By Norris Burkes
Posted Apr 30, 2017

“My world turned upside down” is an expression we use when things go wrong. It literally describes the feeling I had 10 years ago when my SUV turned upside down.

My “world” wasn’t so much defined by my SUV that was upside-down on a levee road. My world was the driver — my daughter suspended upside down from her seatbelt.

She crawled out of the car and called to assure me that she was fine; her passenger was fine. Well, not everyone involved was fine. Dad’s wallet suffered sprains and contusions.

You see, the SUV was totaled and I wasn’t carrying collision insurance. I’d canceled the expensive coverage in favor of eating three meals a day. It was my attempt to balance the risk between paying exorbitant premiums and possibly paying out-of-pocket to replace our older vehicle.

My insurance agent had tried to persuade me otherwise, warning about the risk of dropping collision coverage. She’d urged caution, saying the car still had a lot of life left.

But alas, it gave that life to save my daughter.

Although I’m eternally grateful she survived with minor injuries, even now I ask myself, “What was I thinking when I dropped that coverage?”

I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was scared by the word salespeople use so well: “risk.” For instance, when we bought a washing machine, the salesman asked my wife, “Do you really want to take a risk not buying an extended warranty?”

Hey, she married me, didn’t she? “Extended warranty” isn’t even in her vocabulary.

But the whole experience started me thinking about our society’s relationship with “risk.” We want to insure it, prevent it, manage it, cure it, readjust it, reposition it, balance it and deny it. Risk shines a light on our vulnerabilities until, like a molting crustacean, we want to hide under a rock for protection.

The biggest chance we take in life is that of loving someone. It’s risky because even when love is freely given, it still comes with no guarantees or extended warranties. And the people we love are under no obligation to return that love.

In loving my child, or anyone for that matter, I take risks. I put my heart on the line — with no collision insurance — and trust that God will conspire to keep us safe so neither of us ends up totaled on a dirt road.

Jesus knew something about the risk of relationships. He gambled everything while discipling a group of anglers. He knew it was futile to insure love. After all, he asked Peter three times. “Do you love me?” Despite the fact that Peter replied each time, “You know it,” he had earlier refused to follow Jesus to the crucifixion.

I knew allowing my daughter access to a powerful SUV had its risks. Yet when I declined the collision insurance, I was rejecting those risks.

Fortunately, a few weeks later she walked — or more accurately — limped across the stage to get her high school diploma. At that point, it occurred to me that there is no limit to the love I am willing to invest in her. Every effort I make to love her is worth the risk.

In the 10 years since the accident, she has given me two wonderful grandsons. And that has truly set my world right-side up.

— Read Norris’ past columns at Write him at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.