“The road goes ever on and on,
down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.”
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit
While I was growing up, my siblings and I often dreamed of finding great adventure in life. This led us to concoct some very imaginative tales, and it also got us into trouble. Much to our mother’s dismay, we army crawled through our neighbor’s back yard, leaped off the storage shed to see if we could fly, and traveled across the wet, marshy edge of a lake on foot – all in the name of adventure.
But the thing about true adventure is that it comes unexpectedly. You can’t plan for adventure… it simply has to find you. This makes me think of Bilbo Baggins from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, who very much wanted his life to remain the same. He was comfortable. He was happy. Why change? That is, until a friendly wizard named Gandalf began talking to him of great adventures, and wakened something inside of his heart. According to the book, “Then something Tookish woke up inside of him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking stick.”
And so Bilbo did something he had never done before. He tried something new. He took a chance. Stepped out into unchartered territory. And there, in that dark, mysterious place in life called the Unknown… adventure found him.
The Great Adventure of Ministry
I should have known, back then as a child, that I was being called to the ministry. For isn’t that what ministers do? They agree to follow God wherever He leads, stepping out on faith into the unknown, so that by walking hand in hand with God they can discover great purpose… and adventure.
Many of us dream of making a powerful difference in the lives of others and of being a part of a great ministry. But are we really willing to ask God to lead us wherever He will, and honestly be willing to follow Him the moment He calls?
In I Chronicles 4:10, this is exactly what a man named Jabez did:
“Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it might not pain me!’ And God granted his request.”
If we’re willing to step out into the unknown and trust God to lead us, He will certainly bring opportunities our way that are far more unexpected – and yes, adventurous – than we ever could have dreamed up!
The thing I’m discovering about the opportunities God sends our way, is that they tend to expand over time. If we’re faithful to follow in the beginning, He truly will “enlarge our border.”
This has certainly proven true for Janelle and I. In February 2012 I was determined to teach college classes for the rest of my life, when I felt a powerful conviction that I needed to go into the preaching ministry. I didn’t have a degree in religion, but I just knew that this is what I should do. It felt terrifying, leaving my comfort zone and stepping out into this new territory, but God is certainly blessing it.
In fact, as you’re reading this on Saturday morning, I’ll be officiating my first funeral. As I prepare to graduate and head into a pastoral position, opportunities have simply started to find me. Last week I sat in a coffee shop going over the funeral arrangements with the son of the deceased. Before we left I asked if I could pray for the man, and in spite of his “tough-guy” personality, he held his hand out to me. As I gripped his hand in mine and prayed over him, tears began flowing down his cheeks. And I thought, “This is part of what being a minister is. When someone just needs a friend, I get to be that friend.” And I loved it! How exciting to see more and more of these opportunities coming my way!
As for Janelle and me, we never dreamed that we would become so involved with the foster care system. But the Lord led us to take the classes and become licensed for a foster-to-adopt program, and now we’ve been active foster parents for 15 months! Not only that, but we’ve also begun meeting with several other couples who are in various stages of their foster journey. Some of them we met through our foster support groups, and others just seem to find us. The other day my sister called Janelle and said, “I have a friend who wants to do foster care but is feeling discouraged by all the paperwork. Can I have her call you guys?” So here we are, fully engaged in the foster network and counseling other couples through the process! It is truly amazing to see how God will expand your opportunities for service if you’ll just let Him lead you wherever He desires.
It turns out that life is an absolute adventure after all, with new dangers and thrills around every corner! But to experience this to the fullest, we have to leave our comfort zone. We have to step out!
“If you always do what you’ve always done,
You’ll always get what you’ve always got.”