The Great Adventure

By Peter & Debra Herbeck


I characterize family life, and particularly the noble vocation of fatherhood, as the Great Adventure. Most men have a difficult time perceiving this. Instead, we pursue greatness through the achievement of high goals and heroic efforts outside the family—through sports, business, and military service and other things the world recognizes and rewards. When pursued in the right order, these can be genuinely good and even noble, but they are not the highest goods.

The following story may shed some light on this point. In the summer of 2010, our family had the great privilege of going to Israel with Debbie’s Jewish family. On our return from Israel, we spent a weekend in Manhattan with our son Josh before dropping him off at West Point Military Academy. The first two nights, I woke up wide awake in the middle of the night due to jet lag. So, I walked the streets of the city that never sleeps from 3:00 a.m. to sunrise. People, taxis, lights, and open bars and restaurants were everywhere. Our last night in the city, I slept all night and dreamt that I was walking through Manhattan during rush hour with its unending activity and commotion. I loved the energy and the power of the city. As I stood in the middle of a busy, crowded street, the traffic stopped and all the people disappeared. I was alone in the city, not a soul in sight. At that moment in the silence, I heard a baby crying. I pursued the sound, and turning the corner, I saw a baby alone in the middle of the street on a blanket.

As I picked up the baby, I heard the Lord say to me, “Peter, look around you at the towering buildings, lights, and human effort that so captivates you. Now look into the eyes of this child. Do you see what I see? All that you see will pass away in the twinkling of an eye. Now, look at this baby—naked, powerless, and alone. This child will never pass away. I did not come to preserve the things man calls great. I came for this child and every person who bears the image of my Father. This child will live for eternity, either in Heaven or in Hell. This child, along with every human, is the real gold, the only thing of inestimable value on the earth. I came to seek and save not great cities, human power, or prestige. I came to save what is truly valuable, those who bear the image and likeness of my Father. Those who from all eternity are destined to live forever.”

As Christian fathers and disciples of Jesus, we need to see and understand things with the mind of Christ. The Bible exhorts us: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). A renewed mind includes having the capacity to value things in their proper order and to then direct our time, talent, and treasure in the right proportion to the things that matter most. We cannot see the true measure of things without the help of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Navigating the world’s system of values and balancing its demands, priorities, and total commitment to its goals and rewards is not easy. It requires vigilance, discernment, courage, and a single-hearted determination to be in the world but not of the world. The key is to remain loyal to Jesus, which includes valuing what He most values and always making it our aim to please Him (2 Cor 5:9).

Without making the radical shift of putting Jesus and His will first and living and responding to the gravitational pull of Christ and His Kingdom, we will not be able to resist the powerful forces and the disordered energies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. St. Paul makes the choice before us clear:

Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; . . . Put off the old man that belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt with deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:17–18, 22–24)

The “world” in this biblical sense is precisely that pattern of values and priorities—including the economic, political, social, and cultural forces—that resist the will of God. This world operates according to an entirely different calculus than God’s when it comes to measuring what matters. This is a critical distinction every man needs to make to see things clearly. Without this biblical worldview settled deeply in a man’s heart, he will end up living in twilight rather than entering fully into the light of Christ. Without that clear light, a man cannot see the true value of things, and as a result will remain subject to the futility of mind and darkness of understanding that St. Paul spoke about. He becomes “a double-minded man, unstable in all of his ways” (Jas 1:8). Tossed about and constantly torn between two poles, he lacks the clarity and conviction needed to make the sacrifices necessary to confidently and consistently lead his family under the Lordship of Jesus.

How is it possible for a man who is not a priest or a monk to live with this eternal perspective? To be motivated each day, all day, by a radically different set of values than the world in which he moves? He needs to find the treasure hidden in the field, to see and experience the superior pleasures of knowing Christ Jesus. Seeing and possessing this treasure provides the strength and motivation needed to resist the temptation to prioritize the goods of this world.

A humorous story told about St. Francis and Brother Bernard beautifully expresses this. After praying all night long in the woods near their monastery, Brother Bernard began shouting at the crack of dawn to his brothers as he re-entered the monastery, “Brothers! Brothers! There is no man anywhere, no matter how great, no matter how much he was promised in riches, who wouldn’t happily carry a bag of dung to win this amazing treasure!” In other words, if the richest, most powerful man, who is happily tied to this world and is the envy of all, discovered this treasure, he would gladly do anything to gain and keep it, even if it meant giving up everything and carrying a bag of manure through the city. He would be willing to pay any price, even to look like a fool. Brother Bernard understood that the radical sacrifice of living in total poverty that he and his brothers made would not be sustainable if not for Christ. But united to Christ and knowing they were doing His will, their daily burdens became a source of profound joy. In contemporary language, they knew they were “trading up” when they made that investment. In fact, they won the lottery!

PETER HERBECK is the Executive Vice President and Director of Missions for Renewal Ministries. Peter is the co-host of the weekly television show The Choices We Face and the host of the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker and is the author of When the Spirit Comes in Power and co-author of When the Spirit Speaks and Touched by God’s Word, with his wife Debbie. Peter holds a BA in Philosophy from St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota and an MA in Theology from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. 

DEBRA HERBECK is the Founder and Executive Director of Pine Hills Girls’ Camp and is also the Founder and Leader of Be Love Revolution, a ministry that exists to help young women encounter Christ and be His love to all they meet. Debbie has written several books and is a frequent author and speaker for Blessed Is She and contributing writer for Undone: Freeing Your Feminine Heart from the Knots of Fear and Shame. Debbie and Peter live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and have four children and ten grandchildren.

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