Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure
"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."
The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that
has always intrigued me. They called Him An Geadh-Glas, or “the Wild Goose.” I love the imagery and implications. The name
hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a
wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of
danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the
name may sound a little sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot
think of a better description of what it’s like to pursue the Spirit’s leading
through life than Wild Goose chase. I think the Celtic Christians
were on to something that institutionalized Christianity has missed out
on. And I wonder if we have clipped the wings of the Wild Goose and
settled for something less — much less — than what God
originally intended for us.
I understand that “wild goose chase” typically refers to a
purposeless endeavor without a defined destination. But chasing the Wild Goose is different. The promptings of the Holy Spirit
can sometimes seem pretty pointless, but rest assured, God is
working His plan. And if you chase the Wild Goose, He will take you
places you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.
I don’t know a single Christ follower who hasn’t gotten
stressed out over trying to figure out the will of God. We want to
solve the mystery of the will of God the way we solve a Sudoku or
crossword puzzle. But in my experience, intellectual analysis usually
results in spiritual paralysis.
We try to make God fit within the confines of our cerebral
cortex. We try to reduce the will of God to the logical limits of
our left brain. But the will of God is neither logical nor linear. It
is downright confusing and complicated.
A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with
us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is
precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and
start following Him (John 3:8). Most of us will have no idea where we are going most
of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial
uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.
I think it is only fair that I give a Wild Goose warning at
the outset of this book: nothing is more unnerving or disorienting than
passionately pursuing God. And the sooner we come to terms with that spiritual reality, the more we will enjoy the journey. I
cannot, in good conscience, promise safety or certainty. But I can promise that
chasing the Wild Goose will be anything but boring!
Islands of Eden
Not long ago I visited what must be the closest thing to the
Garden of Eden left on earth. It almost felt wrong arriving in the
Galápagos Islands via airplane. Washing ashore on a bamboo raft would
have seemed more apropos.
We spent most of our time island hopping in a boat that
didn’t seem large enough for the 12 people on board or the
12-foot ocean waves we encountered. And sure enough, we discovered
that the boat had capsized not long before our visit. That tidbit
of information would have been nice to know before we climbed aboard — but it definitely added an element of adventure.
The entire week was full of new experiences. I went
snorkeling for the first time and saw some of God’s amazing underwater
creations. Where did He come up with those color schemes? In an unscripted and unforgettable moment, my son Parker and I
went swimming with some playful sea lions. And I accomplished one
of my life goals by jumping off a 40-foot cliff into a
narrow river gorge at Las Grietas. What an adrenaline rush!
The trip consisted of one adventure after another. So the
saying in Spanish that we saw on a Sprite can that week seemed
fitting, and we adopted it as our mantra: Otro día, otra aventura.
Translation: “Another day, another adventure.”
I love those four words inspired by Sprite. They capture the essence of what we experienced day in and day out in the
Galápagos. I think those words resonate with one of the deepest
longings in the human heart — the longing for adventure. And I’m not
sure I could come up with a better description of what it’s like to
Take the Holy Spirit out of the equation of my life, and it
would spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Add Him into the equation of your life,
and anything can happen. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go, or what you’ll do. All bets are off.
If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following
the Spirit but have actually settled for something
less — something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we
invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we
want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle
distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted
relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that
leaves us feeling empty, it’s also the difference between spiritual
boredom and spiritual adventure.
Situated 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the
Galápagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the
planet. While many of the islands in the 49-island archipelago are
inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated. When I was there, I
felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get. It was
Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galápagos
environment. It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall. Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God
gave Adam was naming the animals (Genesis 2:19). And we read right past it. But it
must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the
project. I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a
single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural
habitats. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Adam to catch
his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding,mountain goats climbing,
or rhinos charging.
That’s how I felt when I was in the Galápagos. And it was
there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged
animal at a local zoo and getting within arm’s length of a mammoth
marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions
or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean
floor. It’s one thing to see a caged bird. It’s an altogether different
experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling
50 feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and
coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.
Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in
its natural habitat. There is something so inspiring about a
wild animal doing what it was created to do. Uncivilized. Untamed.
So a few weeks after returning from the Galápagos, our
family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in
Washington D.C. It’s a fantastic zoo. But it just wasn’t the same after
the Galápagos. I’m ruined for zoos. It’s not the same seeing a
caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too tame. It’s too predictable.
At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I
had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas
window at a 400-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do
to people what zoos do to animals.
I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying
that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it
may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their
natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the
struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.
Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed
part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the
untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure.
And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and
predictability of the cage no longer satisfies. We have a primal longing to be
uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die
on the cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.
Praying for protection is fine. I pray for a hedge of
protection around my three children all the time. You probably pray
that kind of prayer too. But when was the last time you asked God to
make you dangerous?
I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction
at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous
people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.
Every once in a while, I have random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Here’s a thought that fired across my
synapses not long ago: Do angels yawn?
I know it seems like an inane theological question, but I
seriously wonder if angels have the capacity to get bored. More
important, I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only are we bored, but so are our guardian angels. If they could,
would our guardian angels coax us out of our cage and beg us to
give them something dangerous to do?
In the pages that follow you’ll meet some dangerous people. Mind you, they’re ordinary people. They have doubts and
fears and problems just like you and me. But their courage to come out
of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ will
inspire and challenge you to follow them as they follow the Spirit’s
I think of Ana Luisa, who used her award miles to fly to
India and sacrificially serve some of the poorest of the poor at a
medical clinic. I think of Mike, who started a dangerous ministry in
a dangerous place — a porn show in Las Vegas. I think of Adam, whose sensitivity to the Wild Goose resulted in a life-changing
encounter on a mission trip half a world away. And I think of Becky,
who made a conscious decision to endanger her own life by becoming
part of the crusade against human trafficking.
Since when did it become safe to follow Christ? Maybe it’s
time to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause
Sense of Adventure
The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard
believed that boredom is the root of all evil. I second the notion.
Boredom isn’t just boring; boredom is wrong. You cannot
simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical.
Against that backdrop, consider the gospel story of the rich young ruler. On paper the rich young ruler had it all:
youth, wealth, and power. But something was still missing. The rich young
ruler was bored with his faith. And I think it is evidenced by the
question he asked Jesus: “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20).
I’ll tell you exactly what he was lacking: spiritual
adventure. His life was too easy, too predictable, and too comfortable. He
kept all the commandments, but those commandments felt like a
religious cage. I think there was a deep-seated longing within him for
something more than simply not doing anything wrong.
Listen, not breaking the prohibitive commandments is right
and good. But simply not breaking the prohibitive commandments
isn’t spiritually satisfying. It leaves us feeling caged. And I
honestly think that is where many of us find ourselves.
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving as
lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C. As with every church, our demography and geography are unique.
Seventy percent of NCCers are single twenty-somethings navigating the
quarterlife crisis. And most of them live or work on Capitol Hill. So
the observation I’m about to share is undoubtedly shaped by the
life stage of our congregation and the psyche of our city. But I
also think human nature is human nature. And here is what I’ve observed: many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith.
We know our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We know we will spend eternity with God when we cross the boundary of the
spacetime continuum. And we are trying our best to live our lives
within the guardrails of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.
But still we have a gnawing feeling that something is missing.
I think the rich young ruler is representative of a
generation that longs to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the
cause of Christ. But too many among us end up settling for spiritual
mediocrity instead of striving for spiritual maturity. Jesus speaks to
that deep-seated longing for adventure by challenging us to come
out of the cage. But coming out of the cage means giving up the
very thing in which we find our security and identity outside of
In the case of the rich young ruler, his cage was financial
security. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your
possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
A part of us feels bad for the rich young ruler, right? How
could Jesus demand so much? He asked him to give up everything he
had! But we fail to appreciate the offer Jesus put on the table.
I live in the internship capital of the world. Every summer
tens of thousands of young adults make the pilgrimage to D.C. to
try and land the right internship with the right person because they
know it can open the right door. It’s amazing how many members of
Congress were once congressional pages and how many Supreme Court justices were once Supreme Court clerks.
I don’t care how much this rich young ruler had to give
up — Jesus offered him so much more. This was the opportunity of
a lifetime: an internship with none other than the Son of God. Come on, that’s got to look good on your résumé! You can’t put a
price tag on that kind of experience. But the rich young ruler turned it
down. He opted for the cage. And he made the mistake so many of us
make: he chose an accessorized life over a life of adventure, over
a life of chasing the Wild Goose.
Now juxtapose the rich young ruler with the twelve
undomesticated disciples who accepted the unpaid internship. They heard the parables with their own two ears. They drank the water Jesus
turned into wine. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish. And
they were there when Jesus turned the temple upside down, walked on
water, and ascended into heaven.
In a day when the average person never traveled outside a
35-mile radius of his home, Jesus sent His disciples to the
four corners of the ancient world. These ordinary fishermen, who
otherwise would have lived and died within sight of the Sea of
Galilee, were sent to the ends of the earth as they knew it. What a Wild
Goose chase! According to the third-century historian Eusebius,
Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee
traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose
all the way to India.
Just like the rich young ruler, we have a choice to make.
The same offer is extended. We can stay in our cage, end up with
everything, and realize it amounts to nothing. Or we can come out of our cage and chase the Wild Goose.
In the prequel to this book, In a Pit with a Lion on a
Snowy Day, I retell the story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah to show how
God wants us to chase the 500-pound opportunities that
come across our path. And I cite the aphorism “no guts, no
glory.” When we lack the guts to step out in faith, we rob God of the
glory that rightfully belongs to Him. In Wild Goose Chase, I want to
take it a step further and show you how all of life becomes a grand
adventure when we chase the trackless, matchless Goose of heaven. We’ll
retrace the steps of six Wild Goose chasers who come right out of the
pages of Scripture. And my hope is that their footprints will
guide us as we chase the Wild Goose. But before the chase begins, I do want
to offer one simple reminder. This book is about more than you and me
experiencing spiritual adventure. In fact, this book is not about you at
It’s a book about the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), who
wants to write His-story through your life. And if you read through
Scripture, you’ll discover that His favorite genre is action-adventure.
Sure, you can choose the safety and predictability of the
cage, forfeiting the adventure God has destined for you. But you
won’t be the only one missing out or losing out. When you lack the
courage to chase the Wild Goose, the opportunity costs are staggering. Who might not hear about the love of God if you don’t seize the
opportunity to tell them? Who might be stuck in poverty, stuck in
ignorance, stuck in pain if you’re not there to help free them? Where might the advance of God’s kingdom in the world stall out
because you weren’t there on the front lines?
Jesus’ disciples didn’t just live an exciting life
post-Pentecost; they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6, KJV). And that’s what you can be a
part of too. Wild Goose Chase is an invitation to be part of
something that is bigger than you and more important than you.
Are you in?
In this book I will identify six cages that keep
us from roaming free with the Wild Goose and living the spiritual
adventure God destined us to. I’m not sure which cages you may find
yourself in. But the good news is this: you are only one Wild Goose
chase away from the spiritual adventure God has destined for you.
The first cage is the cage of responsibility. Over the
course of our lifetime, God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath
day-today responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace
more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual
excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us.
Without even knowing it, we begin to practice what I call irresponsible
responsibility. The Wild Goose chase begins when we come to terms with our greatest responsibility: pursuing the passions God has
put in our heart.
The second cage, the cage of routine, is almost as subtle as
the first. At some point in our spiritual journey, most of us
trade adventure for routine. There is nothing wrong with a good routine. In
fact, the key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy
routines known as spiritual disciplines. But once a routine becomes
routine, we need to disrupt the routine. Otherwise, sacred routines
become empty rituals that keep us caged.
The third cage is the cage of assumptions. Our assumptions
keep many of us from chasing the Wild Goose. I’m too old. I’m too
young. I’m underqualified. I’m overqualified. It’s too late. It’s
too soon. And the list goes on. As we age, many of us stop believing and start
assuming. We stop living out of right-brain imagination and start
living out of left-brain memory. And we put eight-foot ceilings on
what God can do.
The fourth cage is the cage of guilt. The Enemy’s tactics
haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. He tries to neutralize us
spiritually by getting us to focus on what we’ve done wrong in the past. Satan uses guilt to turn us into reactionaries. Jesus came
to recondition our spiritual reflexes with His grace and turn us into
revolutionaries for His cause. As long as you are focused on what
you’ve done wrong in the past, you won’t have energy left to dream
The fifth cage is the cage of failure. And, ironically, this
is where many Wild Goose chases begin. Why? Because sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God’s plans to succeed. Divine
detours and divine delays are the ways God gets us where He wants us to
And the sixth and final cage is the cage of fear. We need to
quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at
death. Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world
needs more daring people with daring plans. Why not you?
I want you to know that before you decided to read this book
I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would
get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book
is more than a casual read for you. It’s a divine appointment
waiting to happen. And I believe one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence
can change the trajectory of your life.
Let the chase begin.
• What’s your reaction to the ancient Celtic description of God as the “Wild Goose”—untamed, unpredictable, flying free?
• How have you been living “inverted Christianity,” trying to get God to serve your purposes instead of you serving His purposes?
• Right now, where are you on this spectrum?
• How does the call to spiritual adventure strike you? What is it inside you that resonates with that call?
• Of the six cages described at the end of the chapter, which do you think might apply to you the most and why?
From Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God by Mark Batterson (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2008). Excerpted with permission.