A Word for the Wandering

Lately I have been thinking about the word “wander” a lot. It’s just been rolling around in my head for awhile now.

You know the feeling? It’s like when you decide what kind of car you want to buy next and all of a sudden they’re the only cars you seem to notice driving around town.

The idea of “wandering” usually conjures up a negative connotation:

  • the family that’s lost on a road trip trying to find their way
  • the rebellious teenager who seems to do the exact opposite of his parent’s wishes
  • the 30-year old who can’t figure what she wants to do with her life

I usually tune out when authors or speakers start a sentence like “Webster’s Dictionary defines _________ as blah blah blah…” but in this case I think it’s interesting.

(v. i.) To ramble here and there without any certain course or with no definite object in view; to range about; to stroll; to rove; as, to wander over the fields.

Webster’s takes the negative route, too. When did wandering get such a bad rap?

All of my recent thoughts on “wandering” have been rooted in a desire to reclaim it as something good, a beautiful journey.

As a pastor, I get to interact with all types of wanderers. Most of their wandering looks more like the ancient Israelites in the desert than the prodigal son on his pilgrimage of licentiousness. They may have lost their way a bit but they’re not hellbent on being hellbent.

I think there’s beauty in searching, not wandering aimlessly, but wandering while ultimately searching for something bigger than yourself, for significance, for purpose.

Godly wanderers can come in many forms:

  • The one who is recently divorced is not constantly throwing themselves a pity party. They’re wandering. They are trying to put their life back together and remind themselves through all the sleepless nights of doubt that they do matter. They are worth loving.
  • The 20-something seemingly jumping from job to job might not be perpetually flaky. They’re wandering. They are trying to find where they fit, truly fit.
  • The accountant who wakes up one day with no passion for work, feeling utterly stuck. She is curious if this is really the role to which she is supposed to devote her life. She is not necessarily ungrateful for her current lot in life; she’s wandering.
  • The single man in his 40’s who’s never found the woman to call his wife. He’s not a loser. He may have been ready for commit to someone for 20 years but he just has not met her yet. He’s not damaged goods. He’s wandering.

To any and all wanderers, I am growing increasingly more aware of and empathetic toward your journey. Know this: You don’t wander alone.

You don’t wander alone.

When the Israelites were wandering in the desert for forty years, God was with them every step of the way, even though it did not always feel like it.

Even when the prodigal son bolted from his loving father’s home, running headlong into a life of rebellion in every way, God was with him.

You don’t wander alone…so you don’t have to act like you do.

This might be one of the most common yet tragic facts about my friends who are modern-day wanderers. So many of them feel they must wander alone. Maybe they feel others don’t understand their journey. Maybe they have had negative encounters with people misunderstanding or belittling their current state of wandering.

No matter the reason for your wandering, it is not necessary for you to avoid community while on the journey.

A genuine group of people who care about you will consistently value you for you, not who they think you could or should be.

You are not a project to be worked on or a problem to be fixed.

You don’t wander alone. God is with you. And so are his people. In fact, we are all wandering together.

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