Thursday, June 02, 2016

Wanderlust

"Wanderlust" is one of those words I have very mixed emotions about. On the plus side (I think!), I am one of those people who feels drawn to the idea of exploration and road trips and hikes in the wilderness and camping and all those sorts of things. There is a sort of romantic, gypsy feel to the lifestyle of a wanderer. As the popular saying goes, "All who wander are not lost."

On the other hand, half of the word "wanderlust" is not so nice. We usually don't give a positive connotation to the word "lust," do we? (Although I readily admit I unashamedly lust over chocolate!)

One of the young men in Pulse is a young professional with a serious case of wanderlust. Oftentimes he just launches out in his car, driving he knows not where. He usually ends up in another state .. the coast or forests of Oregon, the mountains of Idaho or Montana, or sometimes even further. He just loves to wander. He says it helps him process life. (And eventually, thankfully, he comes back!)

During Jed's maiden voyage to Lake Chelan.
​I've confessed to several people that I'm getting to the point in my professional career where I can see a light at the end of the workaday tunnel ... that light which is sometimes called "retirement."

One of the recent symptoms of pre-retirement, for me, is wanderlust. I spent several months researching and then purchasing a nice motorhome (a Jayco Melbourne, built on the popular Mercedes Benz "Sprinter" chassis), and I've been getting it equipped to take on the road. Its maiden voyage was mushroom-hunting in Eastern Washington with my son Nathan, then my wife and I took it to an RV resort in Ocean Shores. For our third trip we visited Gordy and Linda McCoy at lovely Taidnapam (on Riffe Lake), where they serve as camp hosts. They made us breakfast, and we plan to return the favor by going back there tonight and making them dinner.

But I have dreams of going much further. Ultimately we'd like to make our way lazily over to Pennsylvania, for a month or two at a time, where our daughter Mandy, her husband Mike, and our granddaughter Annabelle live. Pennsylvania in the fall is beautiful (full of mushrooms), and there is plenty of space for Jedediah (that's what we named our new motorhome, after the explorer Jedediah Smith) on their small farm there.

From there, we could even explore the eastern coast of the U.S., or divert up into Canada on our way home ... or maybe Iceland ...

Mandy inherited my sense of wanderlust. She and I spent a good portion of the summer of 2006 exploring several nations in Southern Africa, including the Congo. We had a blast, and she went on after that to wander through India and Nepal with a friend. She and Mike also frequently hike places like the Appalachian Trail, and when they visit here later this summer they want to hike a part of the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. (As do I!)

Where am I going with this meandering word? Well, I've felt vaguely guilty at times about my wanderlust. I know God calls us to be content with where He has placed us, and I love our home, our family, and our friends. I hate missing Elim, even one weekend service. So I've wondered whether my wanderlust may be a sign of ungodly discontentment?

But then I look at my model of godliness, Pastor Martin. There's a guy with some serious wanderlust. He thinks nothing about jumping on his manly motorbike and heading out into the open highway, bugs splattering thickly across his grinning teeth.

If Pastor Martin has wanderlust, it seriously can't be wrong, can it?

Pulse is currently studying the book of Jonah, which I'm enjoying very much. Jonah had a serious case of wanderlust. God said, "Go to Nineveh!" The great city was due northeast of where Jonah lived. So he headed out ... due west, to Joppa. There he boarded a ship for Tarshish, which was WAY west, actually out in Spain on the westernmost edge of the known world!

Jonah was fleeing God, which he discovered (while soaking in bile in the belly of a big fish, buried deep in the Mediterranean Sea) is actually not possible. As David says in Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
In Jonah 2, the reluctant prophet says: "From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry."

If the belly of a big stinky fish in a storm in the ocean isn't "the realm of the dead," I'm not sure what is! Once the fish barfed Jonah out upon the beach, pointed toward Nineveh, he thankfully started heading in the right direction. (There's nothing like a little fresh air to clear your thoughts after three days and nights in the realm of the dead!)

I think the important thing for me (by way of admonition to those who, like me, have a bad case of wanderlust) is this: Are we running TOWARD God, or AWAY FROM Him?

There's nothing wrong with travel. But when we travel, are we making it a priority to connect with other believers in worship? Are we ensuring that our home church has our financial support while we are gone? And are we staying connected with those (at home) we are in community with, through whatever means are at our disposal? (Ahem, social media, cough, cough ...)

And is our motivation for running away, getting away from something that God wants us to deal with? Instead of simply dealing with it?

Christ frequently wandered into the wilderness, even amidst the pressing demands of ministry. But He was running TOWARD the voice of His Father, who was drawing Him to solitude for the sake of their fellowship together. Does our wandering have the same aim?

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