“Would you be willing to endure four months of isolation on a small rocky island if you knew you would not only survive the difficult experience but would come away from it with an unwavering core of self-confidence and spiritual awareness?” The late, great Luci Swindoll throws out this journaling prompt in her inspiring book Doing Life Differently (formerly entitled I Married Adventure). So, are you up for it? Would you take the adventure?
Though I’d probably want to renege a thousand times, I would—without batting an eye. In fact, I did. Back in the 1980’s, at the reckless age of 24, I ventured to the isolated, rocky island of Chiloé and stayed, not for four months, but for the greater part of eight and a half years. Not, of course, that I went completely alone. And not that I didn’t occasionally travel off the island. But I made the choice to live there, come what might.
The adventure unfolded in scenes good, bad, and ugly. Some could have worked out better, and some could have been a lot worse. Every day we make choices. And one of them is about attitude.
“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.” –Bob Bitchin
It’s easy to focus on what goes wrong. It’s hard to ignore the challenges, the uphill battles, the pain. When we feel uncomfortable, inconvenienced, blocked, disappointed, displeased, and dismayed—who thinks of the problem as an adventure?
Not I. And yet recently, those very words popped into my head.
Adventure Reminds Us We Have a Choice
I remembered a scene from C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle, the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia. The characters discuss their options in the face of myriad calamities. Finally young King Tirian announces: “We must go on and take the adventures that come to us.”
Last month our family enjoyed a special reunion in Chile. After overdue passports, delayed flights, medical bills, and broken-down cars, the time together turned out…fantastic, and a little frustrating. Wonderful, and horrible by moments. One vehicle died at the airport the first day.
But after “resuscitation” the next afternoon, the eleven of us set out on an excursion to Mamalluca, an astronomical observatory open to the public in the Elqui Valley of Chile. Halfway to the valley town of Vicuña, yet another vehicle gave up the ghost for good.
“Life is full of serendipity. We often plan on one thing and, on the way, experience another that’s even more interesting, meaningful, or unusual.” –Luci Swindoll
What to do? I get it, stuff happens. It’s just, well, an awful lot has happened lately. I growled when my husband commented that we had no option except to deal with the situation. In a sense, he was right, of course. We couldn’t mourn forever on the side of the road.
But on the other hand… We always have options.
We can turn back. Or we can reject our reality and refuse to move forward. We can deny the sovereignty of God in the details of our lives and grumble about the food, the weather, the budget, and the obstacles. I so often dig in my heels and waste—yes, squander unequivocally—the opportunities for adventure instead of lamentation.
It all boils down to attitude. “God chooses what we go through, we choose how we go through it,” the saying goes.
So that day I made up my mind to take the adventure instead of being downcast by it. What an amazingly freeing choice. After you sob, maybe it’s time to break down and laugh. Play. Sing.
“Hilarity is integral to Christian pilgrimage… There isn’t the slightest suggestion in Scripture that grim resignation is characteristic of Christian character… Laugh at the devil and he will flee from you…” –Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire
Adventure Leads Us to Grow Stronger
Adventure, according to various dictionary definitions, is “an unusual and exciting or daring experience; an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks; a remarkable and typically bold activity, journey, trip or series of events.”
But we aren’t talking about global tourism or extreme sports here. Or even a trip. Not necessarily, nor even mainly. It’s hard circumstances, difficult choices, that force us to forsake our security blankets and step out of our comfort zone. The risk won’t involve life and limb, probably, but it will mean giving up my claim to convenience and control.
“Adventure isn’t hanging off a rope on the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude we must apply to the day-to-day obstacles of life.” –John Amat
To take the adventure will stretch me beyond the limits I sometimes set for myself. Whatever happens, I cannot plan for this, practice my image of perfection ahead of time, or otherwise prepare for it in the short term. It’s unexpected, unknown, out of routine, off schedule and off the beaten track.
But did you catch the word “exciting” in the experience? If we take the adventure, we’ll discover surprising joy and extraordinary pleasure, too.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” –Babs Hoffman
God is powerful enough to change darkness to light, dissatisfaction to delight. Surely He’s more than able to transform our outlook on life.
Scripture examples abound. Eugene Peterson reminds us of the Israelites’ odyssey through the wilderness: Their fall into idolatry in the golden-calf incident, because they refused to let go of the old gods and take the adventure of walking by faith with a God they couldn’t see. Then their rejection of the Promised Land as too great a challenge. Giants and grasshoppers and grapes, oh my!
Peterson puts his finger on their problem and ours: “In a moment of boredom, some of us turn our backs on (redemption and God’s love) and say, ‘Make us gods…entertain us…pamper us…amuse us…give us some supernatural gewgaw that we can play with.’ We get tired of participating in the strenuous but invigorating life of freedom and faith, and we regress to the old slave religion that reduces God to an amulet.”
Everything’s too hard. It takes too long. It’s too unsafe, and the rewards are too uncertain. All true.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” –Arthur L. Williams Jr.
So grow already.
Amid the storms on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus rested. When Peter panted in terror of ghosts, Jesus simply said, “Don’t be afraid… Come on!” He invites us to join the adventure. Be more, do more, trust more. But sweat, stew, and tremble a little less.
Adventure Makes Great Memories
My new devotional memoir, Return to Chiloé: Treasures from the Island, launches tomorrow, February 7. It’s about…a return trip, naturally. But more, it reflects on the confidence and awareness gained by accepting the original adventure on that “small rocky island.” I invite you to join me as I trace how I survived—and thrived.
“…When the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now.” –Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Whenever I’ve been willing to take the adventure, it’s done me good. It expands my experience and my faith. It builds courage, broadens perspective, brightens the horizon with hope. Through adventure, we crawl out of our ruts and connect with others in life-changing ways.
Why do we continue to hang back, so reluctant? I’d venture to guess we’re like the Israelites, who “were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19, NASB).
Dear friend, if you hear the Spirit’s voice, take the adventure. It’s the only way to find out what could happen. As the great lion Aslan admonishes Lucy (in Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis): “Nobody is ever told…what would have happened, child. But anyone can find out what will happen.”
“The goal is to die with memories, not dreams.” –Anonymous
What’s around your next corner? No idea. I can’t even foresee my own tomorrow.
But I’ll tell you…
…how the catastrophic day of our breakdown on the way to the observatory turned out.
After two trips back and forth to Vicuña, we scraped just enough time to grab an ice cream bar before the shuttle into the Andean foothills. We arrived at sunset and watched the moonrise over a valley vibrant with vineyards, glowing caramel and honey.
Then, at dusk, the summer show began, directly under the stars—a novelty in our experience. A kind and competent astronomer guided the telescope’s focus onto Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the dark side of the moon, a bright shooting star. He pointed out constellations—Orion, Pleiades, the Southern Cross—and distinguished between meteors and airplanes (or UFOs, who knows?)
Hushed and awed, we returned to the town. There, we “Skywalkers” of Chile munched on crisp gingerbread cookies and played in the plaza at midnight while waiting for friends to rescue us. The near disaster will probably evolve into a highlight of my grandchildren’s lives. I know I won’t forget slapping together leftover turkey sandwiches in the middle of the night when we got back home.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” –Mary Anne Radmacher
Every day we risk when we follow Jesus. But let’s go on and take the adventure that befalls us, despite the rugged, barren terrain, despite the enemies roaming the land and the storms raging around us. May God grant us the trust to walk through and march on, assured of nothing but the presence of our Companion, and even Him we won’t always see.
But if the winds and waves obey Him, surely the stars and cars do.