Don’t Miss the Adventure

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To listen to this reflection as a podcast, click here.

When Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission, was ten years old, he went camping with his father and his two older brothers on Mt. Rainier – the massive, snow-covered volcanic dome that towers over Seattle. 
The upper slopes of Mt. Rainier are not for people seeking casual day hikes. 
Haugen still remembers the summer day when he and his dad and his brothers reached the top of the meadow trails and stood before the rugged path beckoning the most vigorous climbers to attempt the summit. 
There was a large warning sign.
In his book Just Courage Haugen writes, “With a text undoubtedly drafted by lawyers, the sign warned of every conceivable horror that awaited those who ventured beyond.  I wasn’t feeling particularly tired, but my little stomach ached as I looked up at the massive rock formations and snow fields that went up and up and up. 
“My dad suggested we try to reach Camp Muir, the base camp used by climbers heading for the summit, and my brothers eagerly accepted.  Dad assured me I could make it, that he would help me and that the view and the triumph would be more than worth the effort – and that it would be marvelous to do it together.”
Haugen, however, began to think it might be wiser to pay attention to those lawyers who had taken all that time to make such a nice sign.
Overwhelmed by anxieties, and not wanting to feel like the little kid who wouldn’t be able to keep up, he begged his father to let him stay at the visitor center. 
In truth, the Mt. Rainier visitor center has all the amenities that a tourist might want.  It’s got a snack bar, interesting displays, stuffed wild animals, and videos that run on a continuous loop.  Gary’s dad earnestly tried to talk him into joining the hike.  But the visitor center now seemed unusually interesting to him, and conveniently close at hand.
And entirely safe
Gary Haugen went on to spend what he describes as the longest afternoon of his ten-year-old life. 
He ended up feeling like a prisoner of the visitor center.  He recalls, “Dad and my brothers returned flushed with their triumph.  Their faces were red from the cold and their eyes clear with delight.  They were wet from the snow, famished, dehydrated, and nursing scrapes from the rocks and ice, but on the long drive home they had something else.  They had stories and an unforgettable day with their dad on a great mountain.  I, of course, revealed nothing, insisting that it was my favorite day of the whole vacation.”
Five decades later, however, Haugen still feels pangs of regret.  As he put it, he took the trip but missed the adventure.
It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s an epidemic of disillusionment among people who signed up years ago to “go out and change the world.” 
But instead of high adventure, so many of us feel stuck at the visitor center. 
What we’ve learned is that boring, predictable amenities for spiritual tourists can never satisfy what our hearts really hunger for. 
What does it look like to attempt the high slopes?  Go and serve.  Help the poor.  Do something for someone who can never pay you back.  Take risks.  Give away your time and your money to something you believe in.  Ask God to stir your heart with a cause so challenging, so daunting, and so worthwhile that you won’t be able to accomplish it unless he helps you every step of the way.
Take the trip. 
But don’t miss the adventure.