Not all who wander are lost.
…but, maybe a lot of us are….
The “Not all who wander are lost” quote from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series has become a quote that is hard to escape. It's plastered across posters, photos, jewelry and journals. In fact, my mom bought for me an engraved necklace with the very quote.
The definition of “wander” according to dictionary.com is “to ramble without a finite purpose or objective—to go aimlessly or to stray.”
But, why would we wander in the first place?
For a lot of us, this quote stirs in us a desire to travel…to wander away from our routines and sameness. To discover newness. This can be an amazing thing! Stirring away from our comfort zone, growing in new experiences, or even leading to journeys of self-discovery and deeper faith.
Some of us, in fact, just love to wander. I am one of them. I am constantly in search of a new adventure. I’m sure that’s why mom thought of me when she saw this necklace.
Although wandering can be a journey of growth and discovery, I fear that sometimes the desire to wander can come from an unhealthy motivation of a broken state; that the desire to wander is aroused from a physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual discontentment.
Maybe we are even unknowingly trying to wander away from a painful storm we are in the center of. I know this first-hand.
About a year ago, my world turned inside out and upside down. Having just graduated from college, the future I'd laid out ahead of me came crashing down with a hardship leaving my heart torn in pieces.
God saw my torn heart and opened doors for me to work in a setting he knew would help move me towards healing. So I packed up my bags and drove from the Twin Cities to Idaho to work on a pack llama ranch for the summer. The beauty of the mountainous surroundings and the demanding hours and tasks of the job were everything I needed. It was also healing to be in a setting that fed my God-given wiring of adventure.
But when my seasonal job ended and I came back home, an intense restlessness set in.
The reality of my broken dreams sunk into a new level. I didn’t know what was ahead, what to look forward to, or what direction to even move towards. Almost every day I spent hours on a website called “Work Away” where jobs listed are available all over the world. My instinct was to run away. To leave the emptiness that seemed to be waiting for me at home.
When the Idaho job presented itself, I had prayed about it and knew God had opened the doors for this opportunity and to help in my healing.
But this time it was different.
God started to reveal to me that in leaving, my heart was not in the right place. Although God wired me with a spirit of adventure and a passion to travel, that was not what was driving me... I was trying to wander away from the pain.
God was saying to me, “I know this is hard for you. I am here to help you walk through it. Your heart needs to be in a good place before I can take you into the next place I have for you.”
So I surrendered. I asked, “Okay God, what do you have for me?”
He then took me back to the verse that had comforted me during the time when my life was unraveling:
I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your Word. You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.
He wanted me to remember that his ways are so good; that even when I wander off and lose sight of who he is, I see how good he is to me and how much he loves me. It’s when I go through trials and then face into him, that's how I most experience how good he is.
While a part of me embraced what he was saying, there was another part that argued, “But God, this is how you wired me to be—adventurous and wanting to meet new people and see new places. I can’t change that, and I don't know how I can stay here!”
And this is how good he is: During this time of reckoning, my dad came home one day and said, “Have you ever thought about being a flight attendant?”
My heart stirred. So I applied at Sun Country Airlines where a friend of mine works at corporate. It just so happened they were hiring for two new aircrafts. They only hire a few times a year. On the first round of interviews, the hiring panel informed us that they had received 1,500 applicants. Through the application process, they had eliminated down to 700 applicants. In the end, they would be hiring 30 flight attendants. With the statistics of my chances combined with meeting clearly higher qualified applicants, I felt discouraged. But then God gave me a peace that I cannot explain. Even though odds were against me, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace that it was completely in his hands, no matter the outcome. It was the first time since coming home that I truly in my heart trusted God's plan for me.
One night when I was walking out of church, I got a call. Not just a call, but THE call. Fast forward a few months later, and here I am writing this devotion in the airport and from the sandy oceanside of a Fort Myers layover.
What might you be wandering from?
When our tanks are empty, it is a natural instinct to adventure elsewhere…exploring different regions, careers, and sadly even wandering outside of marriages.
Sometimes we wander down one different path after another, only to find ourselves more lost than when we started.
Sometimes we travel down different paths of sin—things that separate us from our Creator who dearly loves us. Things that hurt the heart of God and us.
Maybe we aren’t wandering physically yet, but we are wandering away in our minds…away from our loved ones, a spouse, a career, from working through a problem. When we wander in our mind—when we daydream—we always picture ourselves in ideal situations; but this is not reality.
The surroundings of a different circumstance may be thrilling for a little while, but it never seems to fill the hole—that empty felling—the reason we wandered in the first place. Often this wandering leaves us more empty than before we started.
What does that leave us with?
Maybe it is time to look within. To look at the heart behind why we are wandering and where we are wandering to.
Maybe it is time to stop our wandering…to find the path that leads to peace. To listen to his leading and his timing. To face into the set of circumstances we have. To remember who God is, and to remember he has good plans for us. Whether that is exploring new terrain or in the mundane of the familiar.
Serenity comes from peace within. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
I know that for me, whether taking an adventure to new limits or whether I'm folding my socks after finishing a load of laundry, I do not have contentment without my Lord and Savior close to my heart, mind, and soul.
In our restlessness, our hurting hearts, our empty tanks and broken states...remember that the thrill of wandering to the promises of this world will never satisfy. No matter what you may be wrestling with, let go of the circumstances you are trying to take control of...and wander back to God.
Written by McKayla Adams