The Crime of Living Cautiously
The Crime of Living Cautiously: Hearing God’s Call to Adventure is one of the more recent volumes by Luci Shaw, poet, writer in residence at Regent College (Vancouver), and former president and senior editor of Harold Shaw Publishers. If you are familiar with her other writings, the thesis of this one will come as no surprise: her intention is to demonstrate that God’s purpose for humanity is not sturdy, dependable, unthinking service but a delighted and trusting response to his most unanticipated course corrections. Her jumping off point, literally, is the first page, where her first example recounts her experience, in her late seventies, of bungee-jumping for the first time…and enjoying it so much that she did it a second time the following day.
She is not talking about simple “living the life of adventure,” of risk for the sake of risk—though she finds some reasons to commend that as well—but rather risk for the sake of the gospel. It’s a concept she learned early in life from her father, a missionary surgeon in the Solomon Islands, where three of his colleagues were cannibalized. She wants us to examine our lives and think about why we do what we do. Do we ever take the risky route, or always the easy one? When we do take a chance, is it in response to God’s call or just our own impulse? How do we get past our fears of relinquishing control, of being labeled a dissenter? (Her chapter on this last aspect is excellent.)
The Crime reads like a devotional, with each of the nine chapters making effective use of quotes and poetry (mostly hers, collected from various sources) and ending with a list of discussion questions. I did not find here any new or remarkably-expressed insights. What I did find is compassionate confirmation—in the graceful style for which she is known—of a few lessons about risk taking I have been learning in recent years. Shaw’s musings served me perhaps in the way that old pantyhoses (in this case, fine silken hose!) keep a wandering clematis bound to the trellis that supports and guides it; her winsome monologue prompts me to look back over my shoulder at my own journey and agree that yes, the steps I took in faith, trembling in the semi-darkness, eventually opened up into wide new valleys of opportunity. For someone like me who needs a little reassurance from time to time, this book is an encouraging place to turn. But it will be most helpful for those of an evangelical persuasion who are struggling through these issues for the first time, and a good option for small groups to work through together.