Thinking the Worst

What’s the worst that could happen? It is probably the most over-utilized question in situations where something egregious is probably going happen.

I stood there with my friends as one of them sat in his father’s car. He just received his license and was finding great joy in, as the kids used to say, “burning rubber” in an empty car lot. He circled around the area in this smallish maroon Dodge, leaving black streaks along the asphalt. The little car took the punishment well.

After an especially loud and pungent loop he stopped in front of us and rolled down the window. With the infinite wisdom of a sixteen year old boy, he admonished us to stand back. He decided that he was going to put the car in reverse and then slam the transmission into drive so that the tires could truly smoke as they spun on the asphalt. He claimed to have done it before to great effect. With a shrug, he declared “what’s the worst that could happen?”

The car began accelerating in reverse and we saw his brow furrow and lips grow tight. With wild abandon his shoulder grabbed the shifter and he wrenched it with all of his might. At that moment the car halted its backward momentum and the tires began to squeal. Abruptly, the car halted with a loud clang. A look of worry washed over my friends face as he slammed on the brakes. Running to the car we watched him struggle with the shifter.

Apparently, one of the worst things that can happen is that a car’s transmission will no longer function as it was intended. A panicked look crept up my friend’s face as the shifter remained stuck. I think, at that moment, he just thought of his parents and imagined the worst that could happen.

Bad things happen; it is a part of life, a part of risk, a part of living. Good things happen as well; also as the results of life, risk and living. One of the great sins of the church may be that we often err on the side of bad things happening. When it comes down to it, the church actually risks very little. It is almost as though we ask and answer the “worst that could happen” question before anything has been said or done. Risk is what the church, what our faith is built upon.

How would we be different if we risked transforming our theologies? How would we change if we risked becoming radically hospitable? What would we look like if we lived into the transformative nature of faith, hope and love?

To be the church is to ask the question “what’s the worst that could happen”, and believe that it is of greater risk to not do something rather than step out in faith and believe God will be present to these moments in life.

In the end, there will be times when we step out in faith and drop the transmission of our cars through reckless abandon; in those moments when we face the worst that could happen; we realize that we never face them alone. So, maybe, the worst that could happen is that we sense God’s presence and strength in the face of disaster. In the end, that might not be such a bad thing…



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