Can we be honest for a second?
Many of us are feeling a bit stir-crazy, stale, bored, aimless, or stuck. It makes us long for far off places, for the thrill of the unknown, for what can be summed up in one word—adventure. Now I’m not trying to be that guy, but get ready for a #humblebrag. I’ve been lucky enough to get to live some adventures that could fill books. After visiting 30 countries (including a 46,000-mile solo motorcycle trip from the top of the world to the bottom,) I learned that adventure is far more accessible than you might think.
Yes, it’s a word that is overused, almost to the point of not meaning anything more than a hashtag. If your family vacation to a midpriced resort in mainland Florida was an “adventure,” you might want to reevaluate your word choice. If your decision to try the bacon-avocado toast at the new spot with only two yelp reviews was #adventure, you might want to throw your phone down a well and pick up a dictionary.
I got news for you. Your vacation was not an adventure. That new restaurant was not an adventure. It was a great thing you did. And I’m not trying to take anything away from you by saying so. In fact, I’m trying to give you something back.
I want to help you recapture your sense of adventure. I want to give you confidence that it is actually something your life was designed for—and that it is closer than you think.
A number of years ago, I had the adventure of a lifetime. I quit my job, skipped my college graduation, bought a motorcycle, and left for a trip that could have circled the entire globe twice.
Why? Because of death. My mother, sister, uncle, grandfather, grandmother, nephew, and aunt had all died from various illnesses over the course of about 18 months, and something in me broke. I needed a change, and so I changed everything.
I grew up in church, and there was something about leaving everything I knew behind that felt like a pilgrimage. Almost as if I was following in the footsteps of Bible characters I’d read about since I was a kid. Like a modern-day Abraham wandering through the desert to a place he had never seen in search of some yet unknown promised land.
Adventure Lesson #1: Adventure starts with the F-word.
Maybe your language is less salty than mine, but the reality is that if everything goes to plan, it’s not an adventure. Every adventure involves FEAR. If there isn’t a chance of something going wrong, it’s categorically NOT an adventure. It must have fear, risk, consequence. Sometimes it’s physical. But it almost always has an emotional and spiritual component. The key for us is to recognize that this place of pain, risk, discomfort isn’t something to be avoided—it’s something to be pursued.
Here are some examples from my motorcycle trips. When I set out to reach the Arctic Circle and the southern tip of Argentina, there was definitely some fear. I felt it when:
I raced up Machu Pichu at 4 am with nothing but an old iPhone for a flashlight. (Fear that I would get lost or eaten by some sort of giant snake.)
I spent two weeks rebuilding my engine with a guy who didn’t speak English on the side of the road. (Fear that I wouldn’t be able to fix it and that I’d have to return home a failure.)
I loaded my bike into a dugout canoe on the edge of the Yuna Gala in the Panamanian jungle. (Fear that it would drop to the bottom of the river and again—failure.)
I was almost kidnapped in Colombia. (Fear of living out some sort of “Taken” scenario—without Liam Neeson.)
I wrecked my motorcycle 15 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where there was no help coming. (Fear of failure, death, and again being eaten)
I really like how psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it, “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
So, what difficult and worthwhile thing are you tackling right now?
The challenges in your life are not merely obstacles to your happiness. They can be gateways to your own development and growth. Think about what you’ve accomplished over the last few months! You’ve survived a pandemic! You may have faced unemployment, financial stress, your rhythms and routines being detonated in a few short weeks.
Here’s the reality. The most important thing about you is NOT the most interesting. It’s not the most photogenic, liked, shared, tweeted, whatever-ed thing. The most important things in my life won’t happen on a distant continent. Or on a motorcycle. And I believe the same is true for you.
The original followers of Jesus lived an incredible adventure. Those guys experienced shipwrecks and were beaten and saw miracles and cast out demons and changed history. In the book of John, Jesus says, “But I have come so that you may have life and have it to the fullest.” COME ON! Doesn’t that sound great? But I’ve got news for you. That doesn’t mean motorcycle trips. That doesn’t mean perfectly edited photos in some exotic locale. What it does mean is a life of impact. Of meaning. Of leaving this world different than you found it.
While I’m proud of the list of “adventurous” things listed a few paragraphs above, they aren’t really that important to me. They’re not actually the real adventure of my life—at all.
They’re tools God used to grow me and teach me things, but not to define me or validate me. You know what adventure I’m infinitely more proud of than riding my bike from the top of the world to the bottom?
Building an amazing marriage with my wife. Raising three incredible kids. Planting a church. Helping people rebuild their homes after a tornado swept through our city. Praying for people after a shooter took nine lives only months later. Stopping to pray with people on the street when I feel God point them out to me. Seeing a heart physically, miraculously healed.
I’m still growing in the adventurous life as I learn to become an advocate for anti-racism. Or as I learn to share my resources more aggressively. I feel it when God prompts me to act differently with my kids, my wife, or the team I lead. Each choice to follow Jesus is like logging another mile towards an incredible destination.
And I’ll tell you a secret. It’s a way bigger challenge with a WAY bigger payoff. The real adventure of my life is what’s happening in my home, my neighborhood, and my city. I know with 1,000,000% certainty that I’m making an impact on the adventure of marriage and fatherhood. Of pastoring a church. Of serving people in my city. It may not be as sexy as my old travel photos, but I firmly believe that the weight of our lives will ultimately be measured in a million, routine everyday decisions. Not by our bucket list. Not by any double taps or anything else.
Jesus said that we would do even greater things than he did. But to do that, we have to follow Him into it. If you’re stir-crazy and dreaming of adventure—look again. You may already be on it. Or it may be right in front of you.
If you’re a parent, do more than just phone it in! Dream about the things you want to teach your kids. The experiences you want to share with them. The kind of strength and boldness you want them to have. Then leverage every ounce of your strength and creativity to make it happen. Don’t just keep them alive and technically functioning for 18 years. Raise world-changers you adore and enjoy the crap out of it.
If you’re married, lean into the adventure of learning how to share your life with someone rather than just getting by. Discover how God uses marriage to make you into better versions of yourselves that you didn’t even know existed. Defy the odds of divorce. Aggressively overcome every hurdle that threatens your marriage like obstacles on a course that you are determined to beat because you believe in something better. Make your marriage incredible.
If you’re single, lean into the adventure of any and every dream God has put on your heart. Maybe it’s a new business. Maybe it’s modeling a powerful, vibrant life of singleness for others. Maybe it’s community or mentoring or travel. Maybe it’s a new career. Maybe it’s breathing fresh life into a job you’ve had for years or a million other small choices that multiply into a life of honor, impact, and joy.
God offers us a full life, but he doesn’t promise to drop one on your doorstep. You’re going to have to step up and RISK something if you want your life to be more than ordinary. The bar is low. We should want more than comfort, convenience, two weeks of vacation, and a 30-year fixed mortgage.
But you’re going to need HELP to rise above the normal operating trends of culture. You need a guide to the adventurous life. Maybe your first risk on the journey is being bold enough to ask someone to show you the way.
Take Jesus seriously when he says, “Follow me.” Let Him lead you into DREAMING bigger. Recognize that the best, most important, impactful, valuable, and fun things in your life shouldn’t be exotic or “once in a lifetime.” The adventure of your life should be something you embark on every day.