If you had to pick five words to describe the Christian life, would these make your list: wonder, whimsy, beauty, magic, adventure? These five elements are bursting at the seams of Joel N. Clark's new book Awake: Discover the Power of YOUR Story.
I haven't encountered a book like Awake before - I could call it a Christian adventure memoir, but it's more. In Awake author and filmmaker Joel N. Clark shares stories that challenged him to live a bigger story, one suffused with wonder and deeply connected to God. As Joel reveals in this exclusive interview, he believes God created all of us to live that way, pursuing Him "fully awake."
Read on as Joel discusses what we stand to gain if we accept the "fully awake" challenge. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
ZBLOG: You write that you want to live "fully awake." What does a fully awake life look like?
JOEL: For much of my life I've heard pastors say, "God is not just found in the four walls of the church, but he's found in our places of work, in our homes and in our daily lives." Yet for many years my relationship with God came down to the times I prayed, read the Bible, worshiped (which usually meant singing) and went to church. This was the entirety of my relationship with God and therefore I was bored with him and all things Christian.
Living "fully awake" is about more than finding God in the midst of ALL of my story. It's about experiencing him fully, his pleasure, his heart and his presence in the midst of every part of it. This is something that doesn't come naturally, but he is speaking and acting constantly throughout the day.
When I am "fully awake" I am able to see and hear him in all of it and my life is filled with wonder, beauty and magic, even in the seasons of pain and heartache.
ZBLOG: In Awake you recount many of your adventures, and some are quite dangerous! Some readers may be tempted to say, "Joel is just addicted to danger" – but you claim you've never been an adrenaline junkie.
So, what is it that drives you?
|Joel N. Clark|
JOEL: Honestly, I am not a thrill seeker. What drives every choice in my life is STORY. I am addicted to it. Story implies the unknown, adventure, danger and new experiences. I believe with my whole heart that every truly great story leads toward God.
I think many people live out of a fear of failure or doing the wrong thing. What drives me is a fear of missing an opportunity to awaken my heart to a new dimension of my creator.
With every new experience, whether mundane, exciting or disappointing, there is an opportunity to engage a deeper life and more intimate relationship with God. Danger only excites me when it is in direct proportion to the story lying within it.
ZBLOG: You share some striking insights about loving God, others, and ourselves. In Christian circles I hear the least said about that third part: loving ourselves. What's one thing you've learned about how we can love ourselves well?
JOEL: The revelation of the importance of loving ourselves was part of the inspiration for writing Awake. Most Christians can quote the greatest commandment, but we often skip over those last two words, "as yourself." Most people are unsure of how to love their neighbors or themselves. Many are afraid that if they love themselves, it is prideful or excessive.
One way I have learned to love myself is by cultivating the things in my life that make me feel most alive. By assuming God is for me and has put his passions deep within me, I give myself freedom to follow these passions, becoming fully who God created me to be. And only when I become who I am created to be can I love the way God has created me to love.
ZBLOG: Your motto is "Do it for the story." Could you give a bite-sized version of what this means to you?
JOEL: Every day I am presented with opportunities. If I am not actively looking, I will not see most of them. Yet when I live awake, I am usually able to see the larger story.
Each time I choose to seize the day and embrace the opportunities before me, my story becomes larger and filled with more beauty, magic and wonder. It starts with the choice to take advantage of life's opportunities and to live fully.
I believe all of us are meant to live lives filled with magic and wonder, beauty and whimsy.
[In Awake I] show what it means to find the story in every aspect of my life. Awake is full of stories, large and small, which have influenced me to lead the life I am living now. I believe all of us are meant to live lives filled with magic and wonder, beauty and whimsy. Pain and heartache will enter every life whether they are invited or not, but beauty must be chosen.
ZBLOG: Has your view of "Do it for the story" changed now you've recently become a father? (Congratulations, by the way!)
JOEL: Thanks! Awake was released the same day my daughter Juno was born; she is absolutely amazing and beyond beautiful.
I don't think my view of "Do it for the story" has changed as much as my story has changed. When I was single I made choices that, for the most part furthered my story. When I finally got Megan to marry me and now with the arrival of Juno, my story has expanded.
I still embrace the fullness of my own story, yet my story is also much larger than before. Doing it for the story is as much about the new experiences I get to have as it is about those WE get to have. And with each added story our collective stories grow more beautiful and magical than they were before.
Learn more about Joel N. Clark's book Awake: Discover the Power of Your Story (The Book You Can Watch).
What's with the subtitle "The Book You Can Watch"? Awake immerses you in Joel's stories through a blend of print, photo and film. I haven't seen a book like this before. To get a taste, Read Chapter 1.
Facing Knives in the Street: An Object Lesson in Living Fully Awake via Joel N. Clark
(This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. Want to receive more thought-provoking and spiritually enriching posts? Subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)