The phrase “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” has been casually adorned as a magnet on my fridge ever since college. Despite its ordinary place, it has always been a personal mantra of mine. The quote just seemed to fit, though I really had no other context of why a quote like this existed. I felt it described my inner life and the search for true expression of myself and to live for something personal and meaningful in this world. I have taken great joy knowing this was true for me, though I always felt slightly insecure because I didn’t really have any purpose or direction. Until today. Just because someone may not seem to have direction or a goal, doesn’t mean that they’re lost. Some souls need to explore and satisfy their curiosities until truth is found. .For such people, the value is in the journey, the freedom and integrity to self that it entails, rather than the destination.
This post is a memorial of this day and the journey of healing and truth I have been on.
I have spent the past year on a journey. Wandering. With intention. Searching. I have followed emotion. I have followed principles. I have followed sound teachers. I have pursued truth. I have followed God to learn to sow His strength into the fabric of my being. And yet a year to the day I started wandering, I do not know how it ends. Only God knows, but for that I’m thankful. I don’t want that control. But today, I came home and felt that I finally had become something. My heart had changed. It was teeming with true life and desire.
I tried thinking of profound quotes to describe what I was feeling. I Googled “lord of the rings quotes about journey” since who doesn’t like an epic adventure? That’s where I stumbled across Sam’s famous lines:
‘It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were. Sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’
– Samwise Gamgee
When the world is at its darkest, dawn will come. And it is this stubborn belief in goodness that ultimately reminds Frodo of his courage and brings light back to the world. This is exactly what I felt. Courage. Hope. A sense of purpose in all of this.
I scrolled down the page to see other quotes by Tolkein and that’s where I ran into his poem “All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter”:
‘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.’
More than coincidence. “Not all who wander are lost” is but a part of this story. This whole poem is a direct parallel to my past year. I was disillusioned (by relationships and love). I got lost and God found me. I have sown deep roots of faith in Christ. Embers in my heart were revived from dead ashes. The strength that was my word and confidence will be renewed though I have felt broken and defenseless. The pieces finally fit. My journey had culminated to this point. The darkness, despair, and emotional pain would pass. I hadn’t wandered in vain. I had arrived here amidst grave trial and error, through pain, suffering, and destruction. And found truth, health, and abundant life.
This all may seem melodramatic; but it is not. It is personal. I assure you that if you’ve wrestled mind body and soul with something day and night for an entire year (especially on the truth of love, relationships, and being selfless), a spiritual breakthrough reveals a divine plan. Suddenly the darkest of skies seem brighter and the burden of the journey feels like an afterthought. It was all worth it. God works out good in all things for those who love Him. Praise be to God!
But the night wasn’t over. My Spotify playlist began singing me songs of truth and sharing God’s word to exactly match my heart’s deepest need to know that He rewards those who are faithful through adversity and He can restore a person and make them new, an impossible task by any other means. A sermon “First Comes Love” from pastor Peter Haas that I had listened to on my drive home came alive as it overlapped the sermon preached this past weekend about the meaning of a covenant with God. The wisdom in the whole series “First Comes Love” was spiritual guidance that I had struggled through the past 18 months. Pastor Peter spoke of Matthew 13:44 to wield our desires by focusing on kingdom value. This principle could pull me out of my old ways and allow for joyous submission of self to God. No longer did I have to suppress my natural tendencies; they could be changed by focusing on God, loving Him with my whole heart, and following my conscience to value the strengths that I and God wanted to pursue. I was determined that this process could be lived out daily as my covenant with God. Perhaps God has an ending for me in accordance with the series. One can only hope, but I will still take action.
Furthermore on this day, my spiritual mentor Chip Ingram had just wrapped up his sermon series “Facing the Future with Confidence: Finding Peace Amidst Uncertainty”. The very message of the sermon is to teach us to “positively and effectively face life’s most challenging circumstances even in the midst of doubt and despair. And to have trust that God is working out His plan even when the odds are against me.” My odds are surely against me. I simply need to trust God. He is the center of my life, He is the priority, He is the focal point, not my wants and desires that in striving cause anxiety and worrying.
But Chip still wasn’t done. I arrived home to find an magazine from Living On The Edge that listed their entire catalog of sermons series. I paged through it. At the very back, on the very last page, was a series I hadn’t heard from him called “Unstuck – Overcoming The Pain of Your Past”. The messages talked about how to overcome: a warped self image, rejection, shattered dreams, dysfunctional family, the pain of prejudice, unjust suffering, and the pain of a broken relationship. These messages spoke directly to my heart, giving me glimpses of healing and the condemnation I held on myself for not being good enough, not being perfect, and not being able to handle situations without causing others pain.
My journey has turned a corner. It is time to face the future with courage; my struggles will serve as my rock on which to stand. I can do so with hope, with faith in promises, with gratitude, with renewed love, and with an awareness of the love that I had been previously unable to understand. My heart is finally overflowing. It already feels stronger.
Not all who wander are lost. Once you know where you want to go, wandering ends. Pursuit begins.