Sitting on a rooftop during lunchbreak with a fellow carpenter I marveled at the wild Colorado sky. Distant lightning bolts spiked out of the clouds grabbing the plains and pulling the storm down out of the Rockies. Gray, purple, white, and silver clouds smattered the blue horizon. The summer storm rollicked over Pikes Peak swallowing the miles of empty plains separating us from the coming storm. Minute by minute the storm crawled ever nearer on its lightening legs. Thunder clapped. Shadows of black rain streaked the sky below the clouds. Sitting on a rooftop in the teeth of a lightning storm I trembled at this extreme encounter with God’s creation.
The heart stopping wonder I experienced that day is why so many seek out extreme adventures. We all desire the transcendent, the unexplainable and unmatchable experience of God. You feel incredibly alive when your life is at risk. But are extreme adventures all they’re cracked up to be?
There’s More to Life than Tempting Death
While reading Jon Krakauer’s 1997 book Into Thin Air, which recounts the May 11, 1996 death and disaster on Mount Everest, I was struck by the account Rob Hall, a climbing guide and six time Everest summitter. Hall was one of eleven casualties on the mountain that year. Out of oxygen, freezing to death, his last words over a satellite phone to his pregnant wife were, “Sleep well my sweetheart. Please don’t worry too much.”
Pursuing extreme adventures is not wrong. But is it as unbelievable as the thrill of witnessing your daughter’s birth?
The true tell of life is not what we face but what or who we don’t.
After they had eaten the forbidden fruit, God asked Adam and Eve rhetorically, “Where are you?”
We’ve been hiding ever since. Could chasing unbelievable adventure be one of our many ways of avoiding the real danger of being known and vulnerable to others and God? Experiencing life, even in the mundane, is often more challenging than tempting death.
Jonah, the original extreme adventurer, dove into the deepest sea to avoid God. Some climb Everest. I once lived through the dead of winter in a 15 foot by 15 foot cabin at 11,000 feet above sea level.
How far have you gone to hide from God and the everyday mission he has for you?
Discretion the Better Part of Valor
That day on the roof top the storm soon surrounded us. I tore my eyes from the storm’s power and looked at my partner. His now electrified red hair danced to the rhythm of the thunder. Static electricity snaked over the half-finished roof.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” I said and we scrambled off the roof and waited in the safety of the basement as the storm hissed and growled and boomed around us.
At times we all wish life were that charged, exciting. During this lock-down most of us have been mundaned to death. “Just one lightning bolt, please God! Anything but more Netflix!”
Yet God shows up more often in the florescent light of our living rooms than in lightning flashes of a wild storm. If we’re watching.
What God sighting can you watch for?
Ordinary Life with God Is Risk Enough
I wonder if our lust for adventure doesn’t cover a fear of ordinary reality. In my work as a pastor, I’ve met with people who would readily trust dangling from a mere nylon rope while on some rock face. But when I challenge them with the concept of trusting their lives to God, they balk.
“Too risky,” they say.
And I have to agree. Encountering God is risky. Pulitzer winning author Annie Dillard writes that if we knew the reality of encountering God, “Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”
Just look at the life of Christ. Everyone who tagged along with Jesus took a chance. Peter was torn from his safe life as a fisherman only to later be crucified upside down as the leader of a dangerous band of people who lived on the extreme love of God. Mary Magdalene gave up the security of prostitution for a risky life of giving her heart rather than her body to others.
Take a Risk with God
Average people often risk everything simply by experiencing ordinary reality while hanging on to an extraordinary faith in God. The real adventures in life are not only found on the summit of Everest or wind suit flying but in trusting Jesus Christ with your heart and soul, and then reaching out to the homeless, resisting racism, sharing Christ at work, forgiving a friend or family member, or doing the myriad of other normal things many of us consider too risky.
I’ll never forget the smell of the air, the tingle of electricity on my skin, the eerie light of that day on the roof. But buried deeper yet in my memory are the times I have taken a risk and let God touch me in the ordinary things of life. Giving my heart to The Redheaded-Wildflower, sitting and holding the cooling hand of a friend as she passed from this life to the next, writing a poem, staying at peace and silent while others receive the accolades.
Extreme adventure isn’t all it’s cracked up to be because it is a mere bet with death. It will never match up to a life lived in the dangerous humdrum of ordinary time because like the electricity of that storm, God fills the very air that surrounds us.
Become a lightning rod. Take a risk; stand up, face the storm, and allow God’s grace to strike your soul. The beauty, the clarity of that moment with God will be stunning now and forever more.