Not long ago, I would have described my life as typical for a married man with kids. During the day, I worked hard, trying to advance my career. After work and on weekends, I would spend time with my family. Once or twice a year, we would go on a vacation. Throw in the odd night at the bar with some buddies watching hockey, and you have a pretty good picture of what life looked like.
Life could be very busy at times, but I thought I knew what I was doing, and it seemed to be working reasonably well.
It was not a bad life, but it was a safe life. Safe in the sense that I did not venture far from the path that seemed to work. I did not risk confronting the places within me that needed attention. I shied away from difficult conversations because it was easier not to rock the boat. I did not push the boundaries beyond what I considered normal in most areas of my life. Life was by no means easy, but as much as possible it was safe. In many ways, I operated within a bubble. One where I knew the boundaries and was comfortable to stay within them.
When I look backwards three or four years ago, I realize that while I was working hard, I was working to build up my own kingdom. A kingdom that was safe for my family and me. A financially secure, risk-reduced life, that would yield maximum comfort in the long run.
In retrospect, however, there is a limit to the life available within the confines of a bubble.
Locker Room Slogans
In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Under coach John Tortorella, the team that year adopted a mantra that drove them to success and defined their style of play.
Safe is Death.
When I read that, something comes alive within me. A small spark that originates from core of who I am. Not because I have a desire to be reckless, but because over the last few years I have experienced a little bit of the growth that comes from taking risks. By accepting the invitation to wander outside the boundaries of my comfort zone and see what lies beyond.
When I look around at men that I have met through work, socially, and even in my church community, I see many good, dedicated men who are slowly dying from chasing safety. American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He said this in 1854, but nearly 170 years later, for many of us this still rings true.
To escape this, many of us go to familiar places of comfort or escape. Work, which can be a noble pursuit, can also be a common escape. Maybe it is video games, watching sports, or fantasy football. Sometimes it is drinking, drugs, or sex. All these things have the capacity to distract or numb us, but none brings us more life.
The question becomes, is there more? The answer is yes, but to get it requires risk. We must move beyond the walls we know, into the frontier.
In my experience, the initial move to frontier is a hard one. When enough of life is working, the risk to try something else might not seem worth it. Where we are, we know what life looks like. It is easy to hear someone tell us about something different, but without knowing the outcome, it is hard to imagine a different life, making it easy to stay put.
Sometimes we do not know where to step – I might ask myself, where are the frontiers in my life?
I am still edging off the fringes into of the frontiers of my life. Even there, however, I have found there are three areas where the frontier is vast but asking to be explored.
The first is the frontier within. For most men, myself included, looking inward, and acknowledging the areas where we need help is often a task that feels best left ignored. Leaving these places unattended over time, however, will likely result in pain or stunted growth.
Looking inward also means looking at the spiritual life. For most of my life, I rarely spoke about my faith with anyone. Even though I considered myself to be a practicing Catholic, this belief was rooted in my outward practices. Internally, I had little personal relationship with God.
Through personal encounter, my heart feels alive. God met me in my struggles and changed my perspective of faith and relationship. I understand why it is so important to spend time daily examining how things are going. To see where my heart is orienting. The answers to my deepest questions do not lie within me, but I have a Father who wants to lead me to Him in the pursuit of truth.
The second frontier I have come to recognize in my life is relationships. First and foremost, my relationships with my wife and children. These can be tricky waters to navigate at times. I admit there are times when I can sense something is up with my wife and my first instinct is to ignore it and hope it goes away.
Through experience, I have learned that is not the path to life. By pushing past the boundaries of my comfort and meeting my wife in the hard places, our marriage grows. If I am afraid to confront the challenges or too comfortable to venture beyond the safety of the immediate moment, my marriage will suffer.
The same logic applies to my relationships with my kids. It is way easier to scroll through my iPhone than it is to engage in whatever activity they want to do. Getting onto my hands and knees and into their worlds builds life and trust. These are deposits for a lifetime of relationship.
Beyond my family there remains vast relational frontier. In many of my friendships, we operate within the safe confines of discussion on work, sports, or the weather. The idea of jumping in at the deep end of conversation with a friend might seem terrifying, but in my experience there is treasure to be unearthed there.
The third frontier is the physical place in our lives where we have not yet ventured but are called to.
Right now, hiking feels like frontier to me. Getting into the mountains and testing myself feels like a place where I will find more life.
For others, it might be starting a business long dreamed of, but always deferred for one reason or another. It could be taking a course in something you have always wanted to learn but have never found the time.
We were all born with a map on our hearts, put there by a Creator who knew what we could become and wants us to get there. When we actively seek that map, the will of the Father, our hearts will lead us into the frontier. He will help us discover all that is available there if we are willing to risk taking the first step.
The Final Frontier
About ten years ago, I started taking tiny steps towards the frontiers in my life. I did not know it then, nor would I have called it that, but for me it started with reading and learning more about myself.
Almost three years ago, I discovered the frontier that is available to me. On most days, the frontier seems vast and wild, and I feel like I have not yet started to explore it. It is only in looking backwards that I can see how far I have already come.
The journey is not a race or to be compared to anyone else, but when I see where the Father has led me thus far, my trust grows. The next step into the wild frontier is made in confidence. We all have frontier in our lives. It may seem uncertain, or our current lives may seem good enough, but there is life beyond what we know.
To experience this life, we must be willing to risk taking a first step. There is risk in the step. In taking it we find there are others seeking this frontier life. Those willing to walk alongside on the way in pursuit of the life we are made for. This road into frontier may be less worn than those we know, but each step forward brings us closer to the life we were born to live. Keep walking.
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