My mom friend Juanita and I were on an adventure hike at Tryon Creek State Park on MLK Junior Day, with our 12-year-old boys and my 6 year old boy plus our family friends from Sudan, their 12-year-old and 13 -year old kids.
The four 12-year-old boys were meandering off the trail to discover trees that had fallen over the creek, and they wanted to walk over these logs to get to the other side of the creek.
They came up with this idea on their own. Though at first I thought they should not go off the trail, yet I then realized that there were no signs up that said they could not go off the trail, so we let them. Too many times at school and in life, kids are required to stay in bounds and live between the borders of walls and books and desks, and told to color in the lines, but real life is sometimes off the trail and outside of the lines and off the trails.
So, the boys took off down toward the log which had fallen over the creek, and I followed them to make sure they were okay. Then, another woman who was also out for a hike at Tryon that day, stopped to see what the boys were doing, and with hesitation in her voice asked my friend, “Is it safe?”
My friend said unashamedly to this other woman, of course it is safe, and they are just boys on an adventure.
The question, Is it safe? got me thinking about family life and safety and kids living in our suburban culture, where they are so sheltered and not allowed to explore and where they are driven everywhere they go and are not allowed to walk or bike anywhere. Ironically enough because families move to the suburbs to be safe!
I also thought about life as a believer and how we in the church always pray for safety and protection which is a great prayer and all. But is there more to life than just praying for safety and hence, an easy life.
And I think of the promise that so many people in the church base their Christian life upon, the promise that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life, and when we think of a wonderful plan, we think of a life that is safe and conflict free.
Of course, being safe and conflict free might be good things to want in general, but it seems that we forget that when life has conflicts and risks and outside the box experiences, that is when we seem to grow the most. And when we need God the most.
When our lives are lived outside the box in the realm of adventure and risk, when we take chances and get out of the safety zone, we live lives where we have not choice but to be dependent upon God and where we look to Him and where we learn new things. And when we try new things and live outside the box in one area of our lives, we will risk and truly live in other areas of our lives.
Adults need this. Kids need this. Kids in suburbia USA need chances to climb across trees that have fallen across creeks, to try to figure out how best to do this, to help one another in the task, to problem solve together how best to do this. To learn to trust in God.
As my friend and I watched our 12 year old sixth graders, we saw their eagerness to find log after log to cross the creek, and we saw team work as they tried to figure out the best way to make it and we saw their laughter and the challenge that it was and the excitement when they made it across, each time waiting for one another to cross.
And my 6 y ear old also along for the hike wanted so badly to join the older boys and I kept saying it is too hard and he kept getting mad at me for saying it was too hard, so on one log that seemed reasonable for a 6 year old to cross, I said that we could cross it together and we tried, but my 6 year old got scared half way across so we turned around. But on the next log he wanted to join the older boys again, so I took him, and we made it all the way across that time, and it was such a great adventure for my 6 year old.
The challenge, the adventure, the risk, the creativity, the team work, the maneuvering to find the best route were all skills that can be transferred to real life and real faith.
The boys got dirty and the trails were muddy and getting off the trails was even muddier, but the boys did not complain. They kept looking for more logs to cross.
The next day, I got a call from the mom friend and she said her son had such an amazing time with us, and that is all he could talk about, the adventure with my boys.
Was it safe? It was safe enough and we were smart about it.
And, most importantly, it was an adventure.