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