Some Thoughts about the Upcoming United Methodist General Conference 2016, or Why This Church Should Just Give In and Die Already

Not all that long ago, a band of conservatives within the United Methodist Church were floating around the idea of an “amicable separation” over the issue of ordaining or marrying LGBTQ+ individuals. The majority response among moderate and liberal Methodists was a resounding ‘no’ favoring unity above all else and citing that Methodists should agree to disagree but remain in communion with one another. Since then, a few silly ideas have popped up. Chief among them included a suggested change in polity which would have allowed Conferences or even churches to determine for themselves what stance they would take on social issues rather than a larger body making that determination for everyone. Therefore, instead of an “amicable separation” of just two theological factions within the church, this silly idea would result in hundreds of new churches leaving nothing “united” to what it means to be a “United Methodist.”

In the meantime, the New York Annual Conference, among other northern conferences, have forged ahead in an effort to uphold equality. Many pastors, as well as a Bishop, are actively marrying gay couples against the current doctrine of the church. While I applaud their efforts and think they are doing the right thing personally, I also find it incredibly disingenuous to willfully disregard church doctrine while simultaneously claiming that you favor “unity.” In that sense, I think the liberal end of the church is a bit two-faced; at least have the dignity to acknowledge that you favor a schism and are moving ahead with the new direction the church should be and will ultimately take. Don’t cower behind the lie of “unity” while acting in discord.

Personally, I’m not in favor of unity at all. If the issue at stake was merely equal rights for gay couples or ordaining gay pastors, then I might still be arguing that this is something Methodists could, prayerfully, work through. But the issue is an entire worldview whereby, too often, those who stand against gay rights, are spouting the same conservative one-liners that – in addition to being homophobic – are also harmful to just about any minority position or person you can imagine. This is often referred to as “intersectionality,” or the notion that all forms of oppression are interconnected. That is, systems of injustice often stem from the same roots and can’t be discussed singularly. I’ve always considered it a shame that gay rights, for example, became the singular issue that nearly split the Methodist church, when it could easily be argued that the church should have split years ago over the conservative position that “poor people are lazy,” a position that’s as racist as it is a slap in the face to those facing financial hardship in a country that rewards the rich and punishes the poor. Of course, no legislative position claiming a disdain for the poor was part of the Discipline, which explains why it never became a major church issue, but certainly, such a degrading attitude remains deeply ingrained into the Methodist system, especially in the Southern states where bigotry is more blatant (though not necessarily more prevalent) than the North.

Suffice to say, I do not understand the disdain for schism. Jesus himself talks about not wasting our time on people who won’t see eye-to-eye. The Methodist Church came into existence solely because of multiple schisms. Good can, then, come from “amicable separation” (though I think referring to it as “amicable” is also disingenuous when the division is as heated as it is currently). So, too, reconciliation can be a beautiful thing when the time is right. If you claim to uphold the good news that Christ is risen but forget or ignore circumstances of the broken body that lead to his resurrection, why bother calling yourself a Christian? Work through the inevitable of our brokenness rather than constantly shunning it. Fear of schism hinges on fears that a resurrected church can’t come to fruition, and as I’ve said elsewhere, it hinges on structural and financial fears that a church schism would make it impossible for the Methodist system to continue. Frankly, though, financial collapse may be good for a church that’s busy building or renovating unnecessary structures and housing bishops in million-dollar mansions rather than doing the work of God. Perhaps a broken Methodist Church is precisely what could birth a new spiritual awakening in America. Think of the Methodists who, in the wake of their understandable frustration with the pitiful state of this feckless church, have returned to either Anglican or Episcopal churches. The Wesley brothers, the founders of Methodism, would be pleased. After all, they never wanted a Methodist church to exist in the first place. Perhaps being reconciled to our Mother Church is but one step in the right direction of leaving behind what’s already dead and rotten. At least, that’s my ultimate hope for this Church and for this year’s General Conference.

God [Bless] You

A week or so ago, on my way to the metro in downtown St. Louis for a ride to the airport, I was stopped by a man who begged me to buy him a meal. I don’t usually offer anything to beggars, partially because I don’t have anything to offer and partially because I worry that doing so creates systemic problems of dependence. Every once in a while, though, empathy gets the best of me, so I reached into my pocket and gave him all that I had at the time – three bucks. “Three bucks?! I can’t do nothing with that! Give me some more,” he demanded, and I walked off a little stunned.

[Before going any further, I should pause to make two worthwhile notes: The first is that my last experience with begging happened in North Africa while I was a Peace Corps volunteer where, for the most part, if I handed someone the equivalent of 6 cents American (50 cents in Moroccan dirham), they usually responded with, “God bless your parents,” and moved on. While North African beggars could be persistent until you told them a phrase in Arabic that roughly translated, “God ease your burden,” I never carried fear of beggars there. After all, it would be pretty strange to come across a Moroccan beggar who had a knife, let alone unheard of to come across any Moroccan carrying a gun unless they were a soldier. So, maybe it’s because of the reality of that fear and how different life is in America, or maybe it’s some kind of inherent racism you’re bound to be born with if you were raised in the south, but I feel like it’s important to acknowledge that I’m an incredibly privileged white dude who was carrying out these conversations with poor, black men (one of whom I stereotyped to be gay) in an area with a history of violence, and to say my fears weren’t fueled by stereotypes isn’t owning up to those realities. So let’s start there.]

Burned by the lack of gratitude at first, I gave a rather forceful “no” to the next beggar that asked. And even though I knew it wasn’t fair to carry the stereotype from one experience to the next, I had a tough time shaking the shear chutzpah of the man who demanded more after seeing my wallet empty. In response to my “no,” the next man glared at me and said in a sarcastic tone, “Well, God bless you, then.”

No one had sneezed. He said, “God bless you,” I heard, “God has blessed you, and yet you do nothing.” I heard, “God blesses you but curses me.” I heard in his tone not the word “bless” at all but the word “curse,” and in the tone, I realized just how interchangeable the two words are. So many blessings, so many curses, all right before us and many are one in the same. The curse of being privileged is the real risk of forgetting or misunderstanding what it means to be blessed in the face of those who have endured so few blessings.

There’s a scene early in the Book of Job where the blameless Job has already lost nearly everything that matters to him. His children are tragically killed and now even with failing health and “boils” showing up all over his skin, he scratches at them to remove them one-by-one with a pottery shard. His wife looking on kind of mocks him in 2:9, “Are you still holding onto your integrity? Curse God and die.” In the English of this text, the word “barech,” or barak, is translated as “curse,” but – and here’s the interesting part – it also (and more frequently) means “bless.” In the Hebrew, much the way “God bless you” was spoken to me on the streets of St. Louis, the antithetical “curse” was what was meant. It gives you a good picture of the tone of Job’s wife: “Yeah, sure Job, everything will be better if ya just keep scraping off all those boils like that. Why, you should just bless your maker who’s given you this abundance of awesomeness and go on ‘living.'” Needless to say, I bet Job’s wife and I would’ve gotten on well.

Because, in a sense, Job’s wife hints at a deeper meaning that there is no blessing without a curse. Nor is there a curse without a blessing. That’s kind of how I read the whole Book of Job. I don’t like to think of Job [spoiler alert] being rewarded in the end with a new family and riches all as a result of his faith so much as it is a recognition that life is bound to deal out this endless cycle of blessings and curses all meshed together for which anyone might endure regardless of what they’ve done or who they are. To walk the streets of St. Louis, no less the streets of Morocco, is to encounter that two-sided coin, of which everything is, and to live in the tension of never really knowing which side of the coin you’re giving or receiving. And even when the answer is almost always “both,” that doesn’t really clear a whole lot up. Though privileged, I am not a person without trials or temptations or without my own baggage constantly being schlepped around with me. So too, I do not know the in-depth, personal trials of those who walk the streets hungry, wanting, faced with desperation. Have they known what it is to be cursed? Surely to God and sadly, and yet, I suspect, they’ve known better than I what it is to be blessed at times, as well. The great challenge of this stupid, beautiful little life is to see not merely each other’s blessings nor simply each other’s curses but to lovingly accept the painful beauty of both.

Some Thoughts on Social Progress for MLK Day

Several years ago, one of my Facebook friends at the time posted a status on Martin Luther King Day that derided the holiday adding it was “just a day to get off work.” At the time, I didn’t take too kindly to that sort of thing, so I called her a bigot and deleted her right then and there.

The thing is, while I can’t say that I feel like I’ve lost a close friend or anything, I can say the years have tested whether or not I think she was a bad person at heart. I no longer think that. At the time, I probably demonized an otherwise good person who held a few misguided views. Aren’t most of us otherwise good people with a few misguided views?

But that’s one of the more curious things about racism today. We’re so trained in our culture to think that it only comes from people dawning pointy white hats, skinheads, or folks ready to burn crosses that we aren’t too eager to entertain the possibility that it could actually come from our friends, neighbors, family members, etc. – but those are precisely the people it comes from the most, and precisely because it comes from them, we’re not eager to call it “racism.” That is, either we only think it’s “racism” when someone is visibly hurt, so we dismiss more subtle forms of racist statements, or we’re quick to take any form of racism and demonize the whole person who said it, as was the case with my ex-Facebook friend. Neither of these approaches are doing our culture any good, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of both at times.

And yet, I think there’s a lot of us that want to believe that today’s America isn’t still racist. But the way we often show our progress is by comparing ourselves to our past. That seems a bit of an odd way to approach the issue, doesn’t it? It’s not been uncommon for me to hear people say things like, “Well, I’m not my forefathers. I didn’t own slaves. Don’t treat me like I did.” Okay, so, we’re better because we no longer hold slaves? Well, yes. We’re better because we don’t make people drink out of separate water fountains? Well, duh, but is that really going to be our litmus test for the kind of non-racists we aim to be?

The progress we must make cannot be measured by how far we’ve come but by where we can and should go from right here, right now, simply because that’s the right direction to move in. I think that’s at the heart of MLK’s dream: the dream wasn’t about achieving a goal but about a way of living out the kinds of morals that required constant reminders and awareness of who we are and who we want to be in the face of all forms of injustice. Yes, slavery is a thing of the past. Yes, the horrific Jim Crow laws are a thing of the past. We progressed to a better place. So, I suppose, we could say, “Look how better we are from our ancestors,” decide we’re happy with how far we’ve come, and say that’s enough. Or, we can keep pushing – recognizing that so long as someone – anyone – is marginalized, there’s still work left to be done. And the work, right now, that must still be done is combating these more subtle forms of racism that go unrecognized or ignored.

The unfortunate reality is, racism is alive and thriving in America, especially in the south. In fact, in the south, it can still be blatant. I recall a student at Vanderbilt talking about her own experience of racism in the south. She felt that when it happened in the south and was often blatant and hateful, she could dismiss the person as a bigot and move on with her life with relative ease, but when it happened in, say, Chicago, in a large law firm where someone made an off-hand, stereotypical remark, she didn’t know how to respond and found it shocking.

On some small level, I can relate to this as someone who lived in a rural town in North Africa for two years where I was one of maybe five light-skinned people living within a two-hour radius. Sometimes, I had rocks thrown at me by children. Sometimes, my friends were threatened or, in a few cases, assaulted because they were women or because they were different in some way from the majority. I lived occasionally confronting assumptions about me – that I worked for the CIA or that I was extremely wealthy or that I partied and was all kinds of sexually deviant or that I hated the Middle East. Sometimes, just a few assumptions about someone we don’t know at all, or even a few generalizations based around statistics that don’t include appropriate context, can be so incredibly damaging – and that is something that continues to happen worldwide.

Racism isn’t just despising someone different from you. It’s about fear and skepticism of what is different. It’s built-in assumptions that certain groups of people are “lazy.” Or, sometimes, assumptions that they’re the “good ones” or “almost white.” It’s built into political ideals about the “welfare state.” It’s built into beliefs about crime rates and incarcerations without regard for how slanted the justice system is. And yet, when a person has these assumptions and worldviews, that doesn’t also mean that he or she hates someone of a different color or ethnicity. And so we claim we aren’t racist, we aren’t bigots – because we don’t hate anybody or because we don’t wish any violence on anyone. Have you ever noticed whenever a celebrity gets in trouble for making a racist statement, the first thing they say is, “I’m not a racist.” I keep hoping some celebrity will respond by saying, “Well, you know, sometimes I can actually be racist, and I appreciate that you’ve kept me in check here, because what I said was wrong, and I should’ve known better.” We really need to get the word “racist” out of the clouds where it’s equated with “evil” because prejudice, to change the term slightly, is something we’ve all been a part of.

What we really need to combat racism is a healthy dose of self-awareness and mindfulness – a little honesty that, at times, we’re all skeptical of (if not also scared of) what we perceive as different from ourselves. To put that another way, we are, all, a little racist. That doesn’t mean we all hate or wish violence on others, but we do need to be careful, because the things we say can contribute to or promote violence and hate-speech inadvertently.

I think back to my ex-Facebook friend. She was a racist. I don’t have any question about that. But I have been at times in my life guilty of racism, too. She isn’t a bad person, and neither am I. And I probably didn’t get anywhere with her by calling her a bigot and deleting her. But when it comes to our closer friends and family, I do think we’re in a position to say, “Are you sure you really mean what you’re saying?” When we are in a position to question their words and how hurtful those words are, we should jump on the opportunity to be their keeper, to call them into question, and to remind them – because we love them – when they are being wrong-headed. I only hope my friends and family would do the same for me. If and when they do, that I believe is living out the dream MLK envisioned.

On Being Diverse

Went back to Fes.  This time, it was because I was the sole white guy invited to participate in a “diversity panel.”  Who knew white people, with our Starbucks Coffee and moleskin notebooks, could be diverse?  Especially us white males.  You’d think because we’re the pinnacle of patriarchy, the privileged majority, that we should have nothing to contribute to, well, the idea of diversity.

I’m being a little cheeky, I admit.  I was actually invited to the panel to speak on religion as someone with a Masters degree on the subject.  But I was just as welcome there as someone who is white and male as I was because of my background in religion.

In America, we don’t think of  being white as a “diversity.”  Being white doesn’t make you different, because it’s the norm.  But the “norm” shifts depending on location.  And in Morocco, white is anything but normal.  Walking down the street in a town where you may be the only white person some people, especially children, have ever seen, you’re automatically a bit of a freak show.  Or are made to feel like it.  That’s not to say that we’re always harassed for being different, but being different and always feeling different highlight you in a way that can be incredibly uncomfortable.  But that’s not really saying much that’s new.  It’s just a perspective I wish I could share with a lot of people back home in the States, because it really puts the conversation we have in America about race into a different context.

Case in point, I think we’ve come to think of “racism” in America as equivalent to a hate crime, as if to say it’s not really racism unless someone is hurt and the reason they were hurt is blatantly related to their race.  Or at the very least, racism has become something suggestive of only hate or violence.  I remember at Vanderbilt, someone saying that they could handle racism in Tennessee because it was so blatant.  If someone didn’t like you because of your race, they were more likely to say so out loud, and it was easy to dismiss or ignore those comments, because the person was so clearly a bigot that you didn’t even have to take them seriously.  But in the north, the comments were often less blatant.  Little subtleties that would place people into a stereotype or cause them to stand out, or comments born out of suspicion, distrust, or misunderstandings rather than blatant hatred – that those things were still “racist.”  Things that single a person out, even if unintentionally so.

And now that I have this new perspective, one that makes me the minority, I have to say: I understand exactly where that sentiment comes from.  And I’ve experienced it for myself.  The constant staring or people hissing at me.  I chased after and shamed a kid yesterday because he kept following me and hissing.  When his brother saw what happened and heard me say, “I’m not a dog; shame on you for hissing at me,” he started hitting him and yelling, “Shame on you” over and over.  I just walked away.

Some volunteers have it much worse than me: barking, whistling, sexual comments to girls, comments for not being Muslim, and the list goes on and on.  Sometimes, people refuse to believe that Indian- or Asian-American volunteers could also be American.  To the point that they can get called liars or have to prove their identities with their passport.  I know of one volunteer who, even after showing his passport, was unable to convince a hotel owner that he was an American, because he looked like a Moroccan.

And of course, that’s another demographic that’s difficult for me to wrap my head around.  Some of the volunteers at the diversity panel discussed what it was like going from being in the minority in America, where they always felt like they stood out to suddenly being invisible as the majority, because they looked Moroccan.  One volunteer mentioned that he would hear about himself when he was having tea with people or at a store – “Oh, I heard there’s an American in town,” someone might say.  And so, in the process of suddenly blending in, there’s this strange dichotomy these volunteers face as they can or must play the role of being both majority and minority.  Sometimes, blending in was preferable, where they would even prefer not to speak so as to keep a low profile.  At other times, it’s frustrating, because their identity is snatched from them, and they must argue just to get people to believe that they are American or that they came here from America to make a positive impact on this place.  It can certainly make getting work done difficult.

I suppose one of the big take-away moments in listening to those volunteers was the realization that privilege is not solely in the hands of the majority.  Being in the role of the “minority” can have incredible advantages.  And being in the role of the majority can create all kinds of difficulties.  Case in point, I recall being at a Christian-Jewish dialogue a few years back, and someone remarked, “I know what it means for me to be Jewish; that identity is clear to me.  But I have no idea what it means to be white.”  Being white in a pluralistic society where non-Caucasians have clearly defined cultures, histories, and traditions can easily lead to a cultural identity crisis.  Think over the years of all the different, primarily Caucasian, social groups that pop up from goth or emo to hipster or scene – all examples of a culture-less, white society trying desperately to define itself, because, outside of being privileged as the majority, “being white” lacks any strong identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, “Man, those poor white people got it so rough.”  But, at the very least, this experience has sort of helped me realize that the conversation about race is a little messy.

I also don’t mean to imply, as I may have above, that Moroccans are racist.  That kind of generalization wouldn’t be fair.  But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t felt or seen the effects of racism in this country.  As many, many volunteers do – some more than others.  And it should come as no surprise considering just how rare and different we are here.  Such is the nature of any developing country, perhaps.

So, I guess being diverse is actually one of the few things we all have in common.  We’ve got this difficult struggle of having to figure out not just how to be okay with our differences but perhaps more importantly, to allow our differences and our misunderstandings about them, to foster an honest curiosity that asks questions of others respectfully rather than assuming we already know enough.

The Face of Religion, or When Can We Just Get Along?

There are plenty of arguments in the States over whether or not America is a “Christian nation.”  Time to settle that argument: America is definitely a Christian nation.  Comparatively speaking, anyhow.

When you uproot yourself and move to a world where you wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for a Christian church (Morocco is 98% Islamic), those Nashville, Tennessee steeples in Green Hills that outnumber Starbucks by a billion begin to make America seem not so pluralistic after all (sorry, Diana Eck).  Everything in life is perspective, I guess.

As for me, let’s face it, this is a subject that I seem to obsess over, something that absolutely fascinates me.  What else would you expect from someone who studied Christianity for ten years and then moved to the Arab world?  Of course, it’s a touchy subject, religion.  It always is, I suppose, but it’s especially touchy here where Christian missionaries have given Christians a bit of a bad reputation.  No surprises there.

I’m not a missionary and have no desire to be one.  Ever.  I don’t think converting people saves them; instead, it creates more havoc and hatred than promoting love.  There’s a lot of good “mission” work going on out there, but all too often, the focus is on conversion rather than love, and that’s where I lose interest.  I work for the United States government and adhere firmly to the First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy talking and thinking about religion, and while the idea of forcing or coercing your religion on someone is a repulsive concept to me, I don’t hide the fact that I’m Christian; it’s a basic part of who I am.  I don’t see the point in running away from who I am just because a few bad apples gave Christianity a bad name.  Not as long as I can at least try to redeem it or remind folks that forgiveness is at the heart of nearly every “religion.”  That seems like a good start, at least.  I mean, if we’re all hypocrites (and generally, I think we are and I’ll expound on that in a bit), doesn’t it make more sense to practice forgiveness of hypocrisy rather than hatred of hypocrites?  Or hatred of anybody?

I’ve encountered a few Americans here who are like a college freshman suddenly discovering the world, unable to think for themselves and simply swallowing every word their arrogant professors feed them.  Instead of critically engaging Moroccan culture or asking meaningful questions about this new world around them and how they fit into it, they treat it like a fad – some new, short-lived fashion statement that screams, “I don’t know who I am, but being anti-what-I-was or anti-what-you-are makes sense to me.”

Sadly, that’s how people treat their beliefs and values, too.  Too often, I’ve encountered pop culture Christians who jumped on the bandwagon of jamming to the latest contemporary beats without the slightest idea of what the lyrics actually mean (and sometimes the ironic, complete hatred for those “rigid, old, traditional folks”).  On the other end of the spectrum lies the atheist who criticizes those Christians who are, you know, “judgmental bigots,” and somehow, she thinks she’s got Christianity and everything else figured out, but in reality, she’s become exactly what she hated and doesn’t even realize it.  This is what really gets under my skin: when someone practices a faith (or lack thereof) so blindly that they continuously walk into walls or when someone else gauges out his own eyes because he thinks he should do away with the way he used to view the world.  Neither of those options are helpful to anyone.  We end up blind either way.

Then again, maybe everyone has to be a baby at some point before they can be an adult, so maybe they deserve or have the right to live blindly, at least for awhile.  I just despise extremism in all forms and see it as the real problem with the world.  I mean, how many times have I said that already?  My friend Melissa recently posted some of her own thoughts about that very thing.  You can read them here.  I digress.

I’m slowly getting to the real reason I’m writing this.

Eid 1Today, I walked around in a market full of sheep and goats, and every family will  buy one for the upcoming celebration Eid El Kibir, or Eid El Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).  Next to Ramadan, Wednesday’s feast is kind of a big deal, a huge celebration and one of the most significant holidays in Islam.  This bedtime story is one you already know if you have had any encounter with Christianity at all.  God tells Abraham (the father of many nations, indeed) to slaughter his son as a divine sacrifice, a kind of test of his faithfulness.  His faith is exemplified in his willingness to do so (and in his son’s willingness in the Qur’an), but at the last minute, God provides a ram in the place of Ishmael (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s Isaac in Christianity).  As a result, come Wednesday, each family slaughters a “ram” in remembrance and thankfulness for the ram that “takes the place” of Ishmael.

It’s kind of like Easter in a way, what with Easter being the time we remember when Jesus “takes our place” sacrificing himself on the Cross, but somehow, Easter eggs, peeps, and green plastic grass just don’t really compare with actually slaughtering a ram.  With the feast quickly approaching, it’s forced me to think a lot about our two countries, our two religions, churches and mosques, and what’s at the heart of what we say we believe.

“The heart of what we say we believe” is an intentional way of phrasing that, because there’s always, always a gap between what we say and what we do.  We often try to bridge that gap by changing what we say rather than changing what we do.  That is, we justify our actions in light of what we really want out of life.  And rarely do we actually take the time to be self-aware enough to even try to understand why we make these kinds of decisions.

I think lately, especially, of all the bickering that happens in the church back home, some of which is so severe that good people are essentially forced out of their jobs or families no longer feel welcome or can even experience God in the very place where the doors are supposedly open and hospitality is supposedly “radical.”  Yeah right.  This has been on my mind with my parent’s recent decision to stop attending their own church and the church where I grew up.  And it’s a good example of that gap between who we say we are and how that differs from how we actually treat each other (and in the case of my home church, those things are clearly the absolute opposite of one another, sadly).  So part of me deeply wants to explore and understand that gap between what we do and what we really believe.

What I’ll see with my eyes next week is a sheep or goat who will be slaughtered and then eaten (I’m not sure yet if I’ll be served the entire head on a plate of rice or couscous or whatever, but fair warning now – if you don’t want to see that, don’t look at my pictures next week).  What I can’t really see firsthand or ever begin to fully comprehend is how this act of slaughtering the ram will or will not impact the things my family believes about Islam.  Is it just a tradition to slaughter the animal, or does my family here experience something deeper, fully engaged in the metaphor for sacrifice and thanksgiving?  If so, how much and what does it really mean to them?

I can’t say what it means for them, and I suppose, at the end of the day, none of us can fully understand the hearts of even the closest people in our lives – family, friends, etc.  Sometimes, we don’t even understand our own hearts.  We just have to trust that what we do we do with the best intentions and that those intentions will have a lasting, meaningful impact on our lives and the lives of those around us.  Perhaps the greatest sacrifice we ever make is the one to take that leap of faith to love and trust other people more than we love and trust ourselves.  This year, as I watch the ram sacrificed for the first time, I’ll be thankful that I am here experiencing that and experiencing a little something beyond the rather small world I used to know.  Maybe I’ll try a little harder to practice the things I want earnestly to preach, to love and serve beyond myself and to take the scary risk to trust that everything works out okay in the end.