That great philosopher Winnie the Pooh once said:
I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.
— A. A. Milne
This speaks to me of my new husband, Dan.
I knew from the start, as we were building a friendship along the hiking and snowshoe trails in the Cascade Range, that this was no ordinary 60-something-year-old man.
This is a man with close to 150 stitches on his forehead, upper lip, and chin for trying to take out a row of mailboxes with his face. A man with a cracked shoulder blade and ribs for thinking he could jump a tree that had fallen across the road before deciding to slide under it. Both incidents courtesy of his motorcycle.
One of the items on my Dating Qualities list was for a man who loved outdoor activity as much as I did, a man who wasn’t in love with his recliner and TV remote control.
Which describes Dan perfectly.
This thought from an author unknown:
There is a whole world out there. Pack your backpack, your best friend, and go.
Dan and I are having an awful lot of fun packing our backpacks and each other. And heading into the mountains, the state parks, the national parks, the high trails.
But what if the adventure involves a cancer diagnosis? Or putting back the pieces of our lives after heartbreak, rejection, a failed marriage? What if it’s a hard and holy adventure we wouldn’t have written into our stories?
Do we still pack the backpack and embrace the unwanted adventure?
Oh, we do. We absolutely do. Because we don’t have a choice.
Well, we do have a choice. We can claim the couch and avoid the places that remind us of that good thing we once had. We can slowly break off relationships with people who remind us of happier, healthier, better days. We can box up all our dreams and haul them down to the farthest corner of the basement.
Or we can get off the couch and we can learn and grow and create something of value from our life experiences, no matter how challenging and heart-wrenching they are/were.
I met a couple over a phone interview, Richard and Diane Nares, who embraced an unwanted adventure. They were married a little later in life and struggled to get pregnant. Through IVF, they were able to conceive a much-cherished son. Emilio.
At age five, cancer took Emilio.
The couple worked through their grief and made it their life’s mission to serve low-income, underserved families facing childhood cancer issues through their non-profit, Emilio Nares Foundation:
1. Their “Ride with Emilio” program provides transportation to and from medical appointments. To date, they have logged in more than 1 million miles, and safely transported 4,000 children in Southern California.
2. “Emilio’s Snack Bags” are free nutritious snack bags with protein, fruit and carbs for young patients following chemo treatments. To date, 9,806 hospital-approved snack bags have been issued.
3. “End of Life Child and Family Care” assists with financial aid, funeral costs, fulfillment of children’s wishes, and meal cards during the last days of a child’s life.
Richard and Diane Nares lost much on a gut-wrenching, whirlwind adventure that left their heads spinning. But it prodded their focus to change—to the plight of the underserved families they came across while hanging out with Emilio in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.
This insight from a shepherd boy who once fell a giant with a slingshot and a smooth stone:
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. – Psalm 139:16
God is writing a book about each of us. And we get to help Him co-author our story.
When it comes to the wild and frightening adventures that overtake us, can we possibly choose to write in something that ends up being purposeful, something that will send our focus outward, even in the middle of our pain?
Because we’ve experienced the heart pain and deep disappointment. We’ve walked in those shoes. Which provides us with the authenticity and effectiveness to make a true difference.
Go ahead. Get off the couch.
Because until we start leaning into our awkward, messy, broken places, the things we were meant to do with our one wild, available, passionate life won’t happen: The Habitat for Humanity houses we were meant to build. The songs we were meant to write. The person we were meant to marry and partner with—even later in life—to make a difference in our corner of the world.
I’ll leave you with this admonition from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis:
Let us go on and take the adventure that shall fall to us.
And when the adventure goes off trail toward the unexpected, let us lean fully into the detour, into each other, into God and the beautiful story He’s writing for us.