The greatest risk in life is this.
Last year, our family stood at the open door of an art gallery in Maui. It was mid-afternoon, and we were walking back from the beach. The salt of the Pacific Ocean traced our lips. Sand stubbornly clung to our ankles, like barnacles.
Blame the art: it wooed us from those open doors, drawing our attention away from the endless line of t-shirt stores and ice-cream shops. Long rows of neatly arranged paintings — each spotlighted from a bulb overhead — dared us to step over the threshold.
“Can we go in?” our younger daughter asked with pleading eyes.
Of course I wanted to go in. But there was the issue of appearance.
Picture us: ragamuffin tourists with dirty feet and tangled hair. We smelled like sunscreen and ocean wave. The edge of a wet towel hung out of my overstuffed bag, like the tongue of a thirsty dog.
Our family of four was severely under-dressed for an encounter with the fine arts.
Plus, what if we broke something — like a $3,000 something? My girls are far beyond toddlerhood, but they still have this driving desire to touch EVERYTHING in stores.
Still, we decided to go in. My parental commands came in hushed spurts. I raised a pointed finger and employed a bit of drill-sergeant clarity. “Don’t touch. Don’t tussle. Keep your hands to yourselves. No hula dancing. That’s an order.”
The girls nodded their heads.
Then we stepped inside, leaving behind the breezy chatter of Front Street for the hallowed, deafening quiet of the gallery, thick with the smell of tempera and clay.
The gallery curator wore a smart, button-up blouse and pencil skirt. She met us at the door.
I felt my cheeks flush. “I’m sorry, I . . .”
I looked down at my “clothes.”
She lifted upturned hands.
“Welcome!” She was unfazed by our disheveled scuffle into the room. We were in a tourist beach town after all. Then, she toured us through the small gallery, allowing us to linger over our favorite paintings. It was magical.
Before we left, I thanked her for her hospitality. I breathed a quiet prayer of thanks that we didn’t break anything.
She stepped closer, looked at me over her wire-rimmed glasses and said this:
“Quite honestly, I wish more parents would bring their children inside. So many people stand out there, looking in,” she said, pointing to the portico where we’d stood a half-hour earlier. “And the children miss all of this,” she said, waving a hand across the room. “They grow up without an appreciation for fine art, because to them, it had always been untouchable.”
That was well over a year ago, but God brought that moment back to my mind today, while I sit in my office overlooking our snow-covered fields. Here’s the message that is sticking with me, all these months later:
We could miss so much beauty in this grand old world because we’re afraid to get close to it.
We’re afraid to take the next step. We’re afraid to cross the threshold. We’re afraid we’ll break something — or that something will break us. We’re afraid we don’t deserve the beauty. We’re afraid we’re too messy, too disheveled, too ragamuffin.
But along comes God, this Curator with impeccable taste, who stands at the doorway, inviting us in — every last one of us. He’s saying to us, “I have so much to show you. Please, come inside!”
If you never go, you’ll never know.
I don’t know about you, but all of the best things in my life have had fear as a steady companion. You too? Maybe you’ve been scared to apply for jobs, to join exercise classes, to write books, to have hard conversations. Maybe you’ve been terrified of childbirth. Of falling in love. Of starting a company.
There are always good reasons for not walking through the doors of this life. There are always risks in crossing those great thresholds.
True enough: Sometimes, our worst fears come to pass. Sometimes, things break. Sometimes, we ourselves are the most broken things of all.
But that’s the thing. To live a beautiful life, we have to take the risk. To live a beautiful life, we have to lose the fear of stepping across the threshold.
The greatest risk in this life is never taking the risk. Of never taking the next step.
I don’t want to stand outside, looking through the open door, longing for something I think I don’t deserve. This year, let’s step into the gallery. Let’s risk the breaking to see the beautiful.
One of the finest works in the gallery? Is you.
“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Ephesians 2:10
Each week, I host an encouraging community of bloggers who are telling their stories around the web and across the world. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT) on my blog. If you are a blogger who loves to encourage others with stories of faith and hope, you are welcome to link up with us.
Each week, I feature one of the writers in our #TellHisStory community. Our featured writer this week is Liz Giertz. I appreciate how she weaves truth and encouragement into this post, reminding us that we aren’t called to hide the light we’ve been given. Find Liz here.
To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. That badge can be found here. xo Jennifer
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How wonderful to image God as the Curator of all the beauty, and to hear His invitation as a call to enter into it with whole-hearted confidence! Praying for grace and courage to do just that! Blessings to you on a blustery day when reading about sandy ankles is a thing of bliss.
In my 30’s I was ‘forced’ to walk through doors as my role from stay-at-home Mom suddenly became single Mom to three kids. I had no choice, but oh how blessed I’ve been by those open doors. I wouldn’t be one-third the person I am without the “had-to”. Now, I love opening doors that hold a bit of intimidation but nevertheless, I’ve learned to have the courage to turn that knob and never look back. xo
I loved reading this more the second time, because it reinforced that risk for the sake of beauty is always worth it, and of course, often that means risking your fear. Had I not obeyed God and gone on pilgrimage *alone* to Iona Scotland last year, I would have missed the breathtaking scenery of that wild, wonderful place. I also would have missed the beautiful opportunity to trust the Creator of such beauty. He set me free from a lifelong stronghold of fear when I dared to trust Him and risk going there. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. And also, Jennifer, I do get your feeling a bit embarrassed by dishevelment, but I’m so glad you took the girls inside that beautiful gallery. Even were parents of young children dressed to the nines, they often avoid cultural places, thinking their kids won’t behave, etc. We frequented our St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Symphony, even worship services (many churches don’t want kids in their services but send them off to “children’s church) when our daughter was very young. Naturally, we were cognizant of her attn. span… so say, at the symphony, we would plan to leave during intermission. But she was expected to sit still and listen until then. In the museum, she was taught to “look, don’t touch.” So I think as long as children are disciplined properly, parents should be bold and go anywhere there is cultural beauty to share this w/ their children. Thank you so much for sharing, and also only YOU could describe a wet towel like the tongue of a thirsty dog! Will never forget that. Great imagery, author friend of mine!
The best doors for me have always had fear attached to them. It’s been hard but so worth it. Love these words —-> Let’s risk the breaking to see the beautiful. Amen!
Thank you for these lovely words. They speak to the story of who I am.
Beautiful! I could smell the ocean, the sunscreen, and see the gracious art gallery hostess. I needed the reminder to get up close and personal, too ;). I share the fear of breaking, messing, missing, and perfection. I’m so glad we have a heavenly Father who flings open the doors and invites us in, just as we are!
What a great post and analogy, Jennifer! This: “To live a beautiful life, we have to take the risk. To live a beautiful life, we have to lose the fear of stepping across the threshold.”
It’s scary to risk in order to live a beautiful, free life. But, it’s what I’m doing. When God opens doors, I’m learning to trust Him and walk through, regardless of how things appear on the other side.
I haven’t been to Maui yet (my inlaws live on Oahu), but that’s one place I’d love to visit. 🙂
I think of what love and experiences I would have missed out on had I not followed God’s orchestrating and leading to start the school in the Middle East. It seemed so daunting and impossible at the time, but oh the wonders that have come – especially the sweet smiles on innocent faces that make my heart melt. Great post and reminder to take that risk….
Such a lovely analogy! I’m so humbled to be featured this week. I’m praying for the boldness to step into God’s best this year, too! Many blessings!
So true. I am experiencing the joy of taking those brave steps as I get ready to release my first book in March. This book has been nearly 10 years in the process of growing the skills and platform, but the most important part was the time God took to write the message in my life. So many times I wanted to give up and turn back. I’m so grateful to have taken the risk. You’re words spur me on!
Jennifer, This is such a beautiful analogy! I’m standing at the threshold, and now I am inspired. Thank you.
a lovely story and beautiful parallel. Reminded me of CS Lewis’ words in my Monday post: that to love is to be vulnerable. A risk he took so late in life but took it , he did! Blessings on your day in snow – heading to the beaches of Santa Monica – not quite the same as Hawaii – but my daughter is in a fancy hotel for her job this week, and she invited me down – so, of course, I’m going! (you would, too!) ShuttersbytheSea. (:
I’m a real sucker for good analogies- this was fantastic and inspiring!
And the Lord longs to be in a relationship with us to mold us and shape us (refining process, potter to clay) and make something amazing that glorifies Him! So awesome, everyone should take the leap and go into the relationship. Thanks for hosting!
I’M GOING IN!! — my new maxim. Thank you, Jennifer, for a memorable story-turned-allegory.
When I was a little girl I was shy as could be. She would make me go to the window and order. I hated it people always pushed in front of me. When I headed back to the car empty handed she would make me return. I am so thankful it taught me to push beyond my fears. We will miss so much if we stay scared. I just do things scared.
Beautiful story and lesson, Jennifer! I also see this from the other side: How much we miss vs. how much we gain by letting people in to our “pencil skirt-ed” worlds when they may be wearing beach attire. I hope things are continuing to improve with your mom. You and your family have been in my prayers. Blessings on your week!
You’ve moved me to risk breaking for beauty…:)
Thank you for this. I have hesitated on being fully involved in jobs, in my artwork and writing, on different occasions. Some of my reasons may have been valid, but sometimes it was simply fear. Bless you.
It was also good to have a reminder that summer is coming, even if there is snow on the ground!