Play, Part Four: What Danger Teaches Us

Earlier this week Dan returned from his ten day backcountry motorcycle adventure in Colorado. As he concludes our series on play Dan shares what he learned on this adventure and invites us to consider the ways in which play, and danger in particular, opens the door to engaging some of life’s larger complexities — including control, fear, and vulnerability.

Dan, along with John Eldredge, John’s three sons, and a crew from Ransomed Heart, journeyed over 1000 miles of severe terrain from Colorado Springs into central Colorado, down toward New Mexico, and back up up through four mountain passes to end at a ranch near Steamboat Springs.  Dan describes this journey as some of the most difficult days of physical and spiritual war that he has known — but also one of the most holy trips of his lifetime.

As he unpacks what this trip has taught him he begins with the significance of preparation:

“When you take on an adventure — that could be starting a new job, beginning a new relationship — you want to put your time in prior to prepare your heart, your mind, your body, your soul, and your will as to what are you going to get into. What is required of you? Who does this better than you? Many people who enter adventures do so with impulsivity that does not allow for slow, proper percolation.

Dan and the others started their trip with an intensive three day training, which Dan found to be invaluable, especially as it relates to honing skill and strengthening one’s capacity to be in the present moment.

“The skills required to ride a motorcycle through rugged terrain are highly disposable. If you don’t continue to engage what you have learned you will lose what you once had. The same is true of prayer or kindness in relation to one’s spouse. What matters most must be practiced again and again, without the presupposition that  we already know how to do it. The world that we enter with adventure is a world that we can’t control. When we are in the moment of danger the things we tend to default to the things we have done in the past rather than the potential ways we may be in the future.”

Along a particularly dangerous pass Dan takes a fall, resulting in a tremendous amount of pain and at least three broken ribs. As he reflects on the split-second mistakes that contributed to the fall he draws connections between the backcountry motorcycle training he received and day-to-day life.

“It was through this that I began to think about how play begins to open the door to seeing the larger complexities of life: You have to look beyond problems, but not ignore them. Your peripheral vision will guide you, but you have to have a sense of vision for where you want to go. You have to have balance and the capacity to move, but you can’t keep a tight grip on the handle bars. […] And when you are in pain you have two choices: Will you open yourself in the midst of your pain, become present, and ask for help? Or, will you shut down, and in that sense dissociate, and therefore become a more independent unit that requires and ask for nothing from others?”

Despite injury, Dan opened himself to receive care from the team and was able to complete the trek.

“When there is great caution applied often the very thing you are afraid of comes to play. Therefore, you have to be wise but continue to risk. You have to honor fear without being bound by it. Honor it. Admit it. Engage it. Call forth the presence of the living God in the midst of it, but don’t require others to take it away from you or — because of pain — lose the sense of mission and calling that are actually a central part of what the play is for.”

Footage from Dan’s backcountry motorcycle adventure will be produced into twelve episodes engaging the profound link between the story of God, our own stories, and the stories of others as it relates to death, resurrection, and ascension. Stay tuned to The Allender Center blog, as well as Ransomed Heart and And Sons magazine. The first episode is projected to be released in October!