Glenn Carlson: An Extreme Faith
By Chuck Holton
The 700 Club
As the owner of a thriving white water rafting and outdoor adventure company, Glenn Carlson’s life was full of excitement. But behind the successful exterior, he was drowning in hopelessness until a neighbor’s example helped him see what he was missing.
Each year, thrill seekers come from all over the world to West Virginia’s New River Gorge to get an adrenaline fix, and they rarely go away disappointed. Whether it’s riding the waves of the new river, climbing the endless wall, or even parachuting off the western hemisphere’s highest suspension bridge, this place appeals to outdoorsmen of every kind.
But what a lot of people come to enjoy for a weekend, Glenn Carlson turned into a lifestyle. And it almost consumed him.
"In extreme sports, how extreme is the extreme? And if you keep living through it then it must not have been quite as extreme as the next one can be,” Glenn says.
Glenn Carlson built his career on adventure, getting paid to do what he loved – enjoying the great outdoors.
“I didn’t half-do it either. I mean I owned a whitewater company. We had a kayak school and a rock climbing school. I traveled the country training and you know, I was at the top of my game. I always felt the most awe outdoors ... you know, in nature."
Glenn was there for more than just the scenery, however.
“Full bore, white knuckled extreme ... if you get really good at it, you’ll sort of stand out. So then, you sort of get your ego stroked and you start to think, 'Well, that’s cool.'”
As an adrenaline junkie, everything had to be extreme – and that’s where the lifestyle turned into an addiction.
“Every extreme move has to be topped by another, and topped by another, you know. And where’s the end? You just have this whole lifestyle that if it isn’t on the up all the time ... this super rush high from the extreme sports to the next trip to the next activity to the next woman, the next party, the next whatever ... nothing fulfills, nothing sustains."
As it turned out, what looked like a great lifestyle wasn’t much of a life. And when the adrenaline was gone, it left depression in its wake.
"You just couldn’t live and breathe that every minute of the day. When you are left sober and not dealing with an extreme day, then what’s life all about? I mean, I just didn’t know. I wanted to be significant and have fulfillment and measure it all in the externals. I remember it very clearly as the despair of, how much further can you go with the extreme sports? I’ve been doing this every day for a living, and it isn’t fulfilling, and I have this awful, shameful past. And I know it’s sinful, and I was crying out.”
Glenn’s work schedule was crushing…and his marriage was on the rocks. As things continued to get worse both at work and at home, Glenn went searching for answers.
"I ended up at the very bottom crying out…mine very specifically was a cry out to God -- if You’re real, then make yourself known. If all this stuff is real, then show me,” he said to God.
The answer to that prayer was closer than he thought.
“I had a neighbor that clearly shared where his peace came from. He was also the first one to explain to me that he lived with the Holy Spirit inside, and he had a power that was greater than me, and could look me in the eye and say, 'You’re always trying to do it on your own. Why don’t you read this?' ” And he challenged me to read the book of John three times.”
Glenn was still skeptical...
“The first time I was just reading through it, the second time, the Lord had a hold on me. And I really feel like I was at the bottom crying out, and there was the answer. Here he’s saying ... you can have life and have it to the full, that’s what I’ve always wanted," Jim remembers. "This was the first time that I really understood that Christ submitted to his father, the will of his father, unto death, and that really struck a chord with me. I mean, that’s extreme living!"
“And I went from being a person crying out to God to truly knowing, 'You did it, you bought my way. I can be free of this old sin, I’m yours.' ”
That surrender changed everything. Glenn sold his business, changed his lifestyle and his priorities. The effects of these changes are evident in Glenn’s life today.
"I can quit running, I can quit being obsessed with getting as much of it as fast as I can and just an internal peace and fulfillment and joy that’s just .... yeah, I don’t have to chase everything so hard anymore."
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