There are many different metaphors people have used to describe life. Within spirituality some tried and true metaphors have been journey and pilgrimage. Both metaphors function well to characterize life as it is lived from womb to tomb. Of those metaphors, I like journey better. It seems true to me that every person does a journey through life. To be born inevitably begins the journey. We have no other choice. We are not able to do anything buy cry, eat, poop and sleep!
We cannot even get up and leave home till we already are one year old. Very few nine month olds can even get mad and crawl out the house! So those early days of our journeys are always with someone’s help. And for many folks the end of the journey also is negotiated with other’s help. I recall both of my parents moving into the hospice situation and being nearly helpless to continue their few remaining days on their own.
But there is usually that big gap between infancy and the ending of life when we are able to function as we choose and on our own, if we choose. We have apparent freedom to be what we want and do what we want. I say “apparent” here, because all of us know deep down we do not have complete freedom. There are some predictabilities in our journeys to which we would say “no,” if we could. Sickness would be an obvious example.
So journey is one metaphor…and it is a good one. However, another favorite metaphor for living life is adventure. In fact, I like this one better than journey. The metaphor of adventure adds some zest and pizzazz to our understanding of our unfolding life. Anybody can make the journey. But to do it as an adventure is a different order of living. We might say that journey is living; adventure is really living!
I would lift up two characteristics of adventure that makes life zesty. The first of these characteristics is risk. Just to mention this word probably makes some of us uneasy and a little scared. We would minimize or eradicate the risk in our lives, if we could. Since we usually cannot do this completely, we could perform what my business friend calls “risk management.”
To talk this way makes risk negative. But what if risk sometimes is the doorway to positive? I prefer to see it this way. In fact I think anyone one who has learned anything about love has taken risks. Learning to love is not learning to control, but learning to be vulnerable. Furthermore, I think the desire to become deeply spiritual necessarily entails a willingness to become a risk-taker. We usually call that “faith!”
The second characteristic of adventure is that of excitement. Simply being on a journey is not exciting. But if you embark on an adventure, there is usually some tinge of excitement in the air. There is normally some hint of remarkable possibilities. This is the pizzazz I mentioned earlier. And then it hit me!
I now see why so many of us talk about our spiritual journey. It probably is just that…it is a journey as I have described it. Being spiritual as a journey is ok. It will get us from here to there. It will make our trip from womb to tomb acceptable and, possibly, meaningful. But it is more controlled and usually more predictable. We may not really be up for embracing the fresh winds of the spirit. We would prefer a more placid breeze.
And then there are those who are engaged in a spiritual adventure. They have stepped into the fresh winds of the spirit. They are risk-takers. Surely Jesus had an adventure. And it crashed on the cross…but God, what a life…literally!
The spiritual adventure has excitement. It can be remarkable. It delivers zest and potentially deep meaning to our lives and others. I now know I am shifting metaphors for my remaining days. I am not against journeying…but I want adventure. What about you?