“In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.”
Those words, found on the cover of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, caught my attention. And, after reading the first full chapter of the book, I was hooked. I found myself wondering what would cause this kid to walk away from a promising future. From a family. From everything, and walk into an abandoned wilderness that would ultimately end up claiming his life.
One letter penned from McCandless to a friend he had made on his journey sheds light into why he made this decision. McCandless encourages his friend to adopt a similar lifestyle to himself when he writes, “I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been to hesitant to attempt. So many people live with unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventourous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter syle of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
To be clear after reading the whole book I think there were some flaws to McCandless logic and approach to life, but he was on to something….dare I say, something Biblical.
I am not certain of where McCandless fell in his religious convictions. Honestly, his adventure to the Alaskan wilderness was probably more a flight from family problems, and disgust with the world, than it was anything else. Yet, something about this young man’s words seem to ring true with how Christians should approach their world.
“You really should make a radical change in your lifestyle.” Many Christians never change their lifestyle. After coming to Christ they do the same things, hang out with the same people, engage in the same sins. The only thing that might change is their location on a Sunday morning. But Christ hasn’t called us to leave things the same, He has called us to follow Him. His words to his followers were to leave their pillow, their family, and even their dead behind to bury their own dead.
“Begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been to hesitant to attempt.” Christianity isn’t just about stopping. It is not all about not smoking, drinking, sleeping around…it is also about doing. Doing things you would have never dreamed of doing before. Its about going and serving on a missions trip in the jungles of Peru, or the city of Bucharest. It’s about not hoarding for yourself, but giving away to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people. It’s about sharing your time to work with kids on a Sunday rather than watching the football game. Following Christ is about doing things. Yet many never really follow Christ, they only sit on a pew in His church.
“So many people live with unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventourous spirit within a man than a secure future.” Christianity is not about safety. It is not about getting what you want, or living out the American Dream. It is about laying your life down for the cause of Christ, and risking it all for Him. It is about surrender. It is about sacrifice.
“If you want to get more out of life…you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter syle of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” When you are living an authentic Christian life is will first appear crazy to you, and to those around you. It will seem crazy to give 10%+ your income to your church. It will seem crazy to give up vacation time to go serve on a missions trip. It will seem nuts to your neighbors to get up early on a Sunday to go to church. It will seem ludicrous to give up a weekend on the boat, to spend time serving the needy in the community. It will seem insane to sell the boat to meet the needs of those in the community. At first it will seem crazy, but in the end you will see the beauty of living fully for Christ.
What does your life look like? Is it a safe and secure Christian life? Or, are you risking everything for the cause of Christ? Like McCandless discovered, life isn’t meant to be lived safely. To live life to the full you have to risk it for Him.