We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.
Life is a great adventure, and as every seasoned adventurer knows, adventures, by and large, are wonderfully, terribly, incredibly awful.
In remembering the great adventures, we often focus on the most adventurous moments, catastrophic or eucatastrophic—J.R.R. Tolkien’s word for the unexpected and sudden turn towards the good when all things seem dark. Often we think of these moments as the whole adventure: score swelling as the hero takes his first steps out the front door, the death of a beloved character, the final epic battle. Elf-queens and Dark Lords, Balrogs and Dementors. We forget that these are only moments in the grand adventure. Most of the time, an adventurer barely scratches the mundane. The whole journey of The Lord of the Rings took a little over a year, and most of that adventure was just walking over fen and field, marsh and mountain, through rain, sleet and snow. The day to day life of the Fellowship was dull and mundane. I’m sure they and many other heroes would have agreed with Bilbo’s refrain, “I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” Movies tend to sanitize this uncomfortable monotony. Life, unfortunately, does not permit for cut-scenes.
When it comes to the adventure of our lives, most days are “emptiness and pain, they pass swiftly and we are gone” (Ps 90:10). Most of our adventure takes place in the humdrum, daily slog, walking over the windswept moors of life under a dreary grey sky. Sure, this whole weighty business is peppered with catastrophes and little gems of light—more for those who can find wonder in the little delights of day-to-day existence—but even our catastrophes lack the glamour and thrill of trolls, goblins, or dragons. The greatest foe we have to face is our inevitable death, and this, at least, we share with every great adventure story.
And yet, there is nothing so inspiring and delightful as a good adventure, not because it neglects the mundane or romanticizes the catastrophic, but because the adventure transcends the day-to-day and subsumes the hero’s whole life into the majesty of the quest itself. Each hero pushes through the dullness and discomfort of their daily life because they have their eyes set on something greater. After all, an adventure can only be as good as its end, be it destroying the Ring, saving England, or defeating darkness in all its forms. As Sam puts it in the movie, “Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something … that there’s some good in this world … and it’s worth fighting for.” What makes an adventure story great comes down to what goal the hero seeks and what the hero will suffer to attain it.
In this light, the life of the Christian is the greatest of all adventures. It has its great moments and catastrophes, yet for the most part, our adventure unfolds in the merely mundane. Even though our trials seem trite in comparison to the tribulations of our favorite heroes, our adventure story surmounts many of theirs because of its end. Our adventure is the great battle for the eternal destiny of our soul. If we fight well unto death with Christ as our strength, beyond the tattered veil of death the Lord calls us home to the ultimate, unexpectedly happy ending. For, because the great eucatastrophe of history has happened when God took our human nature to Himself to redirect our fallen nature to His heavenly glory, we each can hope for the eucatastrophe of our own lives: our ultimate participation in this salvation, unworthy though we may be.
That being said, in order to get from here to there, we have many days of walking through fen and field, with some surprises along the way. But that is how adventures are lived out.
In light of such a wonderful end, let us stride forth heroically into the adventure that is out there waiting for us, for the greatest of all adventures finds its fulfillment in God.