My great-great grandfather was an adventurer.
He might not have seen himself as one as he plowed land in the country he had newly adopted; and more than likely he had doubts, fears and inhibitions as he travelled from 19th century Norway. But, by taking a step forward into what probably appeared to be darkness, he paved a new life for generations to come.
I don’t know the scientific research on whether traits, such as longing to explore the world, can be passed down from generation to generation, but I like to think that they can.
Part of me strongly believes that adventuring runs in my veins. It flows through my blood stream, and pulls me out of my comfort zone to discover the world around me. It allows me to believe in the impossible just long enough to make it into a reality, and opens my mind to see future dreams become the present.
Soon, another of my own adventures will be starting. I’ll be sharing more than a birthday with my great-great grandpa, as I pack my own bags, and travel to a country where the language, culture and people are not my own. I’ll work in an environment I’m not used to, and have to learn customs and muster every ounce of Morehouse/Svane stubbornness (which there is a lot of) in order to master myself and the new world around me. Coming from a strong Scandinavian family, I have no issue with not romanticizing the transition that is about to take place.
Words that currently come to mind are: Confusing, Frustrating, Overwhelming, Lonely, Isolating, Scary and Out Of My Control.
And while that list doesn’t look like the most promising start for this trip (and you’re probably wondering why I’m even considering still going) there are some times in life when what’s not written on paper outweighs what is. Over the years, I’ve learned that it is situations like these when God pours the most into my life. Where there is confusion, He brings peace. Where there is frustration, He brings understanding. When I am overwhelmed, He shares my burdens. When I am lonely He is my constant. When I feel isolated He holds me close. When I feel scared, He lights my way. And when I feel like things are out of my control, He reminds me that I need only be still.
Part of the agreement to living a life of faith is that, sometimes, we have to let go of what we know in order to understand the larger picture of what we don’t. Moving to France is one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. And as with all big decisions, there is a certain mixture of doubts that floods over you when you make them. But, once I push to the side all of the negative thoughts and feelings that naturally hop and skip to my mind, I’m reminded of that still small voice saying:
I am with you.
If you know me, even barely, you’ll know that I love being in control of things. I love organizing events, I love leading groups and I’m generally one of the first people to take charge in situations. None of these traits are inherently bad, but when it comes to finding myself in a place of change, it makes me feel about as comfortable as trying to balance on top of a hot air balloon.
Even though traveling has always been a huge part of my life, I still get anxiety every time I make the decision to go somewhere. Like, most recently, when I went on a solo backpacking trip around the UK and Ireland. Anyone/everyone could see my Instagram posts featuring Big Ben and the videos of Scottish bands and think, “Wow! This trip looks amazing!” And that’s not to say it wasn’t. But what you don’t see, is that I was borderline in tears at the airport on my way there, or that I had anxiety about every plane I boarded crashing and my body being forever lost in the Atlantic. There were times when I wanted to cry because I didn’t understand the monetary system of the countries I went to, the politics of the regions (don’t ever try to pay with Euro in Northern Ireland) or the backward streets ( I almost got hit at least 1-2 times per day).
But what I learned, is that out of the chaos and confusion of being vulnerable and naive to people and places beyond my normal, I was exposed to the most beautiful, raw and honest side of personal growth. I realized that security can turn into chains, if you let it impede on the places in your life that you are called to walk forward in.
It reminds me of a part of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Silver Chair. At one point, Aslan is talking to the main heroine, Jill when they first meet. Although Jill is “dying of thirst” she refuses to walk toward where the lion is standing, and drink from the stream. She doesn’t trust Aslan, because she doesn’t know Aslan. But my favorite part of the exchange is when she asks for confirmation. She asks Aslan, “Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” to which he promptly says no. She is required to step forward, to trust the unknown, in order to taste what she is longing for. There are no guarantees, no promises – simply the requirement to trust in something bigger than her own knowledge and direction. Finally, when Jill does take the step forward and taste water from the stream, she discovers it is the most delicious water she’s ever tasted, and that it fulfills her more than she could have ever imagined. Without risk, the only reward we receive is the knowledge of the present and the past. The future is for those who dream, discover and venture into the unknown.
In six and a half months I’m going to be on an airplane, traveling into uncertainty. I’ll probably cry in the airport, and I’ll probably have thoughts about the plane crashing the entire flight there. But, while my mind is racing, and my emotions are running off cliffs, I’m hoping to remember that deeper than the surface level feelings, there is a peace accessible which supersedes understanding (Phil. 4:17).
August 2014 will be the summer I take a step into the unknown and the slightly crazy. But, then again, the heart of an adventurer runs in my family.