A Walk in the Woods: Learning to See the Christian Life as an Adventure

By John Newton

I love a good adventure.

Give me Frodo and Sam sneaking their way through Mordor. Or Jack and Kate searching through the mysterious island jungles for a new source of water. The idea of adventure beckons me — drawing me in like an industrial-sized electromagnet — sometimes causing me to brake suddenly on the road of life and take a sharp turn right or left. Does adventure call to you as well?

I’ve always suffered from that double-edged sword that is an overactive mind. On one side, I get easily distracted, disappearing into daydreams. On the other, I love to imagine and create marvelous fictions, embarking on epic adventures and befriending the unlikeliest of creatures. Basically, I talk to animals, put on ridiculous foreign accents, and embark on daily walks through the woods of make believe. “Oh the drama!” The lovely Mrs. Newton often remarks, usually right after I describe that night’s dinner menu as if I was Dracula, making funny faces all the while. I enjoy having fun in this life!

Back when I was but a pup, I used to go on walking “adventures” with my sister Jennifer and our friends on the property of the Christian summer camp next door. There was a lot of land to be explored by curious children and what goes better with curiosity than imagination? And so gnarly oak trees became immense giants, common birds became malevolent spies, and the Ark of the Covenant always lay just out of reach, across a deep ravine or beyond our comfort zone in the woods we dared to explore.

I’ll never forget one such escapade, when my friend Justin and I nearly discovered a secret Soviet plot to do some harm to the good ole U.S. of A. I was about eight, I suppose, and I spent the night at my best friend’s home — a frequent weekend occurrence back in those days. Justin was into technology and he just happened to have the latest gadget of the day: walkie talkies. Weren’t the early 1980s grand? Justin and I rode bikes around his neighborhood and played around with the walkies as if we were secret agents. But something kept getting in the way of our innocent fun. Something mysterious. Something… adventurous. It was a Morse code series of beeps. Code! Secrets! Russians! We listened to the beeps and rode around to see if we could (as IF we could!) track down the code sender and, gulp, save the country! I could see the next day’s newspaper headline: “Local Youths Crack Soviet Spy Ring.” Alas, our search went nowhere but we sure had a lot of fun!

Hope & A Future

Often I find myself thinking that the world would be a lot more fun if more people embraced the overall concept of adventure. If they would see the joy in life, embrace the silliness a wee bit more, and see trials and triumphs as if they were chapters in your life’s book. This chapter? Financial hardship. Next chapter? Whitewater rafting.

Seeing life as an adventure might just transform the way we endure hard times. Might. I haven’t run this thought through my counselor wife yet, but it is terribly difficult when you hurt without hope. If you see this struggle as the final chapter to your life, and abandon the thought that things might change, you are a good as gone emotionally, mentally and, sadly, maybe even spiritually. But if you hope that a new chapter might begin soon, and that a mountain high is still waiting to be experienced, that hope for tomorrow gives you strength to get through today. Does that make any sense?

On the opposite end of human experience, seeing life as an adventure might also help us celebrate the high times. Remember that awesome moment at the end of Return of the King when Aragon was crowned king of Gondor? After a long, hard adventure to get to that one particular moment, everyone in Middle Earth, it seemed, was on hand to celebrate the joyful and hope-filled ascension of a rightful heir to his throne. Celebrating milestones and triumphs adds extra meaning to life.

Seeing life as an adventure is even more special for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes that for those who believe in Jesus, God has “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.” (Colossians 1:13-14) Not only does our life story change scenes, our entire cosmic story changes scenes! We’re in a new kingdom now, the kingdom of Jesus, where redemption takes place, forgiveness overflows, and there is abundant light (the opposite of darkness). From the moment we believe in Jesus as Lord, our adventure story of life takes a dramatic turn and new storylines branch forth and grow. There is the addict who finds herself faced with forgiveness, restoration and hope of a glorious future. She sets her heroin down, asks a sober friend for help and together they embark on a story of reconciliation, healing, and maturity.

The biggest difference between life, in general, as adventure and life in Christ as adventure is what I’m calling the “Father Factor.” Before you become a Christian, you’re whole frame of context for life is one of eternal insignificance. You live, eat, sleep in a short life, trying to make the most of your brief existence before you disappear in death. What happens on earth is all that there is so… carpe diem! Or “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” There isn’t much hope in a world without Christ. Redemption is a vague concept, as is forgiveness. Love? A physical concept. God still exists in the world of those who do not believe in Him and He still blesses people with His common grace. The sun rises and sets, rain falls, and so forth… But the idea of divine redemption is far from society’s worldview. God is not a father but instead either a concept, a cosmic gift giver or a enslaving master who must be appeased.

For the believer, the context has changed. God is not a taskmaster nor a benevolent Santa Claus. He is a Father — and a loving one — who is just and awesome but also graceful and kind. He watches over His children carefully and never denies them access to His merciful throne. An adventure story within the “Father” framework in one in which great things can happen. Lows can be overcome with highs, evil can be vanquished, healing can conquer illness, and grace can be found all along the journey. There is a greater story to be told of life in God’s Kingdom and of the power of Christ seen in the day-to-day. When you become a Christian, you are instantly transferred from the kingdom of darkness, where despair reigns supreme, and into the marvelous kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Risen One who forgives, heals, teaches, and reconciles all broken things. There is hope under God! Lives can be changed and stories become so amazing that they are hard to believe!

I like listening to adventure stories that have God at their core — the stories of the lives of people of faith, great and small. If you stop to ask a Christian of some maturity, who has been walking with the Lord for decades, what their life adventure has been like, you’re bound to get quite a tale! God has worked through tough times and great times, through marriage and birth and death. Maybe they heard the voice of God at different times of life. Maybe they endured periods of perceived silence. God may have worked miracles. In every case, I can almost guarantee that God had worked their life’s story into quite an adventure — and He’s not done yet.

How do you see your life on this earth? Is it a drudgery of despair or an adventure to be enjoyed? Look back on your life over the past 10 years. If you were to divide that decade into chapters, how many would you have? We’re any of them bad? Any good? Did God see you through those times, tough or easy? It is my prayer that you can embrace the adventurous side of life as you go about your daily routine. I think it makes a difference in getting through the daily grind.

If nothing else, try reading an entire dinner menu in the voice of Count Dracula. Keep a straight face, now! And have fun.

 

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