by Bruce G. Epperly
Summer is a time for holy adventures. The more relaxed schedule of life with longer weekends, time off for holidays and vacations, and, hopefully, a gentler work schedule opens up spaces for doing new things and exploring new possibilities. It opens each day for holy adventures that may, over time, transform your life.
I have a daily spiritual practice that has changed my life. As I leave my Lancaster, Pennsylvania home for my morning walk (nowadays at 5:30 a.m., given the intense heat in the mid-Atlantic), I make two verbal affirmations – usually in a low voice so I don’t wake the neighbors – “This is the day that God has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!” and “What surprising adventure will I have today?” Together, these affirmations shape how I look at the expected and unexpected events of the day. They open my spirit to joy and surprise, and awaken me to gifts in responding to whatever comes my way, whether joyful or challenging. They invite me to be an artist in creating my day, but also to let go of my agenda so that I can share in the lives of others whole-heartedly.
Whether or not we affirm it, our lives are an adventure. Although many things in our lives have been determined by birth, gender, sexual identity, education, family of origin, previous decisions, etc., each day brings unexpected events and opportunities to transform your life by creative decision-making and openness to adventures, small and large. When we open our lives to adventure, whatever happens will be an opportunity for spiritual growth and relational healing. Our creativity and freedom are never absolute, nor is the impact of the past all-determining; but in each moment we make choices that lead us toward abundance and adventure or scarcity and fear. Over time, our choices made one moment – or day – at a time can transform our lives.
Life is an adventure. In contrast to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, which speaks of God determining the key events of our lives, I believe that the present and future are open and that we are, to some degree, making it up as we go along. God wants us to be creative, to color outside the lines, and to make a difference in the creative process. God creates structures in the universe to maximize our freedom and creativity in support of one another. (For more on my response to Rick Warren, see Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living.)Well, how do we live out a holy adventure this summer in our daily lives – even if it’s only a wee adventure? First, it’s about attitude – open your heart and mind to new possibilities, and be willing to say “yes” rather than “no” to something unexpected. Second, look for possibility and growth in unexpected and challenging situations: often our attitude toward challenges makes the difference between health and illness, and joy and sorrow. Assume challenges will happen, assume that “stuff happens,” but that in the limitations, there are also possibilities for growth and creativity. Third, think outside the box – do you typically explore new ideas or simply live with the routine without considering change? What new ideas can you first entertain and then, whether you dive in head-first or dip your toe in the water tentatively, begin to embody in your daily life? Many people, and I am one of them, believe that imagination is one of the virtues we share with God, in fact, loving and creative imagination may be what’s most special about us as humans, the “image of God,” that makes us unique.
Fourth, go with the flow of life – the Taoists have it right. Oftentimes when we resist novelty, we resist the energies that give birth to life and which bring health and wholeness in our lives. Fifth, live with the beginner’s mind: see the world as if for the first time….in fact, you are always seeing life for the first time, since each moment is unique and new. Sixth, trust that God is the source of adventure in our lives – pause and notice, and prayerfully let yourself be stretched by the divine adventures living in and through you.
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Bruce Epperly is Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Continuing Education at Lancaster Theological Seminary and co-pastor of Disciples Community Church in Lancaster, PA. He is the author of seventeen books, including Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living and Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry.