Faith General Identity

Adventure and the Masculine Soul

“Adventure feeds the masculine soul.” John Eldredge

There it was!  Looming before me was one of the highest mountains in Austria; Grossvenediger. At just under 12,000 feet, the ascent would be nearly 9000 feet. My German friend, Arno and I had planned, calculated and otherwise lived and dreamed of conquering that mountain. That summer after graduating from university, I spent it living in a 15th-century castle as part of a missions internship. Days off found me hiking the various Alps around the Ober-Pinzgau Valley. With nearly 40,000 feet of ascent in 8 climbs, I was ready for the epic adventure of Grossvenediger.

Me at 22, on our way up Grossvenediger Mountain in the Austrian Alps.

Maybe it’s all the testosterone or the neurotransmitters in a guy’s brain, but something deep within drives a man towards adventure. Towards risk. Towards a larger view of himself. To dream small is to kill this yearning for adventure. The man who no longer dreams, who doesn’t risk suffers from faithlessness that kills the soul.

Adventure may include outdoor feats that push the bounds of insanity, but it can also be a deeply internal, soul-wrenching discovery of oneself and God. A discovery that clarifies and further defines you as a man.

In episode 89 of the And Son’s Podcast, hosts Sam and Blaine Eldredge interview Bart Hansen on the Maturing Adventure.

Adventure being categorized into three basic types: Casual, Critical and Epic.  Drawing from their podcast, I’d like to give you a few thoughts on forming your own adventures vital to your manhood journey.

Casual Adventures

You pursue it or it pursues you. It was a long day at work. Coming home, I jumped on my bike to take in the Kansas sunshine and breeze. A quick jaunt through our neighborhood park, over a footbridge and a wooded area. For a few seconds, I don’t feel like I’m in Kansas anymore. A push of endurance, to release endorphins and get my heart pumping. The bike frees me to focus on God. To hear from Him. An hour later, the stress I came home with has dissipated. It’s not that casual adventures are necessarily Facebook-worthy, but they stretch you. Expand and clarify.

Casual adventures can be all in your mind. Your thinking is stretched by a book or a conversation. Your eyes are opened to a different view of life. 

Critical Adventures

These are natural pivot points in life. They require more focus, more purpose, more of you to go in that new direction. You fall in love and propose. You buy your first car. You and your wife get pregnant for the first time. You change schools. Change jobs. Those and many others are part of the critical adventures in your manhood journey.

Critical adventures escort you into a new chapter of life. When our daughter was born, she surprised us by coming almost a month early! In fact, she came so fast, the doctor wasn’t there when her cherub face entered the world!  The nurse and I delivered her! That is one critical adventure I’ll never forget!

Your faith goes through critical adventures, or at least it should. When I was 16, my good friend Kevin was killed in a car-train accident. Talk about a crisis of faith. Was God who He said He was or was all this church activity a waste of time?  Too many of us men live with a boy’s faith. We are middle- school in our thinking about God while walking around in a man’s body in a man’s world. Then, we wonder why our faith seems so lame, so weak. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Epic Adventures

These are over the top, sensational, risky, life-stretching. They usually come with a story. Something that captures you. Leaves a mark on your soul. Here are a few of my epic adventures:

Chased by a Buffalo!

Free-range buffalo on the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

The Wichita Mountains are located in southwest Oklahoma.  After spending a hot summer afternoon hiking solo in the wildlife refuge, I was headed back to my car, walking through a grove of orderly planted pines. Suddenly, I hear this snorting sound behind me.  A buffalo charging at full speed was headed right towards me! I ran so fast I couldn’t cross over to the next row of pines. No sooner had I cleared the pines and jumped to the other side of my car, the buffalo came to a grinding halt no more than 20 feet away! Dust flying from his hooves, still snorting, I made the quickest getaway ever!

Falling towards a 1000 foot drop off

Arno and me resting on a glacier in the Austrian Alps. Young and full of adventure!

On another Austrian Alp hike, my German friend Arno and I were making our way across a small glacier at the top of a 1000 foot cliff. The trail was like a linear wedged step. Leaning into the mountain we slowly placed one crampon in front of the other. Then it happened. I slipped. My foot lost its toehold on that trail. The next thing I know I’m sliding feet first on my stomach towards a 1000 foot cliff!  Digging into the snow as hard as I could, I felt my life flashing before me. There was nothing Arno could do but watch. I dug in as hard as I could in the snow, catching a bowling ball-sized rock. It was enough to bring me to a halt; merely feet away from that cliff!

Arno threw me a rope and braced himself as I pulled myself up that snow-covered slope.  That is an epic adventure I’ll never forget!

Stratton Lake, Ontario, Canada

A seagull sitting on the perched rock where I almost drowned a few years ago.
Epic sometimes surprises you!

Algonquin Provincial Park is about an hour’s drive from our cottage. It’s a guys’ haven for adventure!  Initiating our new son-in-law on his first-ever hike, my son Justin and I took him up to Achray where we hiked in and set up camp on Stratton Lake. After napping in our hammocks, Justin decided to swim out to a boulder perched out of the water. Maybe 150 feet out, I sat on the shore and told Aaron “I can do that!”  Maneuvering through the rocky shore bottom, I started to swim out to Justin. About halfway out I flipped over to on my back. Suddenly, I felt an intense loss of strength. The cold lake water quickly surrounded me. I was drowning! I could barely get the words out “Justin! Justin.” If it wasn’t for Aaron getting Justin’s attention, I would have drowned!  The next thing I know, Justin is pulling me up on that perched rock. Five months later, I had quadruple bypass open-heart surgery. Another epic adventure that rocked my soul and taught me new ways to find my life in God.

Epic adventures are life-altering. Like an earthquake to the soul. God can be found in the epic. He wants to use your experiences to draw you closer to Him. even the difficult He uses to resurrect your soul, as it were, from complacency to an active trust in Him.

The Greatest Epic Adventure of All

Do not conclude from this that God only works in the epic. He works in ALL things His most epic adventure of all; love. At the core of your soul is a thirst for love that no other adventure can satisfy more than God can. That means in all you do, your greatest adventure is to find life in love with God. Some men pursue the woman as their adventure. Others pursue experience for experience-sake. Regardless of your age, choose adventures that will saturate you in God’s love. That my friend is the most epic of all adventures.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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