Risk and adventure can lead to powerful, deep relationships. There is something about leaving comfort zones behind, surrounding ourselves with God's grandeur, and meeting obstacles together that strips away pretensions and barriers. It's as if we can't help being "real." We're forced to depend on each other and get to know each other on a deeper level. We share challenges and experiences that bond us for life.
We've all seen how shared risk and experience cement relationships among sports teams, soldiers (think Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers), and even friends and colleagues at work. It applies just as much to your family. If you want to draw close to your spouse and kids, why not launch into an adventure? Here are five ideas that will strengthen your family ties this spring and summer.
1. Take a hike. Step away from your computer screen and into the great outdoors. Your feet will lead you and your family into a new world if you let them. Read up on the flora and fauna in your area and check out a nearby woods or nature trail. Keep your hike's distance and difficulty age-appropriate to your family. If you live in an urban area, check out a city park. If you can't find a wilderness, explore an area of the city you've never seen before. The adventure is in discovering something new together.
I (Peb) still vividly remember walking through the woods with my dad and brother at the age of seven and encountering a log that had fallen across a raging river. We knew immediately that we had to cross it! I volunteered to go first and teetered my way over the rapids, followed by my brother and dad. Reaching the other side safely was a thrilling "high-five moment" for each of us. We had met the challenge together.
2. Ride a bike. A family bicycle trip is great exercise and a wonderful way to experience your surroundings in a new way. New riders will be especially excited and proud to have Mom and Dad join them on an outing. Make it more than a trip to the mailbox. You might combine your bike excursion with a visit to the mall, the movies, or a neighbor's home. Even better, pack a lunch and journey to a place you haven't seen before. I (Peb) often see a family in my neighborhoodâ ”two parents and four young ones, each with helmets and their own bicycleâ ”setting out on a new expedition.
3. Pitch a tent. Camping is still the classic family bonding experience. Leave the video games at home and plan to spend at least a couple of days appreciating God's handiwork. Allow your kids to set the agenda for at least part of your visit and make sure they participate in the set-up, take-down, and chores. If your kids are old and skilled enough, add fishing, hiking, or climbing to the itinerary.
Whether the day was a triumph or disaster, gathering around the campfire after sundown to talk and tell stories is guaranteed to create a cherished memory.
4. Amuse yourselves. You may not think of an amusement park as an adventure, but to a six-year-old (and to some of us adults) a roller coaster can be a scary proposition. Your elementary-aged and preteen kids will love it if you join them on their favorite rides or volunteer to accompany them on a new one. I (Jim) will never forget my daughter's courage when she, at the age of nine, decided to take on the "Tower of Terror." We held hands throughout (I learned she has a strong gripâ ”she nearly cut off my circulation). I was so proud of her after we safely returned to earth, and her 100-watt smile told me she was just as proud herself, and thankful I'd joined her.
5. Serve somebody. Why not deepen your family relationships while helping out someone else at the same time? It can be as simple as leading your family in a Saturday afternoon cleanup of an elderly neighbor's yard or volunteering at a downtown soup kitchen, or as involved as an overseas mission trip. Either way, you and your family will be moving out of your comfort zones and creating opportunities to get to know each other better. You'll also discover the joy of doing God's will as you make life a little easier for someone less fortunate.
As you increase your efforts to allow new adventures to forge deeper family relationships, you'll discover a few wonderful side effects. One will be a greater understanding and appreciation of Scriptureâ ”verses like Amos 4:13: "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 earthâ ”the Lord God Almighty is his name."
You will also deepen your relationship with the Lord. When we answer His call, He honors us by meeting us in the hard places. We may not be comfortable exploring new territory or talking frankly with our spouse and children, but He is there to walk with us on the journey. Scripture gives us this wonderful promise: "Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:8). They more we riskâ ”for our families and for the Lordâ ”the more we will understand and experience His power and love.
Peb Jackson and James Lund are the authors of the new release A Dangerous Faith: True Stories of Answering the Call to Adventure, which explores the relationship between risk and faith. Visit their website at www.dangerousfaith.net.