Living in New York City, it is easy to get caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle that is urban living. I run from work to the gym to hanging out with friend to church events to jam-packed vacations, hardly ever slowing down.
And it’s not just me. In reality, all of Western culture has moved to the way of immediate gratification, with iPhone applications, fast food chains and generational “job-hopping” dominating social landscapes.
More and more people today are challenged with the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4: “to aspire to live quietly.” We are faced with many distractions and temptations that could divert our focus and litter our minds as we walk the Christian way.
In many ways, this is nothing new. People have always been tempted to center their lives around things other than God—making God’s good gifts into idols to worship instead of worshipping the creator.
But I’ve recently been reflecting on one particular idol in my life, which I think a lot of people can relate to: the idol of adrenaline or “adventure”—the need for all things new, the drive to have an “exciting,” instagrammable life.
In our culture today, “adventure” drives and draws us in many ways. Even if we can’t travel to far off places, we as a society seem to desire new, exciting experiences for the here and now.
In everyday situations, this often comes out as impatience when our needs aren’t instantly met. Today, it seems that only kids and God have the patience for the monotonous. When I go out with friends, I approach the bar with a sense of insistent anticipation, expecting to be immediately served. When I walk down a busy avenue, I just want people to move and get out of my way.
And when I pray, I want to hear from God sooner rather than later.
Instead of learning to wait patiently, I allow myself to become emotionally stirred in the moment. I get frustrated and bored.
To put it another way, many of us have lost our fascination with the ordinary. Foundational to the idol of “adventure” is a deep craving for newness, creativity and significance.
We’re often afraid we’re missing out on something better—a better apartment, a better job, a better date.
This can breed a lifestyle of adrenaline where we hesitate to commit (because what if something better comes along?) and we don’t rest (because we might miss out on some fun opportunity!).
While being adventurous isn’t a bad thing, idolizing adventure can keep us focused on the short-term highs and make us struggle to patiently wait for what we desire long-term. In our pursuit of joy, it is essential that we distinguish between fleeting and lasting happiness, and the roads that lead us there.
We think the next new experience we have will make us feel significant instead of realizing that our true, ultimate, significance comes from God. In short, many of us have become experience junkies and are removed from places where God can meet us.
The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
In the Bible, the Hebrews 12 “Hall of Faith” outlines the many characters that lived ordinary lives and saw God intervene in miraculous ways. In these stories, God Himself was the extraordinary element. Jesus took the ordinary—bread, water, even spit—and made it extraordinary.
Paul writes about many ways we can further the Gospel and build our faith. One of those calls to action is to bring all idols to the Cross (Galatians 2:20). God has given us many things in this world that are good, and sin is the mere corruption of these blessings for our own end. It is always our choice how we handle that with which we are entrusted—will we allow those things to rule our hearts, or will we crucify such idols in deference to deeper knowledge of God?
So how do we begin to break down the idol of adventure in our lives? I believe we can start by remembering the Sabbath.
Rest is an essential part of our existence. In rest, we let ourselves slow down, choosing to be content in the ordinary experiences of our daily lives—and to let go of the other, potentially more exciting things we could be doing instead. We allow our minds, bodies and spirits the ability to recover and prepare for what is next. When we slow down and rid ourselves of distractions, God can meet us and move us.
The fall is a great opportunity for us to slow down and say “no” to certain things that can take us away from God. I ran hard over the summer, attending rooftop parties or taking trips to the beach. For me, slowing down may mean turning down the offer to teach another spin class on Sunday morning so I can ensure the opportunity to meet with God and commune with fellow Christians.
For others, it may mean passing on the third networking event in three nights to be with close friends in a more personal environment. Or it could also mean making a “To-Don’t List” so we leave room in our ordinary lives for the extraordinary God to show up.
Finally, we need to remember that God is in everything, and in Him is true adventure. Revelation 21:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 both remind us that God is the ultimate newness that our earthly cravings point toward. If we choose to slow down and stop forcing adventure, we realize how God is orchestrating our environment for us in an exciting way so that we (His children) can know and enjoy Him (our father) more.
It is healthy and natural to get excited about new experiences, to be passionate about the way we live, and to live with enthusiasm. But when chasing the next big thing dominates our routines and choices, we are slowly giving control of our hearts and minds to the ways of the world. If we choose to turn down good things for better things, God will reveal Himself in ways we had previously not had time for Him to do so.
May God grant us all the patience and contentment to live faithfully in the ordinary moments, knowing He will make all extraordinary by His presence.
Warren Perry lives in New York City where he is the Aquatics Director at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. His adrenaline addictions include swimming, cycling, rowing and kickball.