Adventure is calling.
This is your rally cry to pilgrimage. To go on the journey that is meant for you. There is a life that is waiting for you that is not what you think but that is more than you think. This quest is not only meant for you but designed for you because you have and always have been destined to adventure.
We all love epic stories:
A group of kids find out there is more to what is happening in their small Indiana town as they encounter a young girl known as “11” as they seek to uncover that their is more to their little town than they think.
A fellowship of friends is forged through the journey of traveling across the land to protecting a gold ring at all costs.
A girl knows she’s meant for more as she escapes her confines from a desert planet only to have her facing the darkest of villains with nothing but the force and her friends including a Wookiee nicknamed “Chewie.”
While these are notably modern-day parables giving us fantastic eye candy timeless pop-culture quotes, there are real-life adventurers:
John Goddard an American adventurer, explore, author and lecturers was 15 when he wrote down a list of 127 goals he wanted to accomplish rom learnt in to type to climbing Mt Everest and becoming the first man to to navigate the entire length of the Nile in a kayak and the first to explore the entire COngo River.
Louise Arner Boyd was an American explorer of Greenaland and the Arctic who wrote exztensively of ther explorations and became the first woman to floy over the North Pole privately chartering a plane an crew.
Bear Grylls is a British explorer being one of the youngest men ever to climb Mt Everest at 23 and continues to brave the elements as a survivalist in many wilderness survival television series continuously braving the elements.
The Bible is also filled with adventurers:
Moses braving the elements and leaving all that is familiar so that he could lead a people and start a new nation.
Daniel being taken against his will and forced to accept and adhere to a foreign culture and work for King that threatened his extinction
Esther the orphaned girl who risks it all to stop a national genocide of her own people going from Beauty Pagent winner to national hero.
The Apostle Paul was inspired by God to travel over 10,000 miles and over 281 days to travel to to the farthest regions to bring the Good News of a better life to those farthest away from truth.
The quest for pilgrimage is in us. Like Leonardo DiCaprio planting the irresistible desires in our deepest parts, God has been planted in us a desire to "seek" in us like the inception of all inceptions. We cannot “not” pursue a greater purpose and partake of the greater adventure. One particular figure in Christendom stands out with a spiritual theme of being a traveler on adventure. This historical hero is Augustine of Hippo. I would argue that except for the Apostle Paul, no believer has affected the perspective and scope or our Christian faith more than Augustine (354AD-430AD). Augustine was Born in North Africa to an unbelieving father named Patricius but a believing mother named Monica. Augustine moved away to university where he spent his time on “wild living” ultimately living with a woman and fathering a child together. Not only were his paths rough relationally and sexually but spiritually as well. Augustine’s spiritual path took him on a journey through the Manichaeans religion (a form of Gnosticism) and then Neloplatonic religion (combining the teachings of Plato and Eastern mysticism). His "spiritual path" was about to take a hard right as Augustine eventually was led to a Cathedral in Milan to hear a preacher named Ambrose where God opened his heart. God course-corrects Augustine out of his lifestyle of sin and darkness by leading him into the Milanese Garden where he hears a voice that says “tolle lege” or the words “take and read” which prompted him to open his nearby Bible. As he did, and as probably in moments similar to you perhaps when you get a “Holy disruption” from your “norm,” Augustine reads a passage of Scripture in Romans Chapter 13 that spoke specifically to his current life and compelling him to search for more:
“...not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to it’s lusts.” Romans 13:13
Convicted of his past and current life, Augustine repented and gave himself completely to Christ and was baptized on Easter morning by Bishop Ambrose. That moment changes the course of his direction and sets up Augustine’s Christian life to have a distinct and dominant spiritual metaphor that he articulated and lived consistently: “life as a journey.” Augustine saw life as an adventurous trek to his true homeland of heaven.
As with every venture there is progress and setbacks - times of gaining ground and times when we lose ground. Augustine presents the whole of our human existence as a spiritual quest where every step we take moves us closer God or father away. In fact God uses the twists and turns on the terrain of life for Augustine (and us too) to draw us closer to Himself. Augustine understood the words of Jesus when He refers to Himself as “the Way” to inspire those he was discipling to go on spiritual journey just as he pursued his own Journey. Solidifying the lessons from his own experiences of “finding his own path” , Augustine confirmed that no matter the starting point, when you seek God you find the ultimate adventure.
One of Augustine’s most famous quotes spoke not only to first Century Christians but to all of us as we navigate the “spiritual terrain” of our own lives:
“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek him the greatest adventure to find him the greatest human achievement.” -Augustine
"Seeking God is the greatest adventure." Adventures aren’t adventures without the traveler. And that traveler is you. According to Augustine, each of us is what he calls a "homo viator" - a traveler, a pilgrim. Humans are essentially always “moving towards something.” And this concept of the “Homo Viator” is another way of saying “man on the Way" or "man on the move." We know what our 2018 looks like to be on the move. Some of us call it "hustlin'" and some of us call it working hard. Whatever you call it you are on the move. And not just moving your career down the track but you are spiritually moving down the path. This pilgrimage is not our choice but our existential situation. We are not “home” yet but we are “on our way home.” Which means we are never meant to be stagnant.
But sometimes life has a way of slowing us down. Spiritual boredom does subtly show up in our devotional lives. Instead of moving we settle. And when we do, we become frustrated at our life because feeling “stuck” is not how we were intended by God to operate but we are to be on a journey and essentially “moving towards God.” We are made for God and we are meant to adventure. When we become stagnant we get restless, spiritually “fidgety” and agitated at life. Augustine knew this as he moved forward in his spiritually journey reminding us of our constant need of moving forward on this journey of life:
“Thou has made us for thyself, o Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds it’s rest in thee.” -Augustine
To be “restless” is to find ourselves deeply looking inward and asking ourselves this question: there has to be more to life than this. I have purpose, I have significance, I have meaning. We are saying in essence, “I want my life to count and it feels like I’m just wasting my life.” So the result for many of us is to: leave our jobs and go on adventure, begin start-ups of our own and “eat, pray love” our way to self-discovery. While some of these “hasty” decisions seem normal and what many are doing, these powerful decisions to pursue our “quest for meaning” becomes a “wanderings in the wilderness” only to leave us wanted and uprooted professionally, relationally, spiritually and emotionally again and again and again.
The other side of our restless hearts allow us to ignore our built in desire to pursue. So we choose to ignore this decision by choosing to settle. We make excuses giving us permission to be recluses. We become dormant in our careers, docile in our spiritual life, sluggish in our relationships making our future seem stale and our passions and acquiescent. Our restlessness becomes uselessness and we choose to accept our bland stationary lives and we never see or experience the “life to the full” that God has always had in mind for us.
Our need for social media, our access to unlimited information, and our condition of being an “orphaned culture” because of divorce and family stability leaves us stationary, secluded, uninterested and lazy rather than longing for adventure. Stanley Hauerwas speaks of our nature as Christians as “adventurous colonists” in a society of unbelief by making this provocative claim about Christianity,
“...Western culture is devoid of a sense of journey, or adventure because it lacks belief in much more than the cultivation of an ever-shrinking horizon of self-preservation and self-expression.” -Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens
When we lack a sense of journey we lack our sense of identity. God puts his people on a journey to not just find themselves but to find God, Himself. Even the very essence of a disciple of Jesus is to “come and follow Me.” If that's true, then perhaps a lack of belief results in a lack of movement. Lack of movement causes us as Christians to exchange our “mandate as a movement” for a “montage of monuments” leaving us longing for a “time gone by” rather than a “terrain to explore.”
God knows our desire to follow, to pursue, to seek. When Jesus comes to call humanity back to it’s purpose from the beginning (Matthew 6:33). While many are wondering what path to take, where to go, what to believe, Jesus addresses the worry by and inspiring all present to make the priority “to seek first” then you will worry less and find your path. In the Psalms God makes this claim,
“You will make known to me the path of life; in your presence is the fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever.” -Psalm 16:11
Of the many paths in life, there is only one that is necessary. There is only one that makes sense in the long run. Augustine discovered, there are many paths to a life that is full of difficulty and hardship. We know the journey we take in this world will be full of good people and good things. But there are also evil people who do evil things. Perhaps the essence of evil is moving away from God and the the choice of obedience is moving towards God. Like a compass, sin reorientates us towards moving the opposite direction while repentance continues to move us towards God and our spiritual homeland. That’s the difference between repentance and simply “feeling sorry for what we’ve done.” Confession turns us towards God but repentance moves us forward in God’s direction. Confession with out repentance causes us to walk in circles. God’s heart for us is to be confronted with the truth of Jesus, turn and move forward in obedience steps towards our future in God. Repentance is turning from sin and moving forward into God’s Grace. Christians are great at turning from sin but bad at moving forward. Repentance without progression is spiritually walking in circles. If repentance is forward motion then sin is backward motion.
We can relate to Augustine. Those same pressures back then face us today: the pursuit of sex and relationships, power and prestige to become someone of influence, status and wealth, self-preserved and self-promoting. All mirages while wandering the dry empty deserts of empty spiritual terrain. Each of these a seeming oasis only to be false image with an empty promise with each step of this journey to once again find us lost and without direction.
Augustine knew it was not just Christians, but all people are on a journey. While in life, it is collectively discouraged to move backwards, there is a universal understanding that “forward motion” in life is positive no matter where you are at and even more significant as a Christian. That when we are encouraged to take deliberate steps forward with purpose and intentionality then we not only move forward towards something better in life but specifically “Someone” better for our life.
How's your life of "spiritual adventure" going?