I wandered off the path. My friends continued on the wet, rocky trail between Loch Lomond and Loch Long in southern Scotland, but I veered off to the right and up the grassy slope. The ground was soft, packed down with leaves, pine needles, and twigs. My boots sunk in slightly with each step. I maneuvered around tall tree trunks and hopped a tiny stream leaking downhill.
I hiked on a ridge parallel to the trail so as not to lose my group, but they were still out of sight. Beams of soft light peaked through the trees, and as I looked up through the branches, a light mist of rain sprinkled down through the rays. It was quiet. It was perfect. It was holy.
I wandered, but God met me there.
He had not left my side during my whole semester abroad in England, and that was my favorite discovery. God is so clear when you travel because you really need him to show up to get you from A to B in a safe and sane way. Being dependent on God is humbling, but you get to look back in amazement of all the things he made happen just right. The stranger who helped with directions. Someone at the airport who suggested the best non-touristy places to go. The train that you made just in time. Or in the case of our hike between the lochs, meeting a person with the knowledge that the only place to buy food was the town across the water and through the woods. We were so secluded, but still God provided.
These God moments are what I always hope to see more of after every trip. I want to carry that excitement for life, that trust in God, and that feeling of his presence into my everyday life.
I felt God’s presence in that dark wood, and it was a holy glow, a mist.
Then I came to a downed tree and was forced to double back and return to my group. The moment had ended. But was I changed?
That is a question I struggled with a lot upon returning home to America. God had proven himself to my again and again, but did I trust any surer? Was I more resilient? Could people see how much I had learned about God and myself? I sure felt different, but life had gone on as normal, and I didn’t know how to pick up my life again.
I’d wandered and was unsure how to return.
I’m still a firm believer that wandering can be good for us, physically and mentally. A change in scenery, new discoveries, daydreams. But we need to be grounded on what we must come back to. My family and friends and boring, normal life was still there, but now I had to view it as a new opportunity to see God in the mundane. It wasn’t exciting and it wasn’t new, but it’s where I had to be in that time of my life to finish college and get my first adult job. God whispered “You trusted me there, so why not here?”
As sinful humans we tend to lump tasks into things we can handle on our own and things only God can truly take care of. When you’re lost in a foreign city you tend to call on God a little more than when it’s Monday at the office and you face your to-do list. It’s my work and this is how I’m going to go about getting it done. And days continue where we rely on our own strength, and God gets quiet.
I’ve found that when our bodies and lives stay still and get in a rut, our hearts wander from God. And this is when wandering becomes a problem.
We need to be in the Word, prayer, and fellowship to keep our hearts and minds on God’s plan.
I’m at a point in my life where I’m often thinking about what’s next.
What job might I want? What man might I meet? What place might I travel or move to?
My mind wanders to what I want. My plans. And if left alone, I might continue down that seemingly safe, parallel path from the group, but I could end up far from where God wants me. It might be exciting and new and fun, but if I didn’t check in with God along the way, I could just be taking more steps farther from him.
But God knows this about us. He knows our hopes and dreams and follows us when we get off course. He will leave the other 99 sheep, go pick you up, and bring you back to the fold. (Matthew 18:12-14). He wants what is best for us and does not want to see our faith falter or fade.
It’s so comforting that God knows my tendencies to daydream and wander from him, but that he is always there to bring me back. He forgives. He loves. He guides.
We sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” at church this weekend, and these words always hit me.
Lord, you know the dreams in my heart and places that I hope to wander to, but help me to never put my dreams above your plans. Let me remain in close connection with you so that I can hear where you want me to go or stay. Bring my heart contentedness and peace with whatever you place before me. Take my heart and make it yours forever.