Daily Devotion - Thursday, April 14, 2016
One of my favorite lines from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is actually from a short poem that appears a couple of times in the trilogy. The poem, entitled "All That is Gold Does Not Glitter," reads, "All that is gold does not glitter/Not all those who wander are lost;"
It's the last bit of that first line that resonates with me.
I did a fair bit of wandering when I was young. I stopped really believing in God (at least the God I thought I knew) by the time I was fifteen. By the time I graduated from high school, I had essentially rejected most of what I read in the Bible.
Over the next few years, I completely walked away from the Church, from God, from my Christian upbringing. At some point, however, I came to a place where I had to confront reality, to take a long, hard look in the mirror, and I didn't like the person who stared back at me.
My journey back to the Way of Jesus didn't happen overnight. When it was all said and done, however, I realized what I'd experienced had a name: Resurrection. I'd been left for dead, counted as lost. But God raised me to new life and led me back to the Way of Jesus.
It would be easy to discount those years when I was wandering as "wasted" years. But now I look back and I can see how even during my wandering, God was redeeming, guiding me to truth, enabling me to develop skills and learn lessons that would one day glorify God, and deepen my witness for the risen Jesus.
I've grown to seriously dislike it when Christian-y people use the term "lost" or "those who are far from God," to describe people who might not be Christians. Jesus used similar language, to be sure, but in the context of parables, figurative language meant to connect his first century hearers to his meaning.
The truth is, we all wander. But I don't believe for a second that any of us are lost. God knows exactly where we are.
The Apostle Paul spoke of his own wandering spirit in his letter to the Romans:
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
If you feel as though you are far from God... that your wandering has taken you away from his grace and goodness. If you feel lost, alone and afraid... perhaps wondering if you will ever be able to know what it's like to feel God's love again... know this. You are not lost. You are not far from God. God is near to you. God has always been near to you.
You. Are. Not. Lost.
May you come to know the loving embrace of a God who meets you on your wandering road. May you full experience the power of the resurrection to restore and redeem even the things you feel were wasted. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.