When I was a young whippersnapper our family took that classic road trip out west to the giant faces on the side of the mountain and the Badlands. Now that I’m “all grown up” it’s easy to quip about the nothingness and boredom that accompanies any road trip in either of the Dakotas but back then when I could make a blanket fort in my mini-van bucket seat, play Pokémon for hours straight, and explore a mars like world, a road trip through the Dakotas seemed like the adventure of a lifetime. And you know what, it was.
I remember one specific day during the trip where we stopped at a campground to stay for the night. My brother and I collectively unloaded about a bag and a half from the van before asking if we could go off and explore. On the way into the site we had both seen what looked like a mountain and we were impatiently fervent on seeing what was at the top. Graciously our parents let us journey on as they unpacked and set up the rest of our campsite.
We made it to the base of this great mountain and I, being the analytical, cautious, and perhaps slightly pessimistic little brother, looked at the summit and thought to myself, “I don’t think I can make it up there”. But as I finished that completely rational thought, my big brother started hiking up. And I followed.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about adventure and how it relates to our relationship with Jesus. I mean you would think that being friends with the guy who made the great mountains and vast seas would be pretty exciting. I’m friends with people who have traveled to Europe and that alone is exciting. So why is it that life with Jesus everyday seems kind of, well, ordinary? I don’t want to pretend to have all the answers to this question but I think he’s been showing me a little bit why that might be the case. And it has to do with our craving for adventure.
This last summer I was a camp counselor at Trout Lake. The weeks before I left home I wondered why I was actually doing this. To be honest, nothing much popped into my head. I didn’t have a divine revelation that I should go serve at a camp. I didn’t have an intense passion for kid’s ministry. I didn’t pray for months before deciding to say yes. No, it was more like walking on path, coming to a fork, thinking, “Well that way looks kinda nice” and then sauntering on. But looking back, I think this seemingly passive decision was really something deep down inside of me yearning for adventure, wanting something more than flipping burgers or watching all of The Office again. And I think that yearning was Jesus whispering, “Go that way, I want to show you what having life to the full means.”
So for this next month or however long it takes I want to explore this idea of living everyday as if I were on an adventure with God. Now from what I learned up at camp and asking quite a few friends and family, that doesn’t mean waking up in my dorm and deciding which continent I should explore today. No, there seem to be some key aspects that get to what the heart of adventure really is. These include:
- A Clear Goal – for many of us this is simply loving God and loving people
- People – adventures alone can be good but being able to experience the vast wonder of life with friends and family and even strangers makes it so much greater
- Vulnerability/Courage –willing to risk putting ourselves out there and facing the unknown, especially when we are scared
- Conviction – or motivation or simply a reason to take the next step
- Wonder – there is something deep inside of us that craves being in wonder, breathless, unable to express what we are feeling
- Grit – while adventures are fun and exciting and we can marvel at it all, we need to realize that in order to see the view from the summit we have to get there, and it is a slow and painful process
There could be more aspects to adventure but for now these are the ones I want to focus on. When Jesus said that he came to give us life to the full I don’t think he meant that he would give us a bathtub full of cash but I also don’t think he wants us studying systematic theology until we baptize someone with our tears. When he talks about having a life to the full its right in the middle of him telling us that he’s our shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. My sheep hear my voice, and I call my own sheep by name and lead them out. I will seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights shall be their grazing land. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down.”
From John 10 and Ezekiel 34
I think what Jesus wants is for us to join his rescue mission. I think he wants us to follow him up the mountain.
My brother and I eventually made it to the top. It was a pretty incredible moment, maybe my first of actually experiencing the wonder of adventure. We stayed up there for what seemed like days, building Fort Behnen out of some logs and simply staring out at the great expanse. To this day that is one of my favorite experiences of my life. We didn’t climb an actual mountain. We were probably only up there for an hour or two. We weren’t in grave danger. But in my little wonder-filled mind, it was the adventure of a lifetime. And it truly was.