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Taking Risks for Others

What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 15-17

Lots of my loved ones who have known me for most of my life tell me I'm unusual because I have the ability to live life without regret. "When you see something you want," more than one loved one has been known to observe, "you go for it!"

I guess I can see what they mean.

When I was in my late twenties and interested in getting a firsthand experience of politics, for instance, I quit my job as an educator and ran as an unknown for the state house of representatives. When I was thirty-one and finally opened myself up for the first time to a call to ministry; I packed my bags, moved 1,700 miles away, and started seminary – without having a clue about how I would pay for it. And when I received a call to uproot my life and family to serve a church 1,200 miles away in Los Angeles; I did that too.

Let's just say I'm not someone who is intimidated by the thought of taking a risk.

In fact, if I were to step back and take an assessment of my life – there is only one thing that I would have LOVED to do in life that I haven't done in life.

That one thing?

Being a parent.

I can't imagine a more enriching experience to go through than being a parent. If I were to die today, that would be the only regret I would have about my life.

When I told one of my friends this, my friend made a wise comment. My friend said, "You may not have had the opportunity to parent in a traditional sense. But look at your parish ministry. You get to encourage, support, and nurture not one child – but a whole group of God's children. So don't feel too bad!"

That comment helped a little. Ever since then, I've started paying more attention to the parallels to the roles of parent and pastor. Today's story from Numbers provided me with another parallel to add to my list. In the culminating chapter of today's reading, we hear a story about how God was angry at a group of Israelites for complaining about their situation. As a result, God unleashed a plague on the group that was intended to wipe them out.

Now anyone in their right mind in a position of leadership would have run 100 miles an hour in the opposite direction of the congregation in order to reach safety. No one would want to put their life at risk defending the people who – by all accounts – had brought this upon themselves!!

Well, perhaps I should say no one in their right mind EXCEPT a parent of someone in the group or someone in a pastoral role to the group. Sure enough Aaron (cast in role of pastor) put his own life at risk when he grabbed the censer and ran into the middle of the congregation in order to stop the plague. Thanks be to God for loving parents and pastors who do such remarkable things in order to look out for the wellbeing of God's children in their care.

You may not have biological children of your own or have the word "Reverend" or "Pastor" in front of your name, but chances are a piece of your call is to do similar things: take a risk in order to defend the safety and wellbeing of others. If you find yourself in such a moment, resist the urge to complain and instead celebrate the situation as an opportunity to be an instrument that helps others discover God's all-consuming love for them.

Til next time …

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