Author Bill Bryson needed something new in life. He’d reached the stage where it was all “medications and ailments and funerals” and he needed something new, something to look forward to, something life giving… a challenge. This is the story of how he got thrown together with the only other guy who was desperate enough to tackle the Appalachian trail—a guy he didn’t like. It’s the story of their adventures, but it’s also the story of their unlikely friendship and reigniting their passion for life. It’s kind of the man version of Eat, Pray, Love. More comedy, less sappy dialogue and introspection. Those elements are still there, but they are much more incisive. As the two men evaluate their lives, it gives us an easy opportunity to evaluate our own, and hopefully bring Christ into the picture.
Bryson had been a successful writer, but he had unofficially retired. He came to that point in life where he didn’t have any real passion anymore. Nothing was driving him or challenging him. That was really his impetus for hiking the Appalachian trail. The Bible (Ecclesiastes) talks about seasons. It says there’s a season for everything, a time to plant and a time to reap, etc. The problem is when we get stuck in a season…seasons are just that, they are seasons, they are transitional. They don’t last forever. Mankind wasn’t meant to get stuck in one place. We need change. We need challenge. We need new things. This is probably why we love the verse in Isaiah that promises that “God is doing a new thing” (43:19). It’s a hopeful statement, a promise, even. “This too shall pass,” because we know “God is doing a new thing.”
Bryson and Katz had a lot of challenges along the trail. It wasn’t always fun. In fact, more than often, it wasn’t fun…but that made the fun moments even brighter. The very difficulty of it is what made the memories. And they could endure it knowing it was just a season and it wouldn’t last forever. As much as Katz complained about it along the way, after it was over, he asked Bryson, “What’s next?” Why? Because we always need a new thing. We always need something to be looking forward to, a new challenge, a new adventure. Katz wasn’t really one to challenge himself, but he loved being a part of Bryson’s adventures, so he just looked to Bryson to set the challenge, and he was in.
I think that’s how we need to be with God. Maybe we are like Bryson and have a head full of ideas and challenges… or maybe we’re like Katz and we’re just along for the ride, but either way—we are in it with God. At least, we can be if we want to be—He’s inviting us to come along with Him on this grand adventure. God, like Bryson, invites all his buddies to join Him on His adventures, but not everyone signs up. We have a million excuses. It’s not a good time. It’ll cost too much. It doesn’t sound like fun. We have other obligations. We aren’t feeling up to it… But for those that do, it’s a wild ride. It’s not always fun, but it’s wonderful. It’s the kind that keep you telling stories for years to come. It’s the kind that you write books about. It’s the kind of adventurous challenge that you like yourself for doing, and, more importantly, it’s the kind that builds your relationship with God. Bryson and Katz weren’t on the best of terms before their adventure, but afterward a genuine friendship had formed. When we agree to go with God on His next adventure, we will find that we grow to love and trust Him more and that we become more like Him along the way. Whereas we may have reluctantly signed up for the first trip (maybe we, like Katz, only sign up because we have to, because we are backed into a corner and this seems our only option), but afterward, we’ll find ourselves asking, just as Katz did, “Hey, God, what’s next?!”
The move has a lot of other wonderful, rich points for discussion…like what makes someone happy, the idea of home and how it defines you, the way perspective can change as your circumstances change, or how two men can see the same event and one can see it as a failure and the other as a success… So many great things to discuss, but for me, I keep coming back to this idea of going on a new adventure with God. If God calls and says, “Hey, I’ve got this crazy idea…you in?” Am I going to be one of those people who says no, or am I going to be like Katz—probably totally out of shape and ill-prepared, naïve and unequipped…but still game, because I don’t want to miss a thing—not a moment with God, nor a moment of adventure! And because I know I can trust God with my life.
Questions for Discussion:
- Who do you relate to more, Bryson or Katz?
- Do you feel like you need something new in your life? Or are you trying to escape something?
- What would you want your next great adventure in life to be?
- If God called and asked you to go with Him on a daring, difficult, crazy adventure…would you go?
- Do you trust God with your life?