All who wander are not lost. But if they continue wandering for long, most soon will be.
Most of us think we are fairly clever. I know I think I am pretty clever. Most of us see ourselves as smarter than the average bear. We may not think we are the sharpest tool in the shed, but we think we are certainly not the dullest. Comparison. We are all about comparison. I may be doing this, but at least I’m not doing that. I might have slid down the hill a step or two, but look, they are at the bottom in a crumpled heap. At least that’s not me.
Comparison. The tool of the sinner. Justification. The tool of the saint.
Human beings are all about continuums and spectrums. We love them. We love to place others and ourselves on the sin continuum or the failure spectrum. We may not be happy with where we are on the continuum or spectrum, but as long as we can successfully compare ourselves to others, we can at least put our heads on the pillow at night. As long as our end of day reconciliation puts us in some kind of favorable light, we are satisfied at least for the moment.
I am sometimes surprised at our amazing ability to justify the things we do in our lives that we know without a shadow of a doubt we should not be doing. The success with which we can convince ourselves that this thing we want to do is allowable is truly remarkable. We may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but should be sharper than that.
So why do we allow ourselves to wander?
We allow ourselves to wander because we convince ourselves that we are smart enough to handle the consequences of our actions. Most of us know going in what the likely outcome of any given participation in sinful activity is going to be. Most of the time, we have weighed heavily the possible outcomes and scenarios in our minds. We have played them out to the inevitable endings, and in our minds convinced ourselves that we can outsmart them. We convince ourselves that laying down with dogs will not end in our bodies covered in fleas. We are immune. We possess what every other living, breathing human being does not. We have the ability to navigate sin and come out untouched.
We are not only not the sharpest tool in the shed, we are likely a handle devoid of any manner of blade at all.
I have watched believers convince themselves that they can do the very thing they would never advise another person to do. If I am honest, I have tried this myself. I have thought these thoughts in my own mind. I have walked down paths where warning signs flashed and virtual “bridge out” signs warned me, all because I thought I possessed a level of closeness with God that would allow me to come out on the other side of this thing immune to its affects. The foolish rush in where angels fear to tread.
Sometimes ideas come to us that we know are foolhardy. How do we handle these ideas when they come? Jesus was tempted in the desert. Just before he was to pay for our sins on the cross, Satan took one last chance to sway the inevitable. Three times, Satan tempted Jesus to give it all up and switch teams. If anyone could have given in to temptation successfully, it was Jesus. But all three times Jesus turned from it. All three times he did exactly what we should do when we are faced with temptations to sin.
He fought temptation with scriptures. Psalm 19:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
When we direct our own paths, invariably we wander off. We may not get lost right off, but if we stray too far for too long, soon enough we look up and are surprised by how far astray we have gone so quickly. We are like dumb sheep and have turned to our own way. (Isaiah 53:6) With each step we justify our actions and go farther and farther from what we know to be true and right.
I deserve this.
One more step.
No one knows what I have been through.
Another step taken.
If they knew, no one would blame me.
I can handle it.
I know what I’m doing.
Until we look up and find ourselves in a heck of a mess, unsure how we got here, and without a clue how to get back again. It’s Alice down the rabbit hole all over again.
So what’s the solution? The best solution is to never allow yourself immunity in the first place. Never, as a believer, give yourself permission to do that which you would not advise another to do.
But maybe it’s too late for that. Maybe you looked up from your wanderings a bit ago and realized you have lost your way.
Well here’s the great thing about wandering away from God. You have not really wandered away. He knew where you were going, even if you didn’t. While you were getting yourself lost, he was already working on how to bring you home. (Romans 8:28)
I have cats now, but I had a dog when I was a little girl. His name was Tag. When I was a preschooler, I wandered off into the forest behind my neighborhood and got lost. My mom turned her back for a second, and off I went. Tag, apparently aptly named, tagged on with me. I made the path into the woods on my own, but Tag was right there making every step with me. If I had had the sense to follow him, he could have led me right back to my house. He knew the way.
Always follow the one who knows the way.
When we finally look up to see we have lost our way, we don’t have to stay lost. God is not mad at our wanderings. He doesn’t ever say, “Sorry, you got yourself into this mess, you’ll just have to be getting yourself out now.” No. Saving the lost is his favorite thing. I’m not suggesting that believers who wander lose salvation and have to be saved again… No. Scripture is clear that our eternal destiny is secure in what Jesus did on the cross. But bringing children back into fellowship with him is his desire and great joy. The prodigal son was already a son, but he got lost. When he was found there was a great celebration! (Luke 15:11-32)
We have a huge capacity as humans to justify bad behavior. It is a slippery slope. The best option is just to never allow ourselves to go there. But if you find yourself in that heap at the bottom of the slope, lost in your wanderings, don’t stay there out of some sense of hopeless surrender. Surrender is needed, but surrender to the hope you have in Christ. He rescued you once with his death on the cross. Don’t you think you can trust him to lead you home again?