This past weekend I was reminded how amazing God is.
For those of you who don’t know, I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s winter here, and they have some impressive mountains. Snow skiing is my favorite activity of all time, but growing up in Atlanta didn’t present many opportunities. New Zealand, however, is another story.
We drove down to the town of Wanaka and spent two days on the slopes. The weather and the scenery were unbelievable: blue skies, clear lakes, snow capped peaks. It was like Psalms 104 happened in front of my very eyes. I spent the entire two days with my jaw in a permanently dropped position.
And the crazy thing is, the trip almost didn’t happen. Why? Because it was inconvenient.
We have no vacation days left, which means we couldn’t take a day off work. In order to ski two days, we had to drive 5 hours after work on Friday and then 6 hours after skiing on Sunday. We pitched the idea to people, and most said we were crazy.
But once I was outside, surrounded by God’s incredible creation, I had no regrets. It was one of my favorite weekends of all time, and I couldn’t help but remember one of the first lessons I learned when we moved to New Zealand:
A full life will not come looking for you. You need to actually get up and go after it.
Step outside your front door
When we arrived at our new home, I was somewhat naive about this. It was a land filled with mountains, glaciers, rivers, Lord of the Rings locations, and more. I just expected to walk off the plane and into an adventure. But after being here a few weeks, the most exciting thing we had done was a bike ride through the park.
I sat on the couch in a bad mood, wondering why we hadn’t experienced more adventure. We came out here to live fully! The answer to my problem, however, was right below me. Since arriving, we had made little effort to get off our couch and out into the world.
We didn’t come here on vacation, we came here to establish a life. But despite the epic nature of our new country, the life we were establishing was just boring. I realized that it does not matter where you are – Atlanta or New Zealand – unless you make the effort to live fully, you won’t.
Here are a few practical things I noticed this weekend that contribute to living fully. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but definitely part of making the effort:
6 Keys for Living Fully
1) Embrace the inconvenience: Our culture loves convenience. From where I sit, I have a nice footrest, can turn on the television, watch a Braves game, surf the internet, play candy crush, read a book, and more. Most of my greatest memories, however, did not occur because of convenience. They took work, effort, and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone. If there is an idea bouncing around in your heart or mind, but you aren’t sure it’s worth the effort, then just stop debating and go for it. You’ll either love it or learn from it, but either way it will be better than doing nothing.
2) Go with People: God created us for community. While things like social media and texting can keep us connected, they can never replace genuine relationships. I find that most things in life (eating, traveling, working, exercising, worship, etc) are always better when done with good friends. Interestingly, I also find that good friendships are created when you do most of those things in life with people. Our 6 hour, post skiing car ride was fantastic – we were exhausted, but we ate burritos and talked about the important things in life the entire way.
3) Enjoy Creation: I find it so much easier to connect with God while in nature. As Psalms 19:1says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” No matter where you live, I believe you can find the beauties of God’s creation. It could be in the mountains or beach a few hours from home, or it could be in your neighborhood park. It could be a local river, or it could be the people in your life God has made. Our first home was a garden, we should make efforts to spend time in His creation.
4) Be a bit reckless: I could get in trouble for this, so let me clarify: don’t do anything illegal or to hurt others. That being said, sometimes you need to go against conventional wisdom if you want to live fully. Some would consider a weekend trip to Wanaka reckless: we might be tired at work on Monday, it could be horrible weather, we won’t have time to get chores done, and so on. The trip was a bit of a gamble, particularly in regards to weather, but the reward was totally worth the risk. Following Jesus also goes against conventional wisdom, but this time, the reward is infinitely greater and more secure because of his love for us.
5) The Experiences: I find most people prefer to spend money on material goods instead of experiences. We obviously need some material goods, like food and clothing, but I find experiences so much more valuable than having the latest iPad or biggest television. Everyone has limited finances, but I highly recommend you give priority to experiences you can share with people you love. The memories and the moments will last so much longer than the latest tech gadget.
6) Take time to soak in God’s glory: It can be easy to take things for granted. Sometimes we get so focussed on our particular tasks for the day that we fail to notice the beauty of what God has done in our lives. As I said, I love skiing and wanted to get as many runs in as possible, but I kept forcing myself to stop and look around and soak in God’s goodness. What has God done in your life that you might be missing? How is He working in the people around you? In the city or town you live in? Life is busy, but we must always find the time to pause and give thanks and praise for what He has done.
Your turn: What is your favorite activity when you want to live fully?