Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The words “risk” and “convention” don’t really belong in the same sentence, but I think we all have a conventional notion of what risky behavior is – something dangerous to our bodies, minds or souls. Drug abuse, driving while intoxicated, jumping out of airplanes or climbing mountains. And then we have to begin breaking risk into two categories. Those that are simply harmful, and those that promise in equal measure the potential for creating good or harm. Success or failure. Presence or absence.
There are those who find themselves in a moment when they can risk something big – a priest willing to give up his vocation and march in Selma, as we heard in the Easter sermon, for example. But who sets out to risk something that big, without having walked a road of many, many small risks that had created an inner voice along the way saying “yes” when everyone else is saying “no.”?
I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity lately. What is it, who has it, how is it demonstrated? I’m convinced that the world needs more of it, but how to nurture it in everyone? At its heart creativity is about taking risks, isn’t it? You’d be very surprised to learn how nervous I am about the risks I take as a church musician, hardly a risky occupation by any conventional standard. An hour-long Haydn string quartet on Good Friday – will people be bored or confused? A feminine pronoun-ed hymn with tambourine at the Vigil – will everyone think that’s just weird? These seem like laughably small decisions, these creative risks, but they might also be nurturing a spirit of readiness for bigger risks when the world calls.
We have just risked the winter of Lent. It felt long and dark and somber, but we’ve entered into the spring of Easter, and the risk was not only worth taking, it has prepared us for the risks we continually need to take in order to live fully as Christians.