“Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain.”, Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
Our adventure, at least this earthly stage of it, does not stop until God determines in the fullness of time to bring everything to completion in the consummation of all things.
Adventures will be part of our continued experience of life in God. Heaven will not be a place where all life as movement and growth will cease and all that we will do is sit on clouds and play harps in some sort of perpetual Sunday worship experience.
Far from being incidental to the life of faith, the element of adventure is as intrinsic to discipleship and community as Jesus designed it to be. When we embrace the power of transition —that in-between, discomforting place described earlier—and engage it head-on, we discover the truest sense of adventure.
In fact, we will argue, without the adventure we lose the necessary pathos by which we can truly understand the human situation and the meaning of the church.
The loss of spiritual adventure produces a somewhat distorted sense of what it means to be in the Way of Jesus—we become bored Christians acquiescing to the lame dictates of a mediocre life, sensing that we are missing out on something important but not willing to pay the price to do anything about it. This is an inauthentic place for any follower of Jesus to be, and nothing could be further from the type of community that Jesus envisioned his church to become.
The poet T. S. Eliot suggested that the end of all exploring was to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time. To learn, to grow, to mature, requires a journey from where we are now. And it is only after journeys of exploration that we will return to our most basic of beliefs and really know them personally. Without such movement there can be no real learning, development, or maturity. Whatever knowledge we might retain in the safe, self-protective space will end up being merely secondhand, dangerously depersonalized and depersonalizing data—nothing close to the way the Bible sees faith.
By definition, an adventure is a journey with an uncertain outcome. Radical open-endedness has always characterized the human experience, but there can be no doubt it definitely describes our situation in the twenty-first century. We live in an age of considerable uncertainty—who knows what five, ten, twenty years will bring?
Adventure is an attitude we must apply to the day-to-day obstacles of life—facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown, and in the process, discovering our own unique potential as God’s people.
Our preferences for stability and security blind us to the opportunities for adventure when they present themselves. Adventures are events, dramas, and stories into which individuals and communities are swept up, their end uncertain and their plot indecipherable. In an adventure, we become players in a larger drama that unfolds as we go. However, there is no real control over the beginning or end of the journey—we must simply choose to see it through or to opt out. And while we cannot fully predict where the adventure will take us, we do get to shape and direct the final outcomes through our action or nonaction. Because of all this, an adventure fully engages the adventurer; it is packed with risk and reward, uncertainty and vindication, threat and promise. All this describes life itself.
It is not hard to see how being incorporated into the gospel story involves us in a grand adventure, where, following the Spirit, we all get to participate with what God is doing in the world. We are all “players” that shape the outcomes through our active involvement with the story as it unfolds through our lives. And given the personal cost of such involvement, many would rather opt out, preferring the static life of middle-class respectability to the wild and erratic undertaking of following Jesus. So we become nostalgic and sentimental, wistfully reflecting on the days of our youthful adventures, feeding off fading memory rather than living in current experience, living in an idealized past rather than facing God’s future. And the biggest mistake in doing this is mistaking this nostalgia for security in God.
In light of God’s claim over our lives, personal security is all an illusion. As Helen Keller observed, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”