Why Wandering Might Be Your Best Work

by | Apr 25, 2018 | Identity, waiting

Standing near the bay of beverages, she and I hold small plastic cups of water near our waistlines, surveying the unremarkable containers after initial introductions. Rubbing fingers over ridges and watching people wandering around the room, we assuage newcomer awkwardness while avoiding eye contact.

A slight British accent doesn’t give away her Parisian roots too soon. Small red lips part in a hesitant smile while looking past me, toward the altar. She tells me about work at a restaurant after a brief stint as a nanny, traces the carpet with her eyes, and admits her current life situation isn’t at all what she envisioned after completing a degree in France two years ago.

“The only thing I feel sure about is saying yes to being at church,” she admits with eyebrows arched.

Uncertainty can make you feel embarrassed and unworthy of belonging, as if you are exiled from what you long for and banished from contentment.

Seasons of uncertainty can translate as, “You’re unloveable.”

But what if the uncertain circumstances you face have nothing to do with worthiness, value, or belonging? What if uncertainty is about God’s great love for you?

Reframing the Wilderness

On the cusp of the Israelites entering the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Moses tells them the truth, something that is still true for us today.

The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were smaller of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That’s why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. Deut. 7:7-9

What if the detours in your life are a providential re-routing?

What if your wandering season isn’t aimless but leading you to God’s promises?

What if the uncertainty you are experiencing is a form of rescue from being stuck in the familiar; being kept from the good God is planning for you?

Here’s the Truth

God doesn’t choose you because you’re important and have everything perfectly planned, figured out, and activated.

He chooses you because He loves you.

He chooses you because he is faithful to his word.

God is God. And that means He is dependable.

“If you would’ve told me, two years after I graduated with a BS in marketing, that I’d be an author, living in London and married to an Anglican Vicar, well, I would’ve been dumbfounded,” I tell my new acquaintance. “And then I would’ve tried to make all that happen and fail miserably.”

Laughter is acknowledgment that needs no translation.

Wandering Has Purpose

We start out in life, assuming the path is a set of straight lines holding boxes we will tick that assign value and worth to our lives. The certainty of successfully completing those steps, we think, leads to realizing what we hope and envision.

But uncertainty reminds us that the mystery is where God resides. His ways are rarely straightforward.

Wandering is required work because we need to know we are loved first. And coming to belief about God’s love isn’t always a straight line. Let’s just admit, there is a lot of whining, doubt, fear and failure that derail and deter us along the way.

Being loved for who you are and not what you do is an embarrassment of riches. A dream come true and hope lived beautifully surrendered.

What Do You Think?

How are you translating a season of uncertainty? What is the wilderness saying about your worth? Are you embarrassed about not having concrete answers to questions about your identity? How might those questions I posed provide clarity for your uncertain situation?

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  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    This question: Are you embarrassed about not having concrete answers to questions about your identity? is one I’d wrestled with. I recall when years ago, when God told me to leave a job I loved doing for ten years, to become another Abraham and to “go without knowing,” my launching into the wilderness felt overwhelming and scary, and frankly, pretty foolish. And when I attended a women’s event, and someone asked me what I did, I did feel embarrassed and less-than. I’d left an executive position, because God had “told” me to, had no idea what I’d do next, and I was most surely in wandering mode (not by choice, but by obedience). So I told her I was “leaping”–leaping into the unknown. I had no idea where God was taking me. Like you, Shelly, I’ve been surprised. That leap led to a part-time Church job as a Christian educator, then home full-time to raise our daughter, and on to Bible-study teacher, author, speaker, and journal facilitator. I thought I could never be content without the title of executive director, but today, when I meet people, I’m more likely just to talk, to share, to ask them questions about themselves, and to get to know them. I don’t start a conversation with “I’m an author and speaker.” It’s what I do and not who I am. The wilderness has taught me that my identity is in Christ. I love this beautiful post, Shelly, because you show us that wilderness wandering is not ultimately aimless. God has a beautiful purpose in it, even if we don’t know what that is at the start. And I really appreciate your wise words about rescue. The wilderness is one way that God rescues us, that He saves us (often, from ourselves). I’m reading the book of Jonah right now and two great books about Jonah. Amazingly, just like God used the wilderness to rescue the Israelites, unlike what manyh people think, the storm was not to punish Jonah, but to reveal His great love for him! He used the storm and the great fish to rescue Jonah! And once he was rescued and turned back to God, God used Jonah to rescue many others! In my wandering (ahem!) response to your wonderful post, I’m saying too that God uses our wandering ultimately to draw others to His love! What an amazing God we serve and wander with!

    • @jeffbt14

      I stumbled on this post via Twitter. I think many people, myself included, can relate to the uncertainty and wandering Shelly Miller describes. Remembering God’s presence in the midst of the uncertainty provides a sense of peace. There is much wisdom in her words.
      Lynn – I’m intrigued by your reply. Two questions come to mind as I try to get my head around your story. Would you be willing to share how God told you to quit your job? How should a mom or dad who is working 2-3 jobs to keep the kids fed and clothed translate your idea of wandering, or “leaping into the unknown” to their story? — If these questions seem as though I’m trying to stir the pot, that is not my intention. I am sincerely interested in your (or anyone’s) response as I feel this can be a tricky area. thanks

  2. shelly

    Yes! I’m learning, with time and experience and a little (maybe a lot!) of pain from disappoint along the way that the wilderness feels like abandonment but it’s actually the exact opposite. Though we cannot physically hear, see, touch God with our ears, eyes and hands, he is intimately present with us, leading us to the Promised Land. I’m starting to say ah-ha instead of oh no! when things feel uncertain. It feels more like a challenge to adventure than a sentence to endure. Thanks for being here Lynn!

    • Dea

      Such good thoughts from both of you, inspired from a great post!! Thanks Lynn and Shelly.

  3. Celeste Allyn

    I just heard the same thoughts on our Christian radio station.
    As I listened to the words, familiar words at that, I am struck by how often I need reminding.
    Love the picture of lavender. Reminds me of our time in the UK. And, that is when I met you for the first time when we traveled with Neil. I hope we get there again sometime.

    • shelly

      We ALL need reminding. I keep thinking of the Israelites witnessing miracle after miracle yet every time they ran into trouble or hardship, it was like they had amnesia. I love sacred echoes, they always remind me that God is near. Thanks for being here Celeste!

  4. Natalie

    I have felt uncertain for most of the ten years we have lived in our current community. Needless to say, this touched me deeply. I believed in God’s sovereignty, even at the worst of times, but I still struggled with things similar to what you’ve shared here. Your words here are a balm to an old wound and I am certain that they are a lifeline for people who find themselves in the thick of a landscape that doesn’t look like they expected it would. Wandering is much easier in company. At the height of my struggles, a woman told me that God loved me. I appreciated it and I believed it. You offer companionship and heartfelt “I know. I have been there too.” and I value that greatly.

    • shelly

      You know I can relate to 10 years of wandering and waiting for something to change. I am so happy knowing this post was a balm to an old wound Natalie. And I agree, we need at least one sojourner along with us when we are in seasons of uncertainty. It make all the difference.

  5. Christy

    This was exactly what I needed to read today! I have been in a season of *multiple* transitions (some good, some not, all hard), and the uncertainty that transitional seasons bring has been messing with my head and my heart. Thank you for your words of reassurance. I am reminded that I need only take the next step in obedience, knowing I am loved and held.

    • shelly

      Thanking God with you for timely words Christy. What a gift. I’m so thankful you took the time to let me know. I pray that you will continue to receive little reassurances until you reach the other side of transition.

  6. Dea

    That last paragraph found the sweet spot! Oh my goodness. Thank you for being you!!

    • shelly

      Thanks for the encouragement Dea, it matters. xx

  7. Diana McNutt

    Wandering this “season” or life of uncertainties is an amazing adventure with our glorious God; it is ever changing (as seasons do), but knowing the beauty and unfailing love of our never-changing Heavenly Father keeps our hearts safe and hopeful. Thank you Shelly and Lynn for sharing your true hearts and lives with us – what a blessing.

  8. Diana McNutt

    P.S. Love the pictures too!

    • shelly

      Thanks for being here Diana, your comments are greatly appreciated.

  9. Caroline

    Thank you for this gift of words!

    • shelly

      I appreciate your encouragement Caroline, thank for stopping by.

  10. Brenda

    I loved this, thank you! I think it’s so interesting that God uses so many things and circumstances that we would call “negative” or a problem, to reveal and sow his love to us. I will be sharing this post with my daughter! Thanks! I love your thoughts and how you write. Blessings on your day!

  11. Nancy Ruegg

    “What if the detours in your life are a providential re-routing? What if your wandering season isn’t aimless but leading you to God’s promises? What if the uncertainty you are experiencing is a form of rescue from being stuck in the familiar; being kept from the good God is planning for you?” These three questions in the middle of your post spoke hope and expectation into my spirit, Shelly, as we face my husband’s recent liver cancer diagnosis. We are facing uncertainties and wait times and chemo and eventually a liver transplant. Nonetheless, we are confident in God’s sovereignty over all things. This diagnosis IS a providential re-routing from what we expected. We WILL be led to God’s promises, because he is faithful to all his promises (Psalm 145:13 NIV). And we DO look forward to the good he has planned, even from a situation such as this (Romans 8:28). Thank you for these pointed questions that reaffirm what I know to be true. I just need reminders (spoken in fresh, creative ways) to refocus my faith. Thank you, Shelly!

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