Earlier this year I was on a bus working my way towards the Central Business District of Nairobi, Kenya. I was headed to the Kenyan Immigration Office. For the entirety of that morning I had been completely racked with anxiety and stress (for those old school WWE fans think Lex Luger’s “Torture Rack” but in your stomach). My Kenyan work permit had been previously approved but only if I pay within 30 days of said approval.
I did indeed pay online within those 30 days but the day that I was actually dropping off the physical receipt was 35 days after the approval (why I couldn’t drop them off earlier is another story all together). Meaning, if the Kenyan immigration services wanted, they could give me major issues and even revoke my work permit. My ability to stay and serve as a missionary in Kenya long-term was hanging in the balance.
At some point on this anxiety-ridden bus ride I had a revelation. It was an epiphany that forced me to come to a difficult and uncomfortable realization. The question that sunk into the depths of my mind that led to this enlightenment was this: I LOVE going on adventures and seeking the unknown as I travel around Africa - I actually thrive on it and even go out of my way to create “exciting” scenarios that my wife doesn’t fully appreciate or always approve of (like arranging to stay at the homes of pastors in other African countries that I’ve never met and no one else that I know can vouch for them) - so why am I struggling with this?
I don’t know if I’m an adrenaline junky or not but whenever there’s an opportunity to do something crazy I definitely want in! For instance, literally one week before this whole work permit thing occurred I had conquered the third highest bungee jump in the world. I jumped off a bridge that was 216 meters (approx. 710 feet) above the ground and I did so without breaking a sweat and with barely an elevated heartbeat. I absolutely loved every second of it!
Yet, here I was worrying myself into an early grave because the receipt for my work permit is 5 days late? That stark contrast is what brought about the realization that it seems I am comfortable trusting my Maker with the unknowns of good health, long life, functional physical and cognitive abilities, and the like but I struggle to trust God with MY life. I don’t like unknowns in the areas of my plans, my vocational future, my family, etc. I can trust when it comes to my physical being and eternity but not with the life I desire to live while I’m here.
When it comes to a planned adventure I find it easy let go and I completely enjoy the ride. The whole fun part of an adventure IS the unknown. The excitement comes from not being sure what will happen next or who I’ll meet or what new kind of food I’ll eat or what beautiful landscape I’ll get to see. It’s in these unknown and unplanned for moments that memories are made and stories are told.
But, when it comes to life I hold on tightly trying to control even those things I know that I cannot control. That fateful morning on the crowded bus I realized for the first time that I don’t view life as an adventure. Instead I view life as something to be carefully planned out in order to eliminate unknowns. I view life as something that must have adventurous unknowns planned in to but I hadn’t been living as if life itself WAS the adventure.
As Peter Pan (played by the late Robin Williams) in the cult classic “Hook” once said, “To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.” I want to live fully, absent of fear and worry, in the beautiful and continuous unknown that is “life.” How about you?
My favorite meal is, and always will be, Kraft macaroni and cheese. There’s just nothing quite like the magnificent contents of that Blue Box. In relation to this blog, when it comes to Kraft mac and cheese there are ZERO unknown involved. It’s basic, simple, repeatable, and as safe as you can get.
The meal that connects to this blog on the adventurous side of the “unknown” spectrum is Pepe Soup. This West African delicacy (translated into American English as “Pepper Soup”) Is just that – a soup of spicy hot peppers and meat. This thing packs enough punch to wake the dead. You always know it will be hot but you never know if it will be “burn your face off hot” or the more bland version of “can’t stop your nose from running” hot.
On top of that, you’re always guessing which meats (yes, “meats” plural) will come in your Pepe Soup. It’s NEVER just one kind of meat but always a wide array. You might get any combination of crabs (you eat them shell and all), pigs feet, fish (bones and all), goat, beef, prawns, and cow and/or goat skin (without the hair). I’m not sure any meal I’ve ever eaten has as any possible variations as this one.
The song I would connect to this is “The Dance” by Garth Brooks because I don’t think any of us would want to know how this life ends, even if we could avoid the pain and unknown. It’s in the dance of life that we truly live.
Father, you are the author of adventure. Help me to see the beauty in the unknowns of my normal and boring day. May I relish the unexpected interruptions, the annoyances, and the uncertainties before me - knowing that this is how memories are made and real joy is found.
Don’t plan out every minute of your day tomorrow. Take a new way home from work. Take your partner out for an unexpected dinner date. Laugh at your mistakes. Sneak some unknown into your world and when something unexpected comes don’t retract but embrace the adventure ahead.