about this situation, the first lines from one of Malcolm Guite’s poems that I memorized last summer returned to mind:

“Safe in the love of one who’ll never part,

Of one whose kindness is itself a shield

Who understands the deep things of my heart

Better than I can ever do, I yield

Myself and my perplexities to him

And in his house of mercy I am healed . . .”

This, this, is the only place we can ever find true security—in the love of the One who understands the deep things of our hearts, and who never stops welcoming us to come and find ourselves safe in his love.


As I do each year, I’ll be stepping away from the blog during August to rest and spend time with family. For me, it’s one choice I can make to risk rest, trusting God’s love for me and his okayness with my limitations. I pray that you, too, will enjoy these last weeks of summer (or, for my southern hemisphere friends, find some rest in these weeks of winter). I look forward to seeing you back here in September.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Janie

    I am blessed at a deep spiritual level every time I read your beautifully expressed writings. I find myself wishing I was sitting down with you sharing the stirrings of my heart from what you have written. I think you live on the west coast but then at times wonder if you are down east. Should you ever be in the Toronto area, I would love to arrange to meet you.
    May August be a time of rest in the Lord and the blessing of being with family.

    1. Carolyn Watts

      Thank you, Janie. I’m so glad the words I write here connect with you.
      You’re correct that I live on the west coast, but I’m from the east and my family is still there so I usually get “home” to the east once a year. I used to travel through Toronto often but haven’t been there for quite a few years now. Who knows, though? Maybe sometime I’ll get back there, and if I do I’ll try to arrange something where we can meet.

  2. Charlynn Mullin

    Thank you. I relate.

    1. Carolyn Watts

      You’re welcome, Charlynn. Much grace to you on this journey!

  3. Maribel

    I loved reading your blog. I loved it!
    I hope you rest and a joy your family before the busyness Autumn brings. Your blog reminded me of the meaning of being still, (quiet, non rushed) and learning that He is.
    Hope your rest is refreshing and enriching.

    1. Carolyn Watts

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Maribel! May you be given the grace of some moments of stillness and knowing that God is God in these days.

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