All that is gold does not glitter
not all those who wander are lost;
the old that is strong does not wither
deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
a light from the shadows shall spring;
renewed shall be blade that was broken,
the crownless again shall be king.
From the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this poetic description tells of the hero who had been wandering, a soon-to-be leader. Gandolf, the wise man, would draw him out of his undirected life, and teach him to lead the Middle Earth.
In Tolkien’s magnificent epic, it was the hero’s wandering that actually prepared him for his life’s destiny. I love the thought that wandering can be used for life’s purpose.
When I look back on the many times that I thought I was wandering so futilely, I see how God used them to teach me stuff. Good stuff mostly and sometimes hard lessons honed in the ignorance of the wander.
Sometimes it was stuff that I should never do again.
Often it was a distraction from facing the truth that I didn’t want to own up to.
Sometimes it was good stuff that I was drawn to, but with a heart and a motive that was wrong-headed (usually smacking of pride!).
Fuzziness Fuels My Wandering
I think my wandering mostly stems from fuzziness. I look into the mirror and don’t see myself clearly, so I wander off to find clarity, thinking that a different view will take away the reflected cloudiness.
What I was really seeking, more often than not, was clarity about God, and His view of me. I wanted to know Him completely, to understand all that He is. No more questions, no more uncertainty, no more fuzziness.
But I learned – and continue to learn – that a god that I can clearly see is not THE God.
The god I wanted was one that I could fit into the box labeled with big holy-looking letters: GOD. There was no fuzziness in that box, only alphabetical file folders with color-coded labels. If something new came up, I just fit it right in there all neat and cozy.
If something didn’t fit, if something came up that was fuzzy, off I went to find clarity, to ease the unease that came from not being in total control of my self-created filing system.
One time I wandered off to see if I could find that clarity in drinking more alcohol with friends who weren’t looking for anything but the numbing of inebriation! We found numbness but my mind sure wasn’t clarified the next morning. (Friends – of any kind – could help, right?)
Another time, I sank deeply – my time, my attention, my loyalty – into my career. I found that I played the politics well, the tomfoolery of climbing the corporate ladder. The view further up the ladder only made the view of solid ground more fuzzy. (I felt important and useful – pride in the talents God clarifies things, right?)
Once I went on a reading binge of every popular fiction novel I could get my hands on. In a year, I had read almost 50 of them. It was certainly a distraction, but at the end of the year, my mirror was so cloudy that I couldn’t even see a blur. Not because reading fiction was wrong, but I wandered away from any time with God. (God wants me to write and according to Stephen King, writers are readers, right?)
I always had a good, rational reason for wandering away.
I Was Never Lost. I Was Just Distracted.
Each time I realized I wandered again, I felt crappy; like I had disappointed God, that I had wasted time, done unforgivable damage to my faith. I was often wracked with shame.
I was wrong because He was waiting for me to turn back. He was just one step beyond the moment when I realized the futility of the wandering path I was on.
Repent then, and turn to God…so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. ~Acts 3:19
He was just one step beyond the moment when I realized the futility of the wandering path I was on.
This truth we can all bank on: Our tendency to wander will always be matched step for step by God’s promise to never leave us, to be the constant in our life, even when we wander off of His path.
He will always be here, ready to lead us back off of our wandering paths!
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.