An adventure is just an inconvenience rightly considered.
He dashes down the stairs to the station with a pinched and focused look on his face, grumbling under his breath about the tourists who were making him late. His card doesn’t work the first time he swipes it. He swears at the turnstile as he scans the card again. He hears the rumble of the arriving train a story below as he rushes down the escalator, gritting his teeth. He rounds the corner to see the doors open on the train he needs to catch. With only a yard to go, the doors slide shut with a familiar “beep-boop.” He slams his fist into the side of the departing train, turns, and sits down heavily on the bench behind him. Cussing again, he takes out his phone and starts swiping through the news, without so much as a glance at those around him.
The long days and weeks and years of our life can easily become a grind. We float on a stale breeze down a slow spiral, past inconvenience and frustration, inserting a few breaks from the everyday monotony, until even those little sparks of enjoyment dull and we land in the final terrifying inconvenience of death. Life lags or rushes on and on, and what is there to enjoy but another day of the same? Life becomes a tedious plod over the endless badlands. Miles of monotonous grey highway through the heart of some barren land. Nothing much to speak of. Nothing much to look forward to, save, perhaps, the rest of death.
Looking at life this way decaffeinates, dehydrates, and skims the great draught of life and then adds artificial flavors. It removes or diminishes all the natural beauties of life then throws in some carcinogenic sweetener just to make the remaining medicine palatable.
Such an approach to life misses the point not because it is focused too much on the practical, eschewing vain romanticism, but because it fails to back up enough to see the big picture and refuses to dig in enough to notice the details. It’s a life lived on the surface, eyes fixed on the “gist” of things, failing to see both the joy of the moment and the peace of the whole, but only the discomfort of the vague. A life of disaffection in the dim light of a twitter-fed world.
Such a perspective reduces the surprising little delights of each moment to mere inconveniences.
Yet, life is full of adventure for those who learn to look for it.
We are surrounded by these little adventures every day. Our friend on the subway, for instance, missed the rainbow sparkle of the morning sun refracted off the sign for fine crystals across the street and the smile of the girl who noticed the magic of these little rainbows dancing across the sidewalk. He missed the story of the beggar at the foot of the stairs and the song of the busker in the tunnel. He missed the awe of the boy as he saw his first train station and the gentle smile of the boy’s single mother at her child’s joy. He missed her tired sigh as he sat down in the seat she had her eye on and her frown as he swore in front of her son. He missed hundreds of little adventures in those five minutes, and as each adventure leads to a thousand more, who knows how much he missed as he rushed through the details of life.
I pick on our imagined friend, but how often do you or I rush about life, frantic or placid, but ever busy about many things, forgetting the things that truly matter?
The way to see these little adventures in the right light is to recognize the great adventure of which they are all but a small part. All of these little details fit in the great adventure of our life like panes of glass in a great baroque window. Coming to know God, to discover the plan that He has laid before our feet, is this great life-long adventure. To learn how God is calling us to Himself puts each of the little events of life in perspective and makes it sparkle with wonder.
Keeping in sight the wonders of this great adventure, the soul avoids getting lost in this project at work, this business deal, or even this long-awaited vacation. Its eyes fixed on the final prize, the soul finds that every moment becomes more of a delight and every little thing becomes more wondrous, as the pane of emerald glass is even more wondrous when seen in its place in the window.
If we can see each day and each hour and our whole life in expectation of some great adventure, each sunrise trembles with anticipation as each hour ripens with the question “what adventure does the Lord have in store for me today?” In a life lived thus, if we can learn to see life as the adventure of coming to know the Lord and learning to walk in His way, death itself ceases to be a mere inconvenience or welcome rest, but rather the last and greatest adventure for which we prepare our whole life long.
Image: Jamieson Weaver, Stained Glass.