“Most great adventures work that way. You don’t plan them, you don’t get all the details right, you just do them.” -Bob Goff, Love Does
Think about a book you love. A story treasured from one generation to the next; one so powerful it offers readers insight each year it’s read.
Stories like those have a funny way of sticking to your heart, like snow on frozen ground. Yet it often seems hard to decipher what qualities connect them all to greatness. Is it a complex prose? Captivating dialogue? Or, a meticulously planned storyline?
But when I think of my all-time favorite stories (like Harry Potter, The Alchemist, or the Narnia series), the common theme I find is the unexpected adventure their characters find themselves in.
Take JRR Tolkien’s writing as an example. One of his most beloved books, The Hobbit, follows the story of—you guessed it—an unsuspecting Hobbit (Bilbo Baggins) as he is plucked from his comfortable life in the sleepy Shire and thrown into one adventure after another. Each chapter leads him and his merry companions down quite a different path than he would have chosen for himself.
If you asked Bilbo at the start of his story what he would have thought about freeing a crew of rowdy dwarves from the clutches of three hungry giants, I suspect he would have exclaimed that such an idea were the most adventurous thing imaginable. However, if you questioned him about that same experience after he had outwitted the legendary dragon Smog, his encounter with giants would have likely seemed like nothing more than a bump in the road.
That’s what adventure does; it takes us by surprise and gradually transforms an ordinary story into something spectacular.
The funny thing about adventures is that they aren’t something we plan (at least not the best ones). They are like lions in the wild; majestic to behold, yet utterly unpredictable. They might sit seemingly docile for a time, but don’t discount them, because once they have fixed their gaze on a target they become unstoppable.
By looking at the greatest stories of our time, both fictional and real, I find the very best adventures are rarely chosen—or even sought out at first. Rather, they are the ones that choose us. And this choosing isn’t limited to a few people. Each of us are invited into an adventure uniquely shaped for our lives, our giftings, and our passions. Yet few of us recognize these invitations as Adventure when the call first comes.
Like Bilbo, when Adventure first offers its outstretched hand we are often tucked away in the safety of our own little hobbit holes. These are the places where questions far outweigh what we know of the enticing offer before us. We might try to peak around Adventure’s shoulders for a glimpse of the path he came from, but often his breadth fills the entirety of our doorstep so we are left with no real clue about what awaits just beyond. We either take that hand (with timidity or boldness—either will do, because at least we have accepted), or we make an excuse, shut the door, and retreat to the chair by the fire where tea and a nice little book about other people’s adventures waits.
That’s what adventure does; it invites us into a story far more magnificent than what we might dare to write for ourselves.
If Adventure has beckoned and you have turned it down, don’t worry. You’re not alone. We have all felt the same cultural pressures that glorify diligent planning and urge us to precisely map out our lives. Whether it be 401k’s, investment strategies, mortgages, you name it—we are planners to the core. None of that is bad, but it does confine us.
So when Adventure calls, it often goes against the grain of everything inside of us that seeks order and safety.
It’s true, we can live without the touch of adventure ever modifying our well-laid plans… but should we? We might keep our lives safe and comfortable, yes; but the story that kind of life tells won’t be one we pass along for years to come. Nor will it be a story that points others toward something more.
No matter how young or old, I believe we each have the power to tell a story of great adventure through the unique context of our lives.
Best of all, we are given this choice daily. It likely won’t look like Bilbo’s invitation at first since even the greatest of Adventure’s invitations often start out small (that’s why so many of us miss them). But that constant call to something far more rich, beautiful, and unpredictable than we can imagine will always be there.
So whether it’s an invitation to take the literal (or figurative) road less traveled, to write that letter, to book those plane tickets, to apply for that dream job, or to pick up your family and move around the world—Adventure calls to us constantly, and rarely to journey the same way twice.
If you have turned down Adventure before, rest assured it will seek you out again, just as it continues to seek me.
Because that’s what adventure does; it seeks us out and doesn’t stop until we’ve responded.
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