“When we stop adventuring, when we stop risking, we actually stop growing.”
By Chris and Jenni Graebe, excerpted from the book The Rhythm of Us
Why do we need adventure? And how in the world is adventure an essential part of a thriving marriage? The truth is, we’re all wired for adventure. No one wants to get to the end of their life still holding on to a long list of things they wish they had done. We all want to look back with gratitude planted deep within us but that we choose to ignore for a number of reasons. Reasons that can be fully justified, yet not rationalized. But a life worth living needs a good dose of adventure.
When we stop adventuring, when we stop risking, we actually stop growing. When we allow fear or comfort or apathy to keep us from growing and changing and trying new things together, we run the risk of rusting out. As Jan Foreman puts it, “When you rustout, it’s because you’ve made a habit of saying no to the opportunities that come along . . . There’s too much of God in this universe to just sit and miss out on the opportunities He gives you.”
Photo credit: Holly Mandarich
Adventure is all about the heart. Living a life of adventure together must include staying in touch with the dreams and desires God has placed in our hearts. We can’t have the vibrant, thriving marriage we desire if our hearts are no longer alive. Living the life we desire and having the kind of relationship we desire is going to require a heart that’s fully awake and alive.
If we look up to find we’ve lost heart or rusted out somewhere along the way, step one is going back to ask ourselves: What was it I once dreamed of? What was the last adventure God invited me into? What dream keeps rising to the top of my heart, and what is causing me to push it away?
Practicing adventure is tapping into those wild, passionate dreams that you had when you first got married and taking the time to listen for new dreams and adventures God is calling you into along the way. It’s remembering we are not here by accident and that God brought the two of us together with a specific purpose in mind. It’s about navigating the blindsiding curveballs life throws at you and coming out on the other side stronger as a couple. Adventure pushes back on a life of apathy and comfort. A marriage and life leaned into adventure is one that is pleasing to the Lord.
It can be as simple as the spontaneous choice to dance with your spouse on a Saturday morning while making pancakes, or surprising them with flowers or a date night. Adventure is supporting your wife when she shares the dream of going back to school to get her MBA. Adventure is living your life with the knowledge that as Christ followers and as a couple, your life and marriage are not your own. On the day we stood before God and said “I do,” we were committing to share our life, not a mere existence of comfort and safety but the greatest adventure of our lives!
Photo credit: Cody Black (@Cblack09)
Adventure is prevention against apathy, the feeling of not feeling. Sometimes the message we receive as followers of Christ is that spiritual growth means killing our dreams and desires. But that’s not actually the life that’s offered to us at all. As author John Eldredge says, “Christianity begins with an invitation to desire.”
Just as a growing hunger for God is the key to life, a deepening desire for our spouse is also key to a thriving marriage. We must keep our fire for God and for each other alive and growing. We may not always have the same kind of electric spark we had at the very beginning of the relationship, but we can have a roaring flame that grows deeper and stronger with time.
Apathy is dangerous for a marriage. If we ignore our longing for more, our longing for newness and discovery, our need to feel the fresh wind of change in our face, this restlessness can start to surface in other ways. John Eldredge warns against the danger we face when we “bury [our] heart under the porch and seek a safer life.”
Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. – A. W. Tozer
When we catch ourselves longing for something we don’t yet have, let’s not immediately shame, rebuke, and dismiss the feeling. A better response might be to ask ourselves, What healthy desire could this be pointing to? and What would it look like for me to put my time, attention, and energy into making this dream a reality in my own life?
Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao
Maybe you’ve been feeling God stirring something in you for a while now, an invitation into a brave, new adventure. What is it that keeps you from saying yes? As pastor Tyler Staton says, “Your comfort zone robs you of way more than it gives you.” Practicing adventure does not have to be something as drastic as moving across the country or as life- changing as an adoption. It can be anything the Lord is stirring in your heart: volunteering at the local homeless shelter, mentoring a younger couple, or committing to write that book. Or it could be as simple as praying the prayer that Thriving couples informs the Lord that you are ready for whatever adventure He has planned for you. Every person and every couple has a unique call and saying yes to adventure that the Lord has purposed for their new adventures life together.
There’s not a human alive who won’t benefit from a regular dose of adventure. I love what behavioral scientist Jon Levy says: “The true gift of adventure is not in achieving some goal, but in the person you become in the process.” Of course, the definition of adventure is different for everyone. What feels like adventure to me may not at all to you. The point is that we all need it. For a thriving marriage, we must keep saying yes to new adventures to keep each other from growing stagnant. As Levy notes, “The size of your life is in direct proportion to how uncomfortable you are willing to be.”
Adventure can look as small as trying out something new together. Call a sitter and surprise him with a romantic night at a new hotel, or invite that new couple over for dinner. Whether it’s stepping out to start a new small group or trusting God to starting a new company, you develop the rhythm of adventure together by refusing to stay comfortable, following God’s lead as a couple, and trusting Him for the outcome.
So, let’s step into adventure and let Deuteronomy 31:7 be our compass: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go.” Adventure is calling, and the first step starts with . . . yes!
Photo credit: Drahomír Posteby-Mach
Permission to Change
Another key part of what allows us to practice the rhythm of adventure is giving each other permission to change. What does that mean, exactly? We can be married to many different versions of the same spouse throughout our life together. Neither of us is meant to remain stagnant. We’re constantly changing and growing, moving and shifting, hopefully becoming more and more who we truly are, someone who looks more and more like Jesus. It’s one of the greatest gifts of marriage! We get a front-row seat to the wild adventure of our spouse’s life. What a gift we can be to each other when we choose to freely offer the support, encouragement, and room to watch each other fly.
Freedom to Fly
Adventure needs space and opportunity. Remember, you both entered this marriage with dreams and abilities of your own. It’s not enough to just acknowledge that those dreams exist. Thriving couples give each other the freedom to enjoy their life and do what makes them come alive.
As we grow in life together, adding layer upon layer of wonderful blessings, urgent demands, and important responsibilities, we can stop making time to even listen to the dreams and desires God puts inside us. We can’t allow that to happen. We must give each other the freedom and support necessary to go out and do what God’s called us to. Not only does this active advocacy for each other draw us closer together but it also sparks desire within us toward our spouse by allowing us to see them fully alive, in their element.
So, my question to you is, are you letting your spouse fly? Are you saying yes when that inconvenient phone call comes? As Stasi Eldredge says, “We long to be an irreplaceable part of a shared adventure.” Sometimes the adventure involves both of us taking the leap together, and other times we get to play an irreplaceable role by supporting one another’s adventures and making our voice the very loudest to cheer each other on.
Featured image photo credit: Timo Stern (@Timonrets)
You’ve been reading from
The Rhythm of Us by Chris & Jenni Graebe
You know those couples who seem to truly thrive? The lucky ones who are somehow still wildly in love after decades of marriage? As it turns out, that kind of marriage isn’t just meant for a select few. The healthiest, happiest marriages share a transformational secret: intentional rhythms
In The Rhythm of Us, Chris and Jenni Graebe invite you to discover what those core essential rhythms are, how they work, and the results they can have on your relationships if you choose to practice them. With real life examples and inspirational guidance, you’ll learn how to envision the marriage you long for, identify the ruts that are keeping you stuck, and bring your deepest passions and priorities to life in your relationship.
You don’t have to settle for a marriage that’s just skimming by. Starting today, you can create a rich, passionate, thriving marriage that will last a lifetime.
About the Authors
Chris and Jenni Graebe are lifelong learners intent on discovering the core rhythms of thriving relationships. Chris and Jenni are the cohosts of the Rhythm of Us podcast, where they interview countless couples to discover what makes relationships thrive. They are authors of The Rhythm of Us: Create the Thriving Marriage You Long For. Chris and Jenni have been married for 17 years and live deep in the trees of Franklin, TN, with their five children.