Culture challenge of the week: Choosing adventure or safety
Throughout history, pioneers have left the warmth of home to light upon untamed lands. Explorers have ventured into the deep of the sea and the dark of the sky. Adventurers have crossed oceans and deserts, mountains and chasms.
Danger appeals to us.
As children, we dream of becoming heroes of a wild breed — mountain climbers and lion tamers — because we want to be brave.
But there are many good men and women we admire who work diligently in humbler jobs to provide security and peace for the ones they love. As young adults, most of us opt to become one of those tamer heroes — the well-respected professionals — because we find value in dependability.
Safety also appeals to us.
Perhaps danger is a reckless lust indulged only by the irresponsible. Or perhaps it is an important part of our nature that is too often suppressed, only to be lived vicariously through late-night TV dramas.
Or maybe life is a little more complex, a little more mysterious than that. Danger and safety, adventure and stability are desires often at odds with one another. We feel that we have to choose each moment between what is adventurous and what is safe. But rather than choosing one over the other, there is a way to view the two as a paradox.
One of my favorite quotations from G.K Chesterton illustrates the type of relationship I am referring to:
"If our life is ever to really be as beautiful as a fairy tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy-tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which stops just short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also, if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder and haughty enough to defy.
"So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt. It must be one particular proportion of the two — which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good or happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance — like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them."
Faith and doubt would seem to be in opposition, yet they depend upon one another to make the story compelling. In the same way, adventure and safety make each other more appealing, more marvelous, when they join together in a very particular combination.
How to save your family: Search for balance
Would you believe me if I told you that the most dangerous thing you could do in this life is also the safest? The most foolish thing you could do is also the wisest? And the most sacrificial thing you could do would give you the greatest reward?
What if I told you that through death you would find life?
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."
In Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live."
Jesus tells his followers to take up their crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23), yet he also says that his purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10).
Either this is all foolishness, or something supernatural is at work in these promises. This is the Christian story, and it has been told through the lives of thousands of believers throughout many generations. We are fools to the rest of the world, yet we are confident beyond measure.
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed but not driven to despair. We are hunted down but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
"We die to our former ways of life and are transformed into newness of life." (Ephesians 4:22-23)
The Christian life is the most daring, and yet the safest, of all adventures. You never know where God might lead you or what he may require of you. But you always know that he is causing everything to work together for your ultimate and eternal good (Romans 8:28).
I challenge you to look into the paradoxical promises presented in the Bible. Read about the men and women of faith who lived bold and dangerous lives because they knew their souls rested in safety. You might start with the Book of Acts, which I have just started reading again as I travel through Greece and Turkey this summer. It is filled with inspiring accounts of early Christians facing untold challenges and persecution as they share the truth with a hostile world. Other New Testament books tell how they boldly shared in peace and with joy — even accounts of them singing and praising God while chained in jail cells after having endured brutal beatings.
Ask God to show you how you can step further into a life of faith and further into the security it offers. There is no greater way to live.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.