Peb Jackson: A fierce wind whipped against my pajamas, and the tornado siren wailed as I held my father’s hand and raced across the yard for the cellar under the guesthouse. I was a small boy in the little town of Haviland, Kansas, encountering real danger for the first time. I remember cowering in the dark cellar, feeling both afraid and thrilled.
As a boy, I always seemed to find opportunities to rediscover that thrill. I’d run across a road when a big truck was coming. I’d walk along a railroad track while a train headed my way. I’d climb the outside ladder rungs of the tenstory water tower at the center of town. I also tried, several times, to hold a cherry-bomb firecracker for as long as I could. Once I held on too long; the explosion lacerated my fingers. Yet that was part of the allure. The danger was real, and so were the consequences.
One other example stands out to me. When I was thirteen, I was driving a tractor and pulling a plow on my uncle’s farm. What could be more boring than trying to maintain a straight line in a field for twelve hours? Then I spotted a group of young rabbits darting in alarm from the noise. I somehow tied the steering wheel down and kept the tractor and plow moving while I jumped off, chased down a couple of the rabbits, and jumped back onto the tractor in front of the lethal plow, grinning in triumph. Again, the proximity to risk and its consequences was powerfully attractive.
My fascination with adventure and danger was further fed by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan books and Maurice Herzog’s mountaineering classic Annapurna. When my father took my twin brother and me on backpacking trips around the Grand Tetons, I imagined myself climbing the heights in the Himalayas with Herzog and other explorers. It was the beginning of a lifelong dedication to pursuing and uncovering the benefits of risk.
Jim Lund: I wasn’t as daring as Peb while growing up, but I do recall, as a boy, following a local lad into a hidden tunnel on an Oregon beach and discovering that it stretched far longer and deeper than I could have imagined. Like Peb, I shuddered with a wonderful mixture of fear and excitement. Who knew what lay ahead in that unexpected labyrinth beneath the sand?
Also like Peb, as a youth I was enraptured by tales of marvels and risk and daring: books about dinosaurs and the Hardy boys, TV shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Star Trek. I wanted to be there with Frank and Joe, with captains Crane and Kirk, solving mysteries and exploring the farthest reaches of sea and space.
Many years later, my eight-year-old, Peter, and I were riding our “trail bikes”–a pair of beat-up Magnas–down a dusty path on U.S. forest land in central Oregon. We dodged the outstretched branches of juniper trees as we flew along and kept a wary eye out for a recently sighted cougar.
We crested a hill, and there, hidden in the trees on our left, was a huge formation of rocks that practically screamed out the words “Climb me!” In an instant, Peter had dropped his bike and was running for them. “C’mon, Dad!” he yelled. It was vintage Peter, a boy who’s constantly veering off-trail to explore a cave, a bug, a shadow, a sound, or whatever else strikes his imagination.
Then came the moment I remember best from that afternoon. As he ran, Peter twisted his torso for a glance back at me. He didn’t speak, but his look said it all: Are you coming, Dad? I’m not quite sure what’s ahead, but I can’t wait to check it out–as long as you’re with me.
Isn’t that a picture from some point in all our childhoods? We’re curious, ready for adventure, excited about the possibilities, thrilled with the hunt. Suddenly, in the midst of the journey, a sliver of doubt needles in. Hey, there might be danger here–do we know what we’re getting into? But a glance reassures. There’s Dad. It’s okay. So let’s go!
We’re all born with that sense of curiosity, with an instinctive need to stretch and learn and discover. It’s one of God’s gifts for this life. Sadly, most of us grow out of it. We become analytical, judgmental, protective. We fear what failure will do to us or make us look like to others, never mind that failure is one of our greatest teachers.
Worst of all, in that critical moment of doubt, we forget what we knew to do instinctively as children–to look for Dad. Then it meant making eye contact with our earthly father. Today it means seeking and connecting with our Father in heaven.
God created us with this innate desire to risk. It’s what makes us grow, spiritually and otherwise. Taking risks for His sake brings Him glory. Remembering to “look for Dad” draws us closer to Him.
Peb: Sharon, my wife of thirty-seven years, has joined me on some of my adventures, though she never really gets excited about cold, pain, and fatigue the way I do. But she gave me one of the most important verses of my life, one I quote often to anyone who will listen:
He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth– the LORD God Almighty is his name.
God formed each of us and the wondrous world we inhabit. He also gave us a passion to learn and explore. It was no accident. It’s our pathway to faith.
Jim: Risk. Adventure. Danger.We don’t normally associate those words with a devout faith. But in reality, the explorer and the believer are both walking the same path. The life of faith is a daring adventure, full of risk and danger. Jesus said: “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag” (Luke 19:26, MSG).
The disciples risked everything to follow Christ. So did Stephen, Paul, and the other believers of the early church. In the first century, Paul wrote: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long’ ”
In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther wrote: “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times.”
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, author John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart : “Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man.”
Today, our need to risk and to fulfill that adventurous, spiritual longing is just as great, and just as necessary. We’re not all equipped with the skills or mind-set to climb Mount Everest, dive to the ocean depths, or hunt Cape buffalo, and that’s okay. But too many of us aim to avoid risk entirely. We’ve worked hard to achieve what we already have–relationships, status, possessions.
We don’t want to put our comfortable lifestyles in jeopardy. Yet as we struggle to preserve our complacent existence, we miss out on the amazing rewards of risk. What rewards? Everything that matters–the fully developed faith, joy, and blessings God intends for each of us.
Faith in God is much more than sitting through a church service each Sunday. We are more than “pew potatoes.” Our faith must be active: “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4). We’re not watching a TV show or attending a concert; we’re participating in a great hunt. We are called to pursue a dangerous faith, living every thought, every activity, and every moment at risk for the Lord.
It may mean speaking up when you’d rather be quiet. Or quitting a job to preserve your integrity. Or revealing your deepest fear to your spouse. It is an intentional stretching of long-held beliefs. Only here, on the precipice between the comfortable and the unknown, will faith truly thrive. Only here will you discover the ironic truth: the more you risk and trust God, the closer you move to His heart–and the safer you become.
Peb: I probably have a couple hundred books on climbing and adventure, but few mention faith. It is a remarkable omission. Can you imagine the people fighting for their lives in Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer’s account of the 1996 tragedy on Everest, not reflecting on the afterlife and their relationship to God or not calling on God for help in those desperate circumstances? The more I thought about this, the more I felt the need for a book about men and women of faith who are attracted to dangerous pursuits. When I learned that Jim was on a similar trail, we joined forces.
The exploration of faith is, in fact, the greatest adventure of all. It means going all out, not just in our “spiritual” endeavors but in every aspect of life.
It means allowing the challenge of adventure to hone us so that we are equipped each day to bring glory to heaven.
The following true stories feature men and women who understand what I’m saying. They have answered the call to explore, to discover, and to seek God in the hard places. They are living out a bold, risk-filled faith–and have found their lives forever changed by the experience. Not all of them expected to meet God on their adventures, yet they all uncovered a holy reward beyond what they’d imagined.
Each of their stories is followed by a few closing comments from Jim or me on the practical applications of a dangerous faith. There are no dull moral lessons here. Instead, we offer what we hope are tools for your journey. When you accept this dangerous calling, you step out in a faith–and a life–so boldly, so completely, that you have no choice but to rely on God. You’re risking everything for what really matters. May these words inspire you to leave the comfortable life behind and dive headlong into complete trust in Him.