Wandering is an inescapable theme of the Christian experience, and yet for many we desire a life marked by straight paths, smooth roads, and victorious arrivals.
As I write, I have travelled through some major life changes in recent months – some prayed for, a few drastic and unwelcome. I find myself stumbling, fearful, uncertain of these new winding roads and unsure of God’s place in it all.
His lesson for this weary traveller: “It isn’t just sin and disbelief, but faith—even the stoutest, most persevering faith—that takes you off life’s straight and narrow road.” Then I feel guilty. Where is my faith? Why am I not “counting it all joy” and skipping confidently into the sunny future? “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the one I love.”
Wandering is often required of those called to follow. Abraham was called to leave his homeland and journey wherever God took him. Hebrews 11, the “Faith Hall of Fame” chapter, describes those who lived as “foreigners and strangers,” who “wandered in deserts and mountains” without “receiving the things promised” to them. Jesus himself was a wanderer, with no place to lay his head, who called 12 men to a nomadic life of healing and preaching.
For many of us the prevailing metaphor for the life of faith is “the journey.” However I would now conclude that while we are all wanderers in some way, we are also called to be settlers.
With such an overplayed image of ”the journey”, we can easily miss the purpose of our sojourn: reaching our destination. My goal has been not the avoidance of all stumbling and uncertainty, but the pursuit of Christ himself. Paul encourages us to ‘press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus’ – Philippians 3:14.
Returning to my own story, my life changes was not just about getting through them; it was about all the places I stopped along the way, all the people I met, even the places when I was miserably stuck. Every discovery, adventure and detour had purpose and value for me.
I am being constantly reminded that my Christian holiness (holy living) walk is a slow train that must inevitably stop at every little town in my life—nothing can be skipped over.
While frustrating and repetitive at times, I have learned not to wander less, but to “wander with Christ.” As J.R.R. Tolkien reminds us, “Not all those who wander are lost.”