In this Random Nun Clip, we talk about taking risks, praying for safety, and testing God. Hear the full Ask Sister episode at AS074. 

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SISTER MAXINE: JJ asks, “Does participating in something inherently risky, like bike racing, equate to testing God? The devil tempted Jesus in the desert, and Jesus said he would not put his God to the test. So, if you go ahead and race, knowing it’s risky, and at the same time you pray for safety, isn’t that kind of like putting God to the test? And what kind of responsibility do I have to my creator to avoid risky activities?”

Let’s acknowledge first of all that God gives us gifts to use, for example, the gift of athleticism for biking. So, at the same time, we are called to use our gifts, we have to raise the question of how we use them? After all, couldn’t you take up badminton, a sport that’s a little safer?

SISTER JULIE: Well is it, though? Is it really? You know, when you got that little plastic thing coming flying at your eye. (laughing) But I think you raise a good point. We each do have different skills and different attractions, and those are things that just don’t pop out of anywhere. Those are our God-given gifts, our athleticism, our drive, our desire to succeed. Those are actually really good gifts from God that we’re called to develop and also to use in moderation.

SISTER MAXINE: Sue here in the chat room said, “Risky is in the eye of the beholder.” I think that’s a very accurate point. When I think of risk I think of preparedness. We mitigate our risks. JJ sounds like somebody who is probably going to prepare a lot, train a lot, think a lot about this choice—he’s obviously already thought about this a lot—and to take some responsibility and not just give it over to God and say, “God, I’m going out there. I’m gonna ride thirty miles an hour and I know you’ll keep me safe.”

SISTER JULIE: That’s an important thing. The degree of risk but also that sense of preparedness. Folks who do engage in risky activities, whether it’s firefighting or driving a car or traveling to another land that we’re not familiar with, all those different activities are usually preceded by a little bit of research, some training, understanding of what a person is entering into, and so we are always engaging and always have that potential for risk. And for me, something becomes that much riskier when I’m unprepared for it, when I don’t know what’s happening. And so what about prayer in these situations? Is it odd to do something risky and then simultaneously pray for safety? Something might be challenging or risky and so you cover your bases by praying -- is that why we pray?

SISTER MAXINE: This is a question  best answered by Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy. She said, “While we place all our confidence in God, we must act as if all depended on our exertion.” So, pray yes, train absolutely.

SISTER JULIE: We think so often in dichotomies. It must be either this or this, but I like the old both-and approach. We pray hard AND we train hard. I think those are good things because when we’re training, we are actually activating those skills God has given us. We’re actually participating in the safety that we’re praying for. It’s like God actually already answered it before you even prayed it. Marsha notes in the chat room, inappropriate risky behavior can be as simple as eating some high-salt, high-fat foods when you know you have high blood pressure and cholesterol issues. It’s a great point that we don’t have to jump out of an airplane or bungee jump or fight fires in order to do risky things. There are risky activities that we’re engaged in on a day-to-day basis and it could be as simple as the food choices we have.

SISTER MAXINE: Lisa, also in the chat room, said, “I think the God gift is in the interest, the place where we individually can encounter grace in a way that we cannot or would not in another context. So, in the example of bike racing, for enthusiasts, they would not necessarily find the sacred in the badminton game in quite the same way. On the flip side, someone who loves badminton but doesn’t find biking interesting would find biking stressful rather than God encountering.”

SISTER JULIE: The God-encountering part is really cool. It would be hard for me to think of engaging activities that weren’t ones where I could meaningfully encounter God because we’re going to encounter God everywhere. God will be there. We might not be present to God.

SISTER MAXINE: The capacity to experience joy from the activities that we engage in is truly a very great gift so long as we think about what we’re doing and we prepare ourselves. Having said that, it is a gift to experience great joy.

SISTER JULIE: And we have that capacity whether we are hanging out in our house, thinking we’re completely safe, or we’re out hiking or driving a car, we always have that capacity and that common denominator really is how God is with us.

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Show Notes

In this Random Nun Clip, a listener asks, "Does participating in something inherently risky, like bike racing, and then praying for safety, equate to testing God?"