Designed for adventure
I love reading about the exploits of people like Lewis and Clark, John Muir, and Bear Grylls. They knew the risks and the hazards. They knew that the price might be heavy. They even knew that they might not make it back alive. But they also knew that it is when we step out in faith into life’s adventures when we really learn and when we really live.
Lewis knew that his new infant nation desperately needed to know what lay beyond St. Louis if it was to fulfill all its untapped potential. Muir saw the hand of the Creator in every peak, every stream, every tree and knew that nature was the best place to meet with Him. And Grylls continues to live life to the fullest and point others to God’s incredible creation.
“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus (John 10:10)
That buzz you get from reading about their adventures, those butterflies in your stomach, the sweaty palms – they should all remind you that you were built for adventure. Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses – adventurers. Abraham, Jacob, David – adventurers. Paul, Peter, Jesus – all adventurers. You see, we were not designed to sit home and play on our iPhones, watching reality TV shows while our own reality consists merely of freeway traffic and work and television.
Do you get excited looking at maps? You should see the one Clark made of half of a continent! Maps call to us, beckon us to adventure and discovery. “The mountains are calling and I must go,” John Muir wrote1. In JRR Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf told Bilbo, “The world isn’t in your books and maps. It’s out there [pointing out the window].”2 When adventure calls, sometimes you have to go.
But as you know, adventures require some character. In particular, to be an adventurer you would be best off if you had faith. It takes faith to step out of the house, to step out of the truck, to step onto and then off of the trail. It also takes confidence, which should be based on your actual (not simply desired or wished for) skills. Without skill your adventure could become a disaster. And it takes a sense of wonder and amazement. When God reveals Himself to you in nature, and He certainly will, just as an artist reveals himself in his works, you need a heart of awe, amazement, and humility before the Creator and King.
Muir knew that the Creator uses nature as part of His plan to change us from the inside out, what the Bible calls sanctification.
There are many arenas in which the Lord can carry out His sanctifying work in our lives: relationships, especially marriage and parenting; our work lives; our ministry or vocational lives. We often hear how valuable youth sports are to the development of character in a child. I believe experiences in nature can be even more important in the development of our character, youth or adult. Like John Muir, if you are being called to the mountains (or rivers, or deserts, or prairies, or forests…), you must go. The Creator wants to meet with you – alone, quiet, face to face.
Sometimes I feel more like Bilbo Baggins than John Muir. Bilbo responded to Gandalf’s invitation for an adventure much in the same way I do sometimes: “We are plain, quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner.”2
But adventure in God’s creation, with Him at your side, can change us. By the time Bilbo returned from his first adventure, he was different. “‘My dear Bilbo!’ he [Gandalf] said. ‘Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.'”2
Go and meet with your Creator. And be changed.
Questions for Thought
Do you dream of great adventures? Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or climbing Half Dome, or backpacking Australia? If so, do you go?
Has the Lord met you in these places? What has He shown you? Are you paying close enough attention?
What personal and spiritual character might be best learned in nature?
Lord God, you invite us into a life of adventure with you: marriage and parenting, careers and vocations, ministry. Grant us the faith to live the adventure, both in the forests and in the cities, on the job site and in the home. Provide us with the skills to successfully navigate the rapids and avoid the rattlesnakes. And do not leave us unchanged. We desire more than anything to live a life pleasing to you – make us into the image of your Son through every experience, every trial, and every adventure. In the mighty, strong name of Jesus. Amen.
1 William Frederic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (New York: AMS Press Inc, 1924)
2 JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit (UK: George Allen & Unwin, 1937)