A group of guys took a trip to France and decided to attend Mass in a small town even though none of them understood French. They managed to stand, kneel, and sit when the rest of the congregation did, so it wouldn’t be obvious they didn’t know French. At one point, the priest spoke and the man sitting next to them stood up, so they got up too. The entire congregation broke into hearty laughter.
After the service they approached the priest, who spoke English, and asked him what had been so funny. The priest said he had announced a birth in the parish and asked the father to stand up.
Taking a trip is a great thing, but wandering through life isn’t. It’s easy to drift through a day or a month. A year can go by and you think what just happened. We get distracted so easily.
We shouldn’t wander in our lives but should set down some serious roots in a purpose that God can bless and we can build our lives around. Scripture says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Find your path. Don’t settle for being unsettled and aimless. It’s not what the Lord has in mind for you.
Proverbs 27:8 says, “Like a bird that wanders from its nest is one who strays from home.” This doesn’t mean everyone has to sit at home as if being a couch potato is a good thing. Home here is meant as the place where your passion and direction meet.
For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. Nothing new or improved happens. This is a problem.
This is drifting through life while sitting in one spot.
In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems. And by “a few problems,” what I really mean is there are a lot of issues out there. So don’t just sit there, pick a problem and start saving the world.
There are plenty to choose from: Poverty, homelessness, police and community relations, domestic violence, mental health care, guns and safety, get out the vote campaigns, etc., etc.
If we’re bored with our lives, it’s totally in our power to change that. If we’re feeling alone in our lives, reach out to new people and new possibilities. If we don’t feel a passion for living, then dig deeper into who
you are and what you’re worth. I can guarantee you some group, some cause, some need in the world can absolutely use you.
Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference.
Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Serve the Lord by doing something good for this world. The Lord has a soft spot for those who have a soft spot for his world. Build new relationships by getting involved somewhere where you will make a difference. Choose to live passionately and with a purpose.
We need to hold onto values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction, our comfort or convenience. You can’t help but be transformed if you’re willing to transform others for good.
The truth is we exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.
So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?” And no, you can’t just go sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook.
Let’s pretend there are no useless websites, no video games, no TV. You have to be outside of the house all day every day until it’s time to go to bed, where would you go and what would you do?
Sign up for a dance class? Join a book club? Go get another degree? Invent a new form of irrigation system that can save the thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa? Learn to hang glide?
What would you do with all of that time? And this goes for everyone.
Of course it’s not like we’re always going to feel like what we’re doing is the most important thing in the world. In fact, most never feel they do as well as they wanted to do.
Numbers 33:38 says Moses’ brother Aaron died in the 40th year of the Israelites wandering after coming out of Egypt. Both he and Moses died, and then the Israelites began to enter Canaan, also known as the Promised Land.
Like their ancestor the wandering Aramean, they never made it to the Promised Land.
But even in the midst of that wilderness they kept their heart turned in God’s direction. Even when they weren’t sure exactly how things would
work out, they kept their mind believing that their work was a good one. They didn’t get to enter the Promised Land but they fulfilled their life’s mission. They completed the task the Lord gave them.
We’re not going to complete everything we set out trying to do. But set out anyway. Don’t just drift through your days. Get something valuable done, no matter how small it is.
One of my favorite hymns is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” written in 1757 by 22-year-old Robert Robinson. In the hymn’s lyrics is a line that always captures my attention and forces me to do some self-evaluation. The line says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” It’s impossible never to feel that way about oneself.
When we wander from God it’s because we’ve wandered from what we love. We leave the Promised Land behind, cross over to strike out on our own, and enter our wilderness. We leave behind what God has given us for our salvation and our happiness.
Don’t fall prey to such a bad temptation. Reject false notions of what will bring you joy. Stay closer to those you love. Be willing to be loved by those who share your heart.
We wander when we feel we’re alone. If we think we’ve been abandoned or we have to live life on our own, then we’re easy prey to wrong thinking and desperate actions. We can be led astray by mere suggestions.
But our tendency to wander is matched by God’s willingness to pursue. No matter how hard you’ve tried to distance yourself from the Lord, God hasn’t pulled away. We can push and push as hard as we want, and still no greater distance has been created between the Lord and you.
A tool hasn’t been invented, a weapon hasn’t been made, a device hasn’t been designed that can separate you from the love of the Lord your God. It doesn’t how many years you’ve neglected prayer, or how little you’ve opened the Bible; it doesn’t matter whether you’ve cared nothing about the church, or about Christ; it doesn’t matter if you’ve done the one thing you said you would never do or if you’ve never done what you told yourself you would. We do not have the power to move the mountain of the Lord’s love from our side.
You can deny it’s there, it doesn’t move. You can walk all around it, it doesn’t leave. You can look in every direction but in its face, it stays put. You will not outlast it nor outlive it; it remains forever.
Turn to God. Stop wandering away from your home. Stay in the nest of God’s love for you. Find in Christ God’s heart for you. Let the Lord strengthen you to meet the challenges of your life so that you have the energy to care for and embrace others. Find a way to a deeper faith in what God is doing with you.
We aim to be decent people, loving spouses, caring parents, productive workers. But “creating a strong marriage,” “having a fulfilling career” and “raising kind children” are not things we can do and then say, “All right, that’s now checked off the list!”
Instead, it’s in the day-to-day striving for important goals where life is truly lived. We wander away from them at times and we get back on track at other times. We may never know if those goals are reached precisely, but we can try to make sure we’re headed toward the Promised Land and not back deeper into the wilderness.
God blesses the heart of those who try. The Lord guides those who see they’re in trouble. We don’t always have to do everything perfectly. God has a strong hand to lead us when we’ve lost our way.
There’s an old story about a pilot who came over the intercom and said, “Good news, ladies and gentlemen: We’ve got a very strong tailwind and are making excellent time. The bad news is that our navigation equipment has gone down, so we have no idea where we are.”
It can be easy to get to that point.
One person said this, “When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family. Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.
And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.
We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites, something I did in my early teens, just for fun.
The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self had asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that 8-year-old boy version of myself would have probably started crying.”
When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them—or they no longer remember what’s important to them.
They don’t know what their values are. And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own.
Discovering what makes you live passionately boils down to finding those one or two things that are deeper in you and more important for you than just about anything else. There are bedrock dreams in each of us, foundational passions that are never removed. It’s what the house of your joy rests on.
Dig down and reach them. Get up and live from them. Trust yourself enough to follow them. The Lord blesses all those who leave their wanderings behind and enter the Promised Land.
Can the church say Amen?