Have you ever noticed how at times you want to feel secure and settled, but at other times you long for a great adventure? From time to time even the most conservative of us have that restless feeling of the unknown calling us, enticing us with the possibility of having a great adventure.
Adventure has to do with uncertain outcomes. And inherent in any adventure is a risk. And, of course, the perceived risk involved is what keeps many of us from embarking on an adventure. Security can pull on us so heavily that, although we may think about the adventure, sometimes even long for it, we do not take the risk.
Faith is a great faculty within every human being. We may not know exactly how to define faith, but I think most of us will agree that exercising faith means taking a risk. Faith is stepping into the unknown. So developing our faith faculty can be an adventure. It can be considered risky business. It is not only stepping into the unknown, but it is stepping into the unknown alone.
Regardless of how many teachers we may have or how many books we have read, when it comes to our beliefs about ourselves and God, the time comes when we must step into the unknown. Other people can tell us about their experiences, they can even assure us that when we step out, it will be on solid ground, but it can still seem like there is nothing there to step on.
When we talk about faith or adventures or risks, we think about Abraham. Abraham is the Old Testament metaphysical symbol for faith. "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11:8).
It is difficult to appreciate what that meant at the time. Abraham was a wealthy man who already owned land and a home (Gen. 12:1). He left all that, uprooting his family, leaving his established, comfortable life to obey the summons of Spirit. He took an enormous risk, all on the promise that there was something more.
Most of us are not summoned to go to possess a new physical land. What we are summoned to do is to possess the great uncharted territory of our own soul, the vast unknown region within ourselves.
Let's see where the analogy takes us. Abraham got the summons at a time when he was comfortably settled. How common it is for us to hear the call to greater unfoldment just as we think we've gotten our life in order at last. If our life does not satisfy the desires of our heart, we may be sure that we will be summoned to change it. At several points in his journey, Abraham was nudged after holding back when he got a summons. Some of us do not obey the summons until some traumatic event occurs.
There were periods in his life when he ran into obstacles, situations where it seemed there was no way the promise of good in his adventure could ever come true. So it is with us. Any adventure is exciting at first but contains times when there are not only doubts, but fears.
But Abraham ultimately came to understand that the reward was more than worth the risk. Like you and me, he could not imagine what God was talking about when the summons first came. He had only limited information, as do we. But the story is there to remind us that there is more in store for us than we can possibly imagine when we are willing to step out in faith to take the risk, to go forth on the adventure.
Every day the summons to spiritual growth comes to us in different ways. Sometimes it is to do a very small thing, but something that requires taking a chance. Perhaps it is to speak to a stranger. Maybe it is to volunteer to do something you have never done before. Maybe it is to do something that you have been putting off because of fear.
John W. Gardner in his book Self-Renewal says that all of us, by the time we are grown, have a whole list of things we have decided we will never try to do, either because we have tried them and failed or we are sure we will.
I am not suggesting that we immediately go out and try all of those things on our list. But I am suggesting that little by little we can begin to find more joy and fulfillment in our lives if we are willing to risk doing some of them. All of the things that we have been afraid of are things that can teach us more about ourselves. And life is about self-discovery.