If you are like me, there are times you feel pulled apart by competing impulses. On the one hand, you feel the need for security, to be fully at home, to know that everything will be OK. You say to yourself, “thats a normal and reasonable impulse”, and of course it is. But its not quite enough for you. You also crave adventure. You have this inbuilt need to do something exciting and meaningful, to risk something in order to gain something more, to experience the creative wildness of the world and to leave your mark. You dream a little. But then that impulse for adventure bumps into the impulse for security and you find yourself tangled up a bit, suspended in-between.
Know the territory? Paul Tournier did. Tournier (1898-1986) was a well-known Swiss doctor, a Christian, and a prolific author. I have read many of his books and find him to be one of the most helpful pastoral counsellors I know of. Tournier saw people as walking a common path: needing security, but craving adventure.
I once found myself on a mid-week afternoon kicking around a used book store, looking mindlessly for who knows what. I was at loose ends, belonging nowhere. And there I happened upon Tournier’s book A Place for You (1966) buried in the dusty shelves. I opened to the front page and read about a conversation the good doctor had with a young student filled with anxiety:
He was trying to look objectively at what was going on inside him and to understand it. Then, as if summing up his thoughts, he looked at me and said: “Basically, I’m always looking for a place – for somewhere to be.” [pg. 1]
In that moment, Tournier named what I was aching for, what I have always been in search for: a place to belong in the most fundamental sense, where who I am is accepted and appreciated. Its one of the truest things about me. Its one of the truest things about you. Home. Belonging. Security.
But the need for home is not all I need. I also need adventure. In The Adventure of Living (1965), Tournier makes the case that adventure is intrinsic to our well being. In tension with our need for home and security, we also look for “something new, to break the deadly monotony and impotence of a society that is overorganized [sic] and fossilized.” [pg. 6] Adventure, says Tournier, is not merely something for outwardly confident and bold personalities. Adventure is where life finds its pizzazz.
But can we live without adventure? Perhaps, but not well. The truth is we long for something beyond our safe keeping, something meaningful and exhilarating, something that looks like love or feels like significance. We want something to happen.
Tournier mentions that his then fourteen year old son broke his leg while skiing. While Tournier and his wife were upset with the accident, their son wasn’t. “I’m quite glad”, he said. “Something has happened to me at last.” [pg. 12] Which reminds us that the worst thing that can happen in life is nothing at all. Change, newness, development -- resurrection -- these are life's necessities.
This is the heart of the tension I think, because the need for something to happen also opens us up to the possibility that such happenings might cost us a bit. Is adventure dangerous? Perhaps. But its more dangerous, says Tournier, to be as “those who no longer feel thrilled by anything, who have stopped looking for adventure.” [pg. 13] The life of non-adventure is as as dangerous as the life that doesn’t belong anywhere. Both are intolerable.
Let me invite you into serious consideration of the adventure side of life. Consider this: that the grace of God is more than the security of home and the affirmation that you belong; it is also the call to change, to courage to grow, and the power to build and become. Grace is secure adventure. Tournier says:
“The Bible is the book of adventure and must be read as such. Not only the adventure of the world and humanity, but the personal adventure of each man and woman whom God touches, calls, and sends into action... The Bible also gives adventure its true meaning, for from end to end it reveals what is at stake in all our work, all our activity, all our choices, and all our self-commitment.” [pg. 82]
What is at stake is our very joy, our very meaning, our very significance in life.
What is in your heart? What adventure, big or small, have you been thinking about lately?