A note to my readers: This reflection as a whole is longer than my usual postings. This has been incubating in me over many months, indeed a lifetime. It explores a theme as rich as the world is wide. It tells a story of many seamless episodes. To follow this flow, while keeping reading sessions brief, I am posting this as a running series of three successive posts. This will also give you opportunities to pause, like stopping on the road at scenic over-looks, to read your own story into this between the lines, to reflect into more of the goodness you are discovering on your way. I hope this journey will encourage deeper awareness of the great meaning in your own pilgrimage.
So often we are like children just splashing around in a mud puddle in the backyard, thinking we are having such a good time – when all the while what is really being offered us is a grand adventure at the seashore.
Please note that references in parentheses refer to books of the Bible unless otherwise apparent.
Snapshots from the Road
I don’t know when my love for adventuring began exactly. It’s been coming on so gradually all my life, I hardly know when it started (see Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice). Maybe seeing at age six the first man walk on the moon, or visiting Houston mission control at age ten with my grandparents, or watching Star Trek in junior high – it’s a theme: dreaming of the stars… My child’s heart did say once, someday I want to be a missionary to the moon. It turns out that was not so far out.
One great chapter in this journey for us began in our twenties when my wife and I moved from the wide open plains of the American Midwest to the vast urban landscape of Los Angeles, the first time. I lived in culture shock for a year, even as I gradually realized I was on one exhilarating ride. As people without a home walked next to me on my way to classes for learning Biblical Hebrew, I grew first-hand into the prophets’ passion for God’s hope of justice for the poor. As we met people from far-flung corners of the world and other cultures, I felt we are praying for friends when doing a vigil for freedom from racism in another land. We discovered delectable new cooking styles (fast to become another theme): Mexican seafood that will be on the table at the wedding feast of the Lamb, “just” for starters. And even though we said we would not raise our children here, we did. A few years after an inland interlude, we returned to serve with a multi-ethnic church in the heart of the city.
Many wide-ranging adventures later, most with our children, with countless friends found from India to the Netherlands and many of them through twenty years in Minnesota, as I begin writing this reflection, all in one day yesterday we sold our house and accepted a new job in Los Angeles, a third time! We love our friends and always cherish our times with them, wherever they live, wherever we find them. L.A. is where I discovered I love the city. One might wonder, is adventuring about embracing the promise of the wide unknown, or is it in some mysterious way coming home?
Faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.
Because of the surpassing value of knowing
…in order that I may gain the Messiah
and be found in him…
– Hebrews 11; Philippians 3 (also see NIV)
To explore this wondrous fascination, I dare ask “Why?” Why love adventuring? Why is this so deeply rooted in the human spirit, from Homer’s epic Odyssey, or the misadventures of Jonah (in which he discovered to his intense anger that God IS love), to the harrowing journeys of Frodo and Sam (in which they saved Middle earth in The Lord of the Rings), or the stellar frontiers of Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)? Why is discovering so exciting? Why will daring souls from Apostle Paul to all brave mariners sail “to the ends of the earth” (Jesus, Acts 1:8), or Neil Armstrong “float” to the moon – even risking shipwrecks and Apollo 13?
I don’t know exactly how to explain this; it just is. Perhaps that is why there are so many adventuring epics. When we don’t know how to “define” something that reaches beyond us, we tell a story, to imagine, to let the mystery speak for itself, to discover the meaning in the journey. I am a “Treky” (Star Trek), so I’ll begin here: sailing the wild frontier with the star-ship Enterprise, in its continuing mission to discover brave new worlds, to explore new cultures, to boldly go where we have not gone before. That is the irresistible call to adventuring.
Then there is my favorite epic, the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Dawn Treader (and what a name for a story!), King Caspian, the heroic Reepicheep, and the obstinate Eustice (useless?) sail off to explore the exotic islands and wild unknown of the eastern seas. Their ultimate purpose is to find Aslan’s country, the promised land of the Messiah figure of Narnia. Most of the journey is learning the meaning they discover along the way: surprisingly undaunted courage, the size of a mouse; total self-reconstruction, in which Eustice/useless actually becomes a better person; a glorious wedding, by which the king comes to peace with living in this world through the love of a maiden born of the stars.
I identify with this story in my heart of hearts. I, too, have found my greatest peace and joy in journeying through this world with the love of a star-maiden. One of my wife’s favorite stories tells of her youth-full walks under the endless night skies of South Dakota, talking with God, and gazing into the stars. One of those stars must have had my name on it, because the rest of this story is epic. Her anniversary card to me a month ago, after signing the promissory documents for selling our house but before knowing where exactly we would live next, invited me to continue adventuring with her. She is the bravest captain of this little ship – and the best adventures are the ones we do with the people we love.
And you? What are your adventure stories, the pilgrimages worth the pain, the wonders you see on the way, the life you discover in the process? Why go to such lengths to do the things you believe are worth doing? Why go the places you want to go? Why marry the love of your life? Why go off as amateur comedians with your friends in cars getting coffee? Why try out new epic games just for the fun of it with your friends? Why seek meaning greater than you imagined and follow a spiritual journey into hope? Why sacrifice for ideals of making the world better for everyone? Because… this is simply at the heart of what we humans live for – for the adventure of all the good to be discovered in this journey.
This reflection is continued in Adventuring: Goings, followed by Adventuring: Homecomings.
Readers are also encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Living Life
God so loved the world… God is love!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…
and the tree of life…
at the middle of the great street of the city…
and the leaves of the tree
are for the healing of the cultures.
John 3; 1 John 4; Revelation 21, 22