Risk

The Grace Letter

2006

 


Becky's Home Page

 

"The Real Life Test" -
A True Autobiography

 

A List of Therapists Who Treat
Transgendered Persons

 

State - By - State Instructions
For Changing Name And Sex
On Birth Certificate

 

Topics Related to
Transsexualism

 

Lefty: A Short Story

 

Parallel Lines: A Tribute 

 

 Christmas Messages

1998: Christmas Remembered
1999: What's In A Date?
2000: Peace On Earth
2001: Dark Days
2002: The Little Things
2003: Shop Till You Drop
2004: Survivor
2005: What Are You Waiting For?
2006: Peace In Our Heart
2007: The Greatest Of These

 

Real Life:
Five Years Later
 

 

The Grace Letters
1992-2007

1992
Answered Prayers
One Day At A Time

1993
Self Discovery
Strength Through Weakness

1994
Sacrifice
Rest

1995
Play It As It Lays
The Way We Weren't

1996
Disclosure
Share It Or Bear It

1997
Choices
I'm Not One Of Them

1998
What Have We To Fear?
God Don't Make No Junk

1999
Work It Out!
What's In A Date?

2000
Cheeks
Life In The Leper Colony

2001
Suicide
I Love You IF...

2002
Homeland Security
Images

2003
One Thing I Know
Letting Go

2004
The Least Of These
Children

2005
Will...or Grace?
The Word

2006
What Plank?
Risk

2007
Believing The Lie
The Greatest Of These

 

Facial Plastic Surgeons

 

SRS Surgeons

 

"Feminization of the Transsexual"
Douglas K. Ousterhout,
M.D., D. D. S.

 

 

God is, or He is not. But to which side shall we incline?...Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

Blaise Pascal, "Pascal's Wager"

I've never forgotten my graduation from elementary school. Somehow I was given a part on the program: reciting a poem from memory. Not just any poem: this one has probably been quoted or read at more graduation ceremonies than any other.

In "If", Rudyard Kipling had this to say about risk:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss...

I memorized it, but the words didn't relate to my life at the time. As Elton John would sing years later,

I never thought I'd lose
I only thought I'd win.

For many years, that's all the world saw: a winner. I was "on top of the world" in my professional life, my family life, and even my religious life. Oh yes, a Sunday School teacher, a choir member, a deacon. My experience from childhood was in a form of Christianity which was certain of all the right answers. Indeed, there was no reason to question! Questioning revealed doubt; and doubt was, at best, a character flaw. Perhaps doubt was even an indication of apostasy. Do you want to put your salvation at risk? Don't doubt! Have faith! Don't ask questions! We already have all the answers anyway.

There are a great many otherwise thoughtful persons who submit to this line of belief without questioning. Perhaps I would have been one of them, but I was not. Despite my "total immersion" in this branch of Christianity which was becoming known as fundamentalism, my heart knew otherwise.

This isn't going to be well received, I said to myself. But I had to take the risks — I had to ask the questions. I had learned to doubt. The risks I took were real, and the losses were real. I survived the losses and emerged as a different kind of Christian, no longer afraid to ask questions and take risks.


What have you put at risk in your life? Have you played it safe? Is your life constructed around risk avoidance?

We can't avoid risks. Every time we get into our automobile we are taking a risk to arrive safely at our destination. When we manage our savings and invest in the markets, we are taking risks. The greater the risk, the greater the return — if the risk pays off. If not, the risk leads to loss.

Can you lose, and start again at your beginnings? Once you have done it, you no longer fear the risk. Been there, done that. But the first time is oh, so frightening.

The times are changing. Not everyone who "comes out" as a transgender person will lose the support of family and friends. Some will not lose their jobs. Yet it could be argued that these persons take a different risk. By remaining with all the circumstances of their previous lives, they may not be perceived as complete in their chosen gender. Perhaps they are still seen, not as "Jane," but as "John who had an operation." The risk of remaining in the comfort zone is, for some, preferable to the risk of starting over, in a new identity, in a distant place. But both paths involve some risk.

For persons who are not spiritual, or whose religion does not forbid gender transition, there may not be a spiritual aspect of risk involved. The rest of us deal with our losses through adaptation. We grow stronger in our own spirits and we continue to question.

I've heard "Pascal's Wager" cited as intellectual support of belief in God. It seems to me that the Wager merely supports belief in a narrow view of our Christian God, one who is willing to condemn all who do not conform without question to such a view. Furthermore, the belief engendered by the Wager is not true belief, but just cosmic fire insurance — the ultimate risk avoidance.

Bill Watterson, the cartoonist of Calvin and Hobbes, hit the target perfectly with this strip:

Calvin: Well, I've decided I do believe in Santa Claus, no matter how preposterous he sounds.

Hobbes: What convinced you?

Calvin: A simple risk analysis. I want presents. Lots of presents. Why risk not getting them over a matter of belief? Heck, I'll believe anything they want.

Hobbes: How cynically enterprising of you.

Calvin: It's the spirit of Christmas.


"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

Luke 14: 28-30

The obvious application of Jesus's words to a person entering transition is easy to see. But "counting the cost" can mean much more in a spiritual sense, and that's where I want to take this essay.

We will consider verses which describe risks taken to follow Christ. Some readers may think it's presumptuous to equate following Christ with gender transition. But I'm trying to make the point that we can do both — we can proceed with transition, as we know we must, and still retain our relationship to Jesus. It will, however, cost us.

Let's see what else Jesus had to say about risk.

Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you."

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."

Luke 18: 28-30

Easy Christianity? Rewards now, and rewards later? That's the way the passage reads in Luke. But scholars agree that Luke used Mark's account as his source, and here's what Mark said:

Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you."

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Mark 10: 29-31

I'm not sure why Luke left out the "persecutions." But I am rather sure Mark's reference is intentional.

Being a truth seeking follower of Christ brings persecutions. The more questions we ask, the more we upset the status quo. Perhaps "the establishment" feel that we must not ask questions about any aspect of doctrine as they see it. If we question one verse, even the narrow interpretation they may place upon that verse, where do we stop? What keeps us from questioning other verses?

What, indeed? A seeker of truth must maintain the right to question. As the United Church of Christ states, "God Is Still Speaking." Perhaps some of the things we hear God say are not compatible with the traditional interpretation. Should we listen? Persecutions may result!

I believe it is a risk worth taking. In subsequent essays I will try to discuss some of the questions in greater detail.

More Kipling:

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools...

Let's see what we can build.


becky@drbecky.com