Did Jesus have a sense of adventure? That’s not a presumptuous or a silly question. We all want to have fun—whether it’s whitewater rafting, trekking the Himalayas, or updating our status on Facebook. But is that impulse OK? What should we do with it?
I remember catching a glimpse of the answer. I was sitting in a room with a remarkable Christian Scientist, and I couldn’t get over the impression that he had veered into “happy talk.” He was so cheery, so convinced that God was reshaping him in His own likeness—second by second—that it almost seemed like an act. Could anyone, honestly, have that much fun just thinking about God?
Then I turned the question around: What am I not seeing that my friend was seeing? The answer came immediately. I wasn’t waking up every morning giddy to learn the lessons that God had in store for me. My friend was, and he was utterly absorbed by the adventure of it.
Jesus showed us that it’s foolishness to seek out joy in matter.
Sitting in that chair, my friend was as much an explorer as Livingstone in Africa or Kipling in India—in some ways, more so, because his adventures weren’t bounded by physical location, but only by his obedience to the perpetual demand to yield willingly to the divine Mind. Moment by moment, he was setting off for spiritual shores only dimly charted—El Dorados filled with treasures beyond human imagining. That sounded like a lot of fun.
I think we miss something if we fail to see the deep contentment that animated Jesus and gave him a joy that disciples felt as hearts burning within them (see Luke 24:32) and prompted Peter to leap from his fishing boat and swim about 200 cubits (over 100 yards) to shore just to be near Jesus (see John 21:7, 8).
Christ Jesus showed us that it’s foolishness to seek out joy in matter. Just as it’s not wise to get drunk on alcohol, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be intoxicated by any aspect of the physical senses. Jesus’ joy was in God, despite the material world’s efforts to take it away. The same is true for us. After all, how can our joys be lasting and true unless we see the world from the eternal, spiritual perspective? Otherwise, they are built on the very lie that Jesus sought to expose: that there is any power apart from God, whom he defined as Spirit.
When I think of Jesus’ deep contentment, I often think of the story of the loaves and the fishes. The Gospel of John says that when Jesus saw the multitude coming, he asked Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Then we read, “This he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6).
Jesus must surely have been testing Philip, urging him to go up higher—to see a vision that wasn’t apparent to the physical senses, but was undeniable to spiritual Truth. When Jesus showed his disciples a few moments later what he meant, think how they must have felt! Jesus had made vividly apparent the limitless abundance of God’s provision. Everyone present was given a glimpse of the Christ in action.
Sometimes, with my own children, I catch the smallest hint of how I think Jesus must have felt in that moment—an upwelling of pride when they struggle and struggle and at last prevail. They learn, they gain, and the spiritual intuition in them becomes more instantly accessible. What joy Jesus must have felt in such proofs of God’s care, so far above teaching a child to ride a bicycle or climb monkey bars!
Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “We live in an age of Love’s divine adventure to be All-in-all” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 158). In the adventure of seeking out what Love has in store for us, we can learn a lot from the trials and tribulations (and even shipwrecks) of people such as the Apostle Paul in the Bible whose ultimate triumphs confirmed the saving presence of that Love. There is nothing on earth that can fill us with the joy that even a glimpse of this Love gives us. And in the finding of it, there will never be a dull moment!
Mark Sappenfield is the deputy national editor for The Christian Science Monitor.