Now’s the perfect time to engage in the world around you
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a character on the show “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” had a catchword: “Engage.” And each new adventure began with this word.
Picard was a hard man, meaning he didn’t know how to get along with children; he had very few confidants; and he expected absolute obedience to his orders. On the other hand, his ability to take risks, think, listen to wisdom, speak boldly and adhere to a strict code of conduct revealed a disciplined charisma. When he faced touchy situations and new cultures, he was adaptable but fair. “Engage” spoke to his whole being, and embodied the show’s famous tag line, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Living life with boldness and courage is hardly an easy task. Especially in a time when most of life seems to be about avoiding risks, we build bubbles of comfort. Our well-built homes, nice cars, non-threatening office environments, and light recreation, give us a sense of security that many in the world do not experience on a daily basis. The responsibility for the most dangerous moments in our lives are delegated to others more skillfully trained: airplane pilots, who miraculously create a safe zone for us to travel at enormous speeds 30,000 feet above the ground; and firefighters and police officers, whose training allows normal folks to live with peace of mind. Our safety is quite miraculous considering how dangerous our habitat and our political context can be.
It is no wonder that the risk takers — also known as adrenaline seekers — among us take to extreme sports in an attempt to get beyond the carefully cultivated bubble. They go to far away places to climb mountains, reach new speed barriers, or find other altruistic challenges, such as building orphanages in remote parts of the world.
The International Justice Mission, formed from a group of experts not usually known for risk taking — lawyers — is an organization dedicated to bringing justice in the world. They go to volatile areas of the world where human rights are being violated.
According to the International Justice Mission’s website, the group “determines the specific source of corruption, lack of resources or lack of goodwill in the system denying victims the protection of their legal systems. In collaboration with local authorities, IJM addresses these specific points of brokenness to meet the urgent needs of victims of injustice.”
In the spirit of Isaiah 1:17, they “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Their efforts to end slavery in the modern world show their dedication to stepping out of the bubble, and seeing the bigger picture — which means challenge beyond normal routines.
As Advent begins, and the Christian world begins anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth, risk takes on a new light: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, NIV).
God left the comfort of the heavens, and became a human being, lived among us and gave everything so we could see what love looks like.
This risky love is quite reckless in its abandonment of safety and inspires many to go and change the world for good. Great leaders know that with every goal, no matter how calculated, there is always a great deal of faith involved in its accomplishment.
As we look toward Christmas, let’s remember the God who challenges our comfort, and wants us to “Engage” our world in new and exciting ways. Let’s step beyond our personal threshold, and reach out to the needs of others, even in a dangerous world.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.