Friday, April 13, 2012

"The Crime of Living Cautiously" (Luci Shaw)

TITLE: The Crime of Living Cautiously: Hearing God's Call to Adventure
AUTHOR: Luci Shaw
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005, (146 pages).
Reviewed by: Conrade Yap

I have been more conscious that one of the biggest causes of boredom is the lack of risk taking. In fact, I will venture to say that one of the reasons for apathetic believers is due to the lack of faith-based risk living. This is the core conviction of Luci Shaw, a writer, poet,  and wonderful friend of Regent College. As creatures of comfort, we are used to retreating behind safety barriers into our cocoons of mere believing, instead of venturing ahead toward risk taking. Shaw begins with an insightful quote from Helen Keller which sets the tone of the book, that living cautiously is not what we are called to be.

"Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either daring adventure, or nothing." (Helen Keller)
Using her bungee jumping experience, she confesses that life is far too precious to be lived cautiously. Her poem about her daddy is a touching tribute on how a man has boldly lived his life to the full. Such bravery is evident in missionaries such as her father in the uncharted islands in the Pacific.

She urges the reader to make a distinction between human impulses versus God's calling. The key difference is that God's calling avoids the extremes of "reckless foolhardiness" and "fearful timidity."Even the popular CS Lewis confesses that he himself is a "safety-first creature." We are not created to be comfortable in a happily ever after mode, but to risk in a manner that brings out the best person we have been created to be. The fear barrier needs to be broken to be replaced by a Spirit-filled imagination and a faith-filled trust in God exemplified by St Patrick's Breastplate of Christ over and in all of us. One of the first things to prepare us toward greater faith living is to relinquish our hold on ourselves. We need to say no to the accumulation of power for self, toward the empowerment of others for Christ. We need to get a better sense of our mobility that is not defined by the world. We need to empty ourselves of ourselves and to fill ourselves with Christ.

Shaw also deals with the impediments to risk-taking. For instance, challenging the status quo or the social and societal norms. It can be a lonely experience, just like how the prophets of old have been sidelined, ignored, and left ridiculed. Taking risks also involves the risk of relationships, when we go against the general flow. Shaw makes a firm case for us to take risk taking into the unknown through a close relationship with the known God in heaven. Every chapter begins with a memorable quote. Every chapter ends with a poem, and some questions for reflection and discussion.

Closing Thoughts

The book can be used as guide to help us for meditation and faith growth. It can also be used as a Bible study to lift us above any level of mediocre living. I like especially the reflective tone throughout the book, packed with wise observations of life. I appreciate the many biblical images and references used together with the poetty that combines the best of prose and powerful narrative, with a rhythmic poetry that weaves truth and beauty together.

"As Roger Housdon has said, 'It is precisely the crack in our lives that can let the light pour through' (in risking everything). Adventure breeds adventure. Once experienced, it cries out to be lived again in different realms." (112)

Shaw's writings and reflections brings back wonderful memories of my time at Regent College, and the experiences that I hear regularly from the professors and students. More importantly, Shaw has given us an example of how important it is to live beyond ourselves. Is living cautiously a 'crime?' I do not think it is so. Yet, there is something that Shaw has hit upon that deserves to be carefully considered. When God's calls, it is usually to learn to trust Him, by risking the temporal for the eternal.

Let me close with this excellent quote:

"The kind of life Jesus lived would appear to be foolishness to any uninformed onlooker (he had no money, no home, no car, no organizational support). His close friends proved unreliable (with the exception of a few women), and his death was a scandal, a scandal that turned the world around forever. The cliff edge of our anxiety about the future may indicate that God is calling us to a new and different level of faith. When we walk, praying for guidance, to the edge of all the light we have and breathlessly take that first step into the foggy mystery of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen: either God will provide us with something rock-solid to land on and stand on, or He wil teach us how to fly." (137)

If you feel bored about Church, or lethargic in your faith, pick up this book. Read it and let it point you to the Scriptures. May your heart than burn with a passion that increasingly believes that while living cautiously may be a crime, risking all for God may become a joy. Unspeakable joy.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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