Sunday, April 16, 2006

Risky Business

I don't typically review the books I listen to on cassette or CD - I tend to listen to mysteries or thrillers or other 'lighter' fare that usually amuses but doesn't inspire deep reflection in me. But some authors are exceptions to the rule - and Maeve Binchy falls into this category.

Binchy writes great novels, and has great, complex and lovable characters. She's also inspired in me a love of Irish names, making me want to claim my 1/32 or so Irish-heritage. I've listened to Circle of Friends, Evening Class, Scarlet Feather, The Glass Lake, Tara Road, Night of Rain and Stars, Quentins. Inevitably with my favorite authors I run out of books that I've not yet listened to. So I was glad to happen on London Transports, the American title to Victoria Line, Central Line. This is a collection of 22 short stories. I'm not always a great fan of short stories - they're just too short for me. I like long, detailed novels. But Binchy's stories were just right. In each of the stories, her characters find themselves at the point of making a decision. They have to decide - do they take a risk, or play it on the safe side?

I am not a risk-taker, not in most situations anyway. I am not a thrill-seeker. I don't like roller-coasters. I'm never going to go bungee jumping or sky-diving. I can barely tolerate regular flying. I'm ok with this. I don't mind being more serious and steady. I try to find a balance of trying new things and saying "no thanks," and so far, I've been happy with my choices. Not feeling in fear for my life, and not feeling like I'm missing out.

But a different kind of risk-taking is emotional risk-taking. Risk-taking in relationships. Risk-taking in faith. Risk-taking with, in some ways, more serious consequences, and more wonderful rewards. Listening to these short stories, I was sure of what I would have done - rooting for the characters to take the plunge, to put themselves out there. I could see so clearly the right choices. In my own life, I have sometimes been less bold, wondering, after the fact, how things might have worked out differently if I'd taken the risk. Not regretting - but wondering.

I think risk-taking is also a matter for the church. Being part of the early church was risky business. Today - perhaps still risky, in different ways. Risking being relevant? Risking committing time and energy to an institution so many have written of as not worth the effort? Risking doing things in a new way, often without the support of congregations, or leaders?

Are you a risk-taker?
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