a time to speak
“[There is] a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:7b

I’m going to be honest: I’m a little afraid to jump back into the whole blogging thing.

I used to share my writing publicly all. the. time. It used to feel pretty natural and not scary at all. Unfortunately, the internet is a different beast than it was 5 years ago, and people are less kind than they’ve ever been. It seems like it, anyway. That’s especially true when it comes to controversy, and my thoughts on things have been nothing if not controversial these days.

For the past 3-5 years or so, I’ve largely remained silent in the public sphere, at least as far as things concerning spirituality, social justice, and politics go. I’ve been active on Adventure & the Wild’s social media channels for the past year and a half, but other than that, I’ve opted to listen and observe rather than add to the noise.

Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve felt a strong impression that it’s time for me to speak. I’m hesitant, because the last thing I want to do is make the world noisier than it already is. At the same time, there comes a point when silence does more harm than good. I’ve seen too much injustice, too many misunderstandings, too many assumptions presented as fact, too many complex, nuanced concepts that have been oversimplified to make them seem ridiculous, and I can’t stay silent.

I can’t solve the world’s problems, as much as I wish I could. But if I fail to even try to do my part, to use what I do have to offer, well, that’s on me. It’s not my responsibility to do everything, but it is my responsibility to do something. And so, I will write the truth as I see it. Even it’s uncomfortable and not as simple or flattering as I would like. 

Ultimately, I want to create space for love and understanding, even in the hardest conversations and sharpest disagreements. Not in a naive, feel-good, head-in-the-clouds kind of way, but in a very real, very concrete, often difficult kind of way. The kind of love and compassion that Jesus called us to, over and over again. It’s rarely easy, but it’s always—always—worth it.

Brittany Stoess
love is the real adventure

I wrote this several days ago, before the horrifying events of this week unfolded. I was originally planning to hold off sharing until I finalized some additional designs and could release it as a cohesive set. In light of recent events, it feels wrong to wait. Although the organization I will be supporting focuses primarily on the Middle East, their message transcends borders and people groups, and is exactly what I stand for, regardless of circumstances. You can read their response to this week’s events here.

Lately, I’ve been a bit disillusioned with the word “adventure,” or at least with the way it has been portrayed. It’s become a bit of a cliché, overused to the point of not having any meaning. That’s discouraging to me, because it’s a word that holds so much personal meaning to me. So, instead of tossing the word, I’d like to start reclaiming it instead.

adventure (n.): 1. an exciting or very unusual experience. 2. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome. 
(v.): 1. to risk or hazard. 2. to take the chance of; dare.

For me, the core of adventure is my faith. I am a Christian, and I know that for many people (myself included), that’s a word that has plenty of baggage trailing behind it. Trust me; I get it. I know many of you don’t share my faith, and I want you to know—you are 100% still wanted and needed here. But stick with me. I’m not trying to convert you, but I am trying to practice the honesty and vulnerability that I talk about so often. For now, I’d like to ask you to set aside any mental pictures and preconceptions of Christianity, Jesus, and the church, and let’s talk about Jesus for a moment. Because really, that’s what being a Christian is all about: knowing Jesus and following Him. And I have a feeling he’s not quite what you’ve been led to believe.

I think most people tend to think of Jesus and Christianity as being very safe: going to church on Sundays, living a moral life, and mostly hanging out with people who do the same. Perhaps for many Christians, this is true. But Jesus wasn’t safe, and neither is truly following Him.

When Jesus was on earth, He shook things up. He didn’t do things the normal way, the expected way, or the easy way. He was a bit mysterious, and above all else, He loved. Really loved, in hard, scary ways. He didn’t hold back in any way—not from his friends, not from his enemies, and especially not from the ones who the rest of the world had forgotten, pushed aside, and rejected. He loved when it hurt, even to the point of death. If that’s not the polar opposite of safe, I don’t know what is.

Jesus embodied all the things that I want to be. He was brave, kind, and understanding. He was curious about people and their lives. He made a point to know who they really were, and He knew how to encourage them while continuing to challenge them to be better and to grow. He stood for both justice and grace, and left room for questions and mystery, because we do not all understand God in the same ways. He loved without boundaries. He still does. And He calls me to the exact same things.

Living that kind of lifestyle is not safe. It is not easy. It is not certain. But that’s an inherent part of faith: it requires a degree of uncertainty, and this particular faith calls you into a whole lot of uncertain, risky places—which is exactly what makes an adventure.

From here on out, I will be donating a portion of all profits to Preemptive Love Coalition, one of the most phenomenal organizations I’ve ever come across. They work in war-torn areas and active conflict zones in the Middle East to provide a variety of services (from medical care to small business empowerment) to those who have suffered under the hands of extremists, but more than that, they believe deeply in the power of love and peace. Not surface-level stuff, but the hard work of loving in the face of fear, and working towards reconciliation and forgiveness in the face of war and hatred. They believe in loving anyway, no matter the cost; showing up with your whole self, flaws and all; and getting out of the way in order to let people take charge of their own futures. I encourage you to visit their website and read their message + learn about their impact for yourself. They are proof that choosing to listen and love others at any cost really can change the world. That’s real adventure.

I didn’t think I was watering down my message to fit the trends, because I actually really like what’s trendy at the moment. I am all about mountains and road trips, and am fascinated with the idea of #vanlife and free-spirited living. I genuinely appreciate the move towards being more real and vulnerable on social media, and I want to contribute to that.  But in an effort not to alienate those who don’t share my beliefs, I held back the most integral part of what adventure means to me, and how genuine is that? I can’t expect you to be vulnerable with me if I don’t do the same for you.

Of course, I absolutely love hiking and camping and traveling and being outdoors. I think those are part of adventure, too (or at least a great way to learn it), and they will continue to be a part of Adventure & the Wild. Ultimately, though, they don’t define it for me. Adventure is much, much deeper. It’s one thing to risk your body; it’s quite another to risk your heart and soul (or, in the case of PLC, maybe even all three).

The mission behind A&TW remains the same: cultivating authentic + adventurous lives through the outdoors and intentional community. It’s just going to go a little deeper, and reach a little farther, and it’s going to start giving to a cause that stands for the heart behind it. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride, and more importantly, engage. Because your voice matters here.

Originally posted on Adventure & the Wild.

Brittany Stoess