Can mold really be an adventure?

Mold is my constant companion — and my undying enemy. I even composed a haiku for it, which anyone living in tropical regions will appreciate:

Mold creeps in as spores
Like fuzzy burglars intent
On stealing my shoes

It’s annoying. Not earth-shattering, just annoying. But sometimes you wouldn’t know the difference from my reaction.

Jammed drawers

G.K. Chesterton, ever the seer, playfully describes his friend’s affliction:

“Every day his drawer was jammed, and every day in consequence it was something else that rhymes to it. But I pointed out to him that this sense of wrong was really subjective and relative; it rested entirely upon the assumption that the drawer could, should, and would come out easily. “But if,” I said, “you picture to yourself that you are pulling against some powerful and oppressive enemy, the struggle will become merely exciting and not exasperating. Imagine that you are tugging up a lifeboat out of the sea. Imagine that you are roping up a fellow-creature out of an Alpine crevasse. …

“Shortly after this I left him; but I have no doubt at all… that every day of his life he hangs on to the handle of that drawer with a flushed face and eyes bright with battle.” (G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered, “On Running After One’s Hat”)

Chesterton displays the best of his tongue-in-cheek style here, but it doesn’t mean he’s not sincere. I have no doubt that his friend continued to condemn his drawer daily, flushed face and all. Perhaps our exertion of imagination isn’t worthwhile in a matter as small as a drawer. But I believe it’s essential in the matter of the obstacles we routinely face as overseas workers.

We have plenty of jammed drawers: government paperwork, irregular verbs, difficult neighbors. Assuming that our tasks and responsibilities can, should, and will go according to plan — that is, smoothly and just like our home country — is a dangerous idea. It sets us up to feel wronged and bitter when they inevitably don’t.

Our response to a problem flows from our expectations. If we recognize that we aren’t entitled to have everything “go right” — if we acknowledge that it rarely will — then we can forestall our resentment. This isn’t defeatism, because we don’t put all our hope in our own plans. We’re not saying our work is doomed to fail, but simply that our sovereign God will lead us through unexpected twists that produce something better than we were able to foresee.

It’s tiring to know and expect that our plans will frequently be frustrated, but the alternative is to live in constant, angry crisis. That’s a level of exhaustion no one can afford.

Imagining the reality

What’s more, our annoyance and sense of being wronged by inconveniences can be turned into something else with a bit of imagination. In our case, it’s not fantastical imagination, but holy imagination, the kind that looks beyond what is visible to see the spiritual reality.

We can imagine, quite rightly, that we are struggling against a real enemy, not flesh and blood or tangible things, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesian 6:12). Imagine that pulling out that drawer is an act of holy belligerence to defy the work of Satan and bring God’s Kingdom to bear in your sphere of influence. In fact, it is.

We pull out the drawer daily. We persevere through another day of wilting heat and humidity; we study the next language lesson; we trust God for another visa renewal; we initiate conversation with the lady next door or in the market; we offer our empathy for one more heart-rending story; we prepare the next sermon or lesson plan; we clean one more baby bottom.

In all these mundane, sometimes unpleasant things, beneath the surface of what our eyes can see, there is a deeper reality: we are in the midst of something even more dramatic than rescuing adrift sailors or fallen mountaineers. God has allowed us to be part of his work of rescuing eternal souls and redeeming the whole cosmos.

Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 6: we need to put on the full armor of God for this monumental task. Do we remember this? Do we consider that we need the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit — just to be fit to pull out a metaphorical jammed drawer?

Our tasks are not small tasks; done in faith, to God’s glory, there is no small task. That carefully bandaged wound in a village clinic? That cup of water offered to a beggar? That impromptu counseling session with a distraught young woman? They are of eternal significance. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Missions is adventure… but not how we show on social media

Chesterton sums up his observations at the end of his essay: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

It’s a pithy phrase; but is it trite? Can we really see inconveniences as adventures? What’s more, with the recent trendiness of “adventures,” the pursuit of which can be self-centered and showy, can we trust someone telling us to search them out?

Let’s not blame Chesterton for 21st century buzzwords. I don’t think he’s denying true brokenness; I think he’s trying to help us see the world through a lens of hopeful longing rather than annoyance.

Sometimes, when bad things happen, we have to sit down and cry. As Christians, we are people who lament, with the approval and encouragement of our God (see the Psalms). Loss and injustice drive us to sorrow and anger, a reflection of God’s anger over sin and brokenness. These things should not be glossed over.

But for lesser issues, our attitude does create much of our experience. If I personify mold as a presumptuous invader, arm myself with gloves and cleaning solution, and write funny stories about it, I can laugh and roll my eyes and feel accomplished. If I consider it an affront to normal human life, I just get mad. Picturing our problems as adventures takes the sting of surprise out of them: we expect wild things to happen.

It was easy to find the adventure in the beginning, wasn’t it? When we first land in-country, it’s easy to laugh at language mistakes and getting lost. We have fun at the alley-way market buying mysterious foods. We delight in deciphering characters on the hastily-scribbled gas tank bill. But it doesn’t last. It’s not enough. The surface level of cross-cultural fun wears off once you realize that you really can’t get cheese here, and the flying termite house infestation season is a real thing. And this is your life now.

New experiences are fun and exciting, and we get enough of a high from them to pull us through the problems for a little while. But when the high disappears, where does that leave us? Our conviction has to come from a deeper place.

The only adventure worth our very lives is that of following Jesus and making disciples of all the nations. Not only is following God the greatest adventure, the result is the most thrilling end we could dream of: not an epic photo album and gripping set of stories, but the new heavens and new earth, an eternity with our Father and the people he brought into his Kingdom.

Laughter as an Act of Rebellion

“There are times when the most effective way to teach a certain truth is by laughing very hard.”

G.K. Chesterton, as described in The Bookman (1912)


There are times when laughing very hard is brave defiance; a dare to the darkness impinging.

Satan, the lying burglar, loves to steal joy.

But Jesus, the rough-hewn Carpenter, loves to give it back.



There’s a difference between joy and happiness, between joy and laughter, I get that. But sometimes, we try to be so spiritual that we end up being too grown up for God.

Joy is richer and fuller than happiness. But joy does not exclude happiness. That’s like saying, “I love her, I just can’t stand her!” Really?

“I’m joyful, I just look bitter and angry and like I want to kill a bunny!” Really? Is that all we’ve got to offer a world that’s drowning in its own pessimism and rage?

Is some sort of hunkered down holiness God’s idea for the Church? Yeah, I don’t think so.

In such a world (which, it should be noted, is not too dissimilar from times past), laughter is a bright act of rebellion.

Seriousness is not holier than joviality. For many, though, it’s much easier.


Laughter as Prophetic Rebellion
I’m no stranger to sad things. Or places.

I worked in an urban hospital, in the emergency department. I watched people yell and scream until their bodies ran out of blood, their brains starved, and They.Just.Stopped.

Every week I sit in a counseling room and watch brave peoples’ tears smack the floor.

My parents and my sister are still dead. And I still miss them.

So no, I’m not talking about a laughter that requires denial. I’m not talking about a laughter that’s fueled by alcohol or idiocy.

I’m talking about a laughter that is fueled by Christ.

To remember the sun’s existence on a rainy day is to remember Reality. Dancing in the downpour is a prophetic thing: It will not always storm.


“Optimism breaks through agnosticism like fiery gold round the edges of a black cloud.” 


 “Joy, which was the small publicity of the Pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” 


“ I have come into my second childhood.”

G.K. Chesterton


We need a second childhood; to be born again into childlikeness.

A joyful heart really is wonderful medicine, healing the imbiber and others besides.

We must boldly remember that after mourning comes dancing, and gazelles still dance on mountains of spices.


Humanism: enemy of happiness
Happiness without Christ relies on humanism. And humanism, as a source of joy, is simply not strong enough or deep enough for the long haul. It can produce flashes of joy and pleasure, for sure, but it is not durable. It is a plastic bag.

The alternative, according to Chesterton, enables joy. Speaking of Robert Louis Stevenson, Chesterton said,

“Stevenson’s enormous capacity for joy flowed directly out of his profoundly religious temperament. He conceived himself as an unimportant guest at one eternal and uproarious banquet.”

The Christianized humanist stands on the edge of the sea and says, “How great I am that the God of all this would love me!” The Christian stands at the same sea and exclaims, “How great God is that he would create all of this and love me!” Though those two statements sound similar, they diverge sharply, and having diverged, end poles apart.


So Rebel Already
Look for the wonder. Look for the humor. Laugh at the darkness as a child of the Light.

Don’t be afraid of the Godly Guffaw.

Read Chesterton.

Now, I’m not interested in ignorant bliss. I’m not promoting a happiness that exists only in the absence of pain. I’m advocating a worldview that views the world, as it is. And then keeps looking. To see the world as it is, isolated and suspended in nothing, results in terror and too great a cognitive dissonance.

No, we must see the world as it is, without blinders, and then we must keep looking and see the great Actor who exists outside of (and inside of) the world.

His presence changes things. It must change things.

So look up.

Lift up your head and see the King.

Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty;
the LORD, invincible in battle.

Open up, ancient gates!
Open up, ancient doors,
and let the King of glory enter.

Who is the King of glory?
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies—
he is the King of glory.

Psalm 24:8-10


You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

1 Peter 1:8


Come, everyone!

Clap your hands!

Shout to God with joyful praise! 

For the LORD Most High is awesome.

He is the great King of all the earth.

Psalm 47:1-2