Prone to Wander

Last week, I lost a kid (and earlier this summer, I almost drowned two of them.  Sheesh.  You never really realize what a bang-up job you’re doing as a parent until you start writing it all down – read about that little incident here). Now to my credit, the child was only out of my sight for just for a few moments, but if this has ever happened to you, then you know how quickly terror floods your heart when you realize that one of your littles is unaccounted for.

Me and the boys were walking out of the Y with a group of friends, so there were kids everywhere. As I prepare to part ways with my friend, I do a head count of my crew and come out short.

1, 2…..where’s 3? There’s no 3. I’m supposed to have 3!

I quickly discover that it’s my 4 year old, Jacob, who is missing.
Of course it’s Jacob. Jacob is that kid for me. The one I always try to keep at the very least in the periphery of my vision, because experience had taught me that if something can happen to Jacob, chances are it will.

My friend and I frantically begin searching for him. She runs ahead to see if he somehow passed us without us noticing, and I retrace our steps to see if he had gotten left behind. As it turns out, neither was the case. He was not ahead of the group, nor was he behind the group. Jacob had decided to take a detour in a whole other direction. When I questioned him, he told me that he needed to go to the bathroom, and because I looked pretty busy he had simply decided to take care of business on his own. He was so sure of how awesome his little plan to “go dark” was, that he was more than a little surprised that I appeared upset. He could see nothing wrong with his plan to leave my side, in fact, he even felt like he was helping me out a bit, but my perspective is a little wider than his.

I pulled my little wanderer aside and tried to explain to him why it was so very important that he check in with his mama before he goes off on any more of his little whims.  I told him there were dangers that he could not see.  I told him that he was safe when he was close to me.  He decides to appease me, so with all the condescension that a four year old can muster, he blows the hair out of his eyes as he rolls them slightly, “ok, mom.”

I guess that it’s innate in all of us – the heart of a wanderer.

It’s as true of me as it is for my four year old. It’s been true from the moment the fruit first touched Eve’s lips in the garden.

Genesis 3:8-9 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

God called out to Adam and Eve.  They had wandered away from Him.  The first wandering of mankind split a fracture in the hearts of all who would follow.  It’s an inheritance passed down to us from the very first generation and I suppose it will always be true for all of us this side of heaven. Reminds me of the words of my favorite hymn, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” We’re all prone to wander.

It was a propensity that even the great father of our faith, Abraham, faced. (I warned you that he’d be a hot topic around here for the next few months). A few weeks ago, we took a look at how as soon as Abraham found his way to the promised land, he was met with famine and hardship and toil – in the exact place God called him to be. (Read more here)

Genesis 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.

When faced with famine, Abraham wanders. The original Hebrew word used in Genesis 12:10 for “sojourn” literally means “to turn aside from the road.” The word carries with it the connotation of being afraid, of shrinking back. Makes sense, doesn’t it? In the face of a fearful situation, Abraham “turns aside from the road” God had him on. Abraham allows his present circumstances to become bigger than God and as a result, he begins thinking and formulating and planning on his own instead of seeking God.  And the great plan that Abraham comes up with is to wander – he leaves the promised land to head for Egypt.  On the face of it,  this was a pretty sensible plan. Because of the great Nile River, Egypt usually had food and water to spare, even in a time of drought. But here’s the hitch:  throughout scripture Egypt is used as a place that symbolizes reliance on self or reliance on others as opposed to reliance on God.

Isaiah 31:1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses,who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong,but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!

You see in scripture, Egypt is symbolic of a place you go to for help when you don’t trust the Lord to help you. Ouch. (Right?!) Now Abraham’s story is hitting closer to home.

I have my own version of Egypt. Don’t you?  I’ve been known to run to other places for help when I didn’t trust the Lord to help me.

Just like my four year old, I’m prone to head out on my own whenever it strikes my fancy. Maybe I feel like the Lord’s not being responsive, maybe I’m waist-high in a season of doubt, maybe I think that doing things in my way, in my time seems a lot wiser that holding out for whatever it is that I think God is doing (or not doing). Whatever my reasoning, the reality of my choice is the same – I leave God’s side to go out on my own. Just like I told my Jacob, that’s never a good idea, even if it seems that way at the time.

This is what I’m thankful for today – that even in the midst of my waverings and wanderings – even when I am faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).  He refuses to wander away from me, even when I pull away from him.

There’s no purer plea that I can lay before him today than the one offered up by the old hymn that so precisely describes the condition of every human heart – from Adam & Eve, on to Abraham, to me and you today.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above




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