I was driving down the highway a few days ago and found myself stuck behind a red jeep wrangler who was taking it way too easy in the left lane. On this rare occasion, it actually didn’t bother me much. Lately, I have been dreaming of driving an old jeep with the doors and top off, and so I actually found myself a little jealous of the owner. I then noticed the tire cover situated on the back: “Not all who wander are lost.” I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but as far as trendy phrases go, this has become one of the trendiest. I’ve seen the phrase “Not all who wander are lost” on instagram captioning a picturesque sunset in Malibu, I’ve seen it on a handful of colorful and flowery coffee mugs in places like Anthropology (not hatin’ – just sayin’), I’ve seen it on leather bound journals, on t-shirts, on napkins, and I even saw it tattooed on some girls leg a couple months ago.
Not all who wander are lost. It’s a romantic phrase… there is no doubt about that. I find it to be somewhat inspirational. It’s encouraging (I think). As a millennial I can certainly dig it. And yet I find myself asking, with of a desperate but hopeful gasp, “Not all who wander are lost, right?”
I suppose my question is birthed out of the reality that this past few years has been characterized by wandering for me. I left my job as the Youth Director at Pillar Church almost two years ago to move to Seattle. I loved it there, but due to some accreditation issues I had to move to Orlando. While there have been really good reasons like grad school to travel to these places, it has still felt like I’ve been wandering. There is no doubt that there have been aspects of the wandering that have been really fun, beautiful and romantic, but in my wandering there have been more nights than I would like to admit that were characterized by tears, cheap bourbon, and a desperate cry of, “God where are you? I feel so lost!”
And so when I was stuck behind the red jeep on the highway and I saw the phrase, “Not all who wander are lost” I was a little more upset than I would like to admit. In my head I sarcastically asked, “Where the hell does that phrase come from anyway?” It turns out the phrase didn’t actually come from some chic designer in Manhattan, it actually comes from a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien titled All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter. If you are a Lord of The Rings fan, you knew that. But it’s okay if you didn’t, I had no idea either. I encourage you to read it, but make sure you give yourself some time to let it sink in:
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.
I’m not going to dissect this poem and I’m not even going to try to divulge it’s meaning. How the poem settles into your spirit is likely going to look a little different than it does for me. But here’s my question:
In the midst of your wandering, what do you long for?
In the midst of your wandering, what is it that you most desire?
In the midst of your wandering, in the midst of your tears, your addiction, your loneliness, your uncertainty, your depression, your anxiety… what do you most desperately need?
Those are big questions. And yes, there is a Sunday school answer, but that’s not what I’m going for. What I have been learning is that in the midst of my anxious, uncertain, and sometimes pretty dark wandering… I need help… I can’t do it on my own.
I think one of the biggest lies that Satan tries like crazy to get us to believe is that we can do this life on our own! I think he also tries like crazy to get us to believe that everyone else around us has their shit together. But here’s the deal: They don’t. The reality is that we all have a tendency to wander, a tendency to go it alone, and a tendency to get lost.
I don’t know what your wandering looks like, but here’s what I’ve been learning lately: In the midst of my wandering and in those moments where I find my self anxious, teary eyed, and lost… it’s when I acknowledge my weakness and embrace my vulnerability and cry out for help that I finally experience a little direction in the midst of my wandering and a little light to help me find my way in the darkness.
I’m not a theologian. I had to drop out of Hebrew cause I couldn’t make much sense of it. But when Jesus said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” He wasn’t kidding. Jesus doesn’t need you to be strong. Jesus doesn’t need you to have it all together. Jesus doesn’t even need you to know exactly where you are going. He just needs you to know that He is with you. He longs for you to know that He is your strength. He wants you to know that if you are feeling a little lost it’s okay to ask for help. And who knows, maybe once you acknowledge your weakness and once you admit that you are lost and you can’t do it on your own anymore…
You might realize that in the midst of your wandering, the Love you’ve desired, the Love you‘ve longed for, and the Love you have needed was been with you, holding you close, every step of the way.