1,570 Miles to the Swamp

I took a sip of coffee and placed my left hand on my forehead. As I scanned over the paper in front of me, I intently marked the paper with my red pen.

It was my second semester of college, and I wasn’t studying for an exam. I was deciding my top three colleges choices of where I would transfer to. The list of 25 wasn’t well thought out – in fact, it was random and had no strategy.

Two hours prior, I threw on my clothes and left my door room at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., to meet with my guidance counselor. To my surprise, she was elated to see my GPA. She told me something I thought I would never hear – “you can transfer to almost any school in the country.”

As I quickly walked back to my dorm I needed a strategy to collect my thoughts and endless opportunities. So naturally, being a football fanatic, I printed out the Top 25 NCAA Football Teams from the fall and started my college search. 

The next round of criteria was a little more thought out:

  • Round 1: Cross off any state I refused to live in.
  • Round 2 (10 options): Cross off any school that cost over $20,000 per year.
  • Round 3 (5 options): Rank the top journalism schools and boil list down to three.
  • Round 4 (3 options): Take campus visits.

In March 2009, I took my first visit to Baton Rouge. When I returned home, I knew LSU was the school for me. I applied, got accepted (kinda), and turned a page in my life journey.

Three months later I packed my 1996 Saturn (without air conditioning) and was ready for the 25-hour drive. As I trekked into Louisiana I set my GPS for my new address, which was a house with two roommates that I had never met and discovered through Craigslist.

I moved 1,570 miles away from home without knowing a single person all because I wanted an adventure. More importantly, I wanted to set myself up for the best education and degree I could position myself with for the future.

When I made the decision to move to Louisiana, I was provisionally accepted to LSU. If I did not maintain a 3.25 GPA for my first semester, I would have to move back to Massachusetts. In high school, my average GPA was a 2.4. While my GPA was high at Dean College (3.8), a junior college and LSU were on two very different academic levels.

I took a risk on a dream. I took a risk on something most people thought wasn’t for me. I risked everything for the sake of looking like a failure in six shorts months.

The day I graduated and proposed to Kayla. (May 2012)

The day I graduated and proposed to Kayla. (May 2012)

What risk have you taken to pursue your dream?

If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.
— Geena Davis

Moments before the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history on Sunday – you know I had to go there – my mom and Kayla were discussing the many different things that had to take place for all of us to be together in the same room.

As I looked around the house it donned on me that if I had never taken a risk none of what I was seeing would have happened. None of these people would have ever met. Likewise, if those in that room at one point or another never took a risk -- we would have never crossed paths.

If I didn’t take a risk that was incredibly uncomfortable I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Kayla six months after I moved. I wouldn’t have met Jennie and Tracy Kelly – the two individuals who led me to Jesus. I wouldn’t have been a part of Bethany Church and sensed God’s calling in my life. I wouldn’t have become a youth pastor at a small church, which prompted my mom to move to Louisiana where she met her fiancee.

What if your God-given purpose is hanging in the balance because you won’t take a step – because you won’t take a risk that might not make a lot of sense?

A wealthy religious leader approached Jesus and asked him: “Good teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus mentions the commandments and the leader gets excited because he’s obeyed every single one since he was a child.

Then we get to the risk-defining moment.

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.
— Luke 18:22

The man’s demeanor shifted. He was sad because he was very wealthy. The leader could not come to grips with this risk-taking action. He was fine doing what was expected, but when prompted to risk everything he froze. He wouldn't move forward and take the next step.

Jesus provoked a risk. A risk the man wouldn't pursue.

My story is one without God’s wisdom. I didn’t serve Jesus and wasn’t concerned with what He thought when I was choosing a college. I just acted. But for Christians, our task is more difficult than my Top 25 NCAA college list.

We hear from the Holy Spirit daily and know the actions to take. We know when it’s time to take risk. The struggle comes when we feel 100 percent compelled by the Holy Spirit to take a step and we fail to move because of fear or doubt.

The wealthy leader loved God and His commandments, but when Jesus was ready to use him at a deeper level he weighed the risk and reward. The challenging part for us Christians is when we start justifying and rationalizing and not acting.

So, again, when’s the last time you risked it all for something you were created to do?

Chances are it will change your life forever. So, what's stopping you?

Great article on this topic from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics.