One of my favorite movie franchises is Lord Of The Rings. The books almost exclusively define my middle school years, since I read the saga over the course of three years.
Just like any movie adaptation of a book, the movies leave out quite a few important story details. Peter Jackson doesn’t even make mention of Tom Bombadil. I bet you didn’t know who Tom Bombadil was, unless you read the books.
One thing he left out was this, a riddle Gandalf left for Frodo in Bree:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
You may recognize the second line from Pinterest or Tumblr, layered over a woodsy background or a mountain landscape, subliminally telling you to go explore and get out of your house.
In essence, which means my nerd-side is about to come out as I break it down, this stanza is all about this dude named Aragorn, who is heir to the throne of one of the kingdoms in Middle Earth. He travels by foot all the time. His heritage is strong and well-rooted in the history of Gondor. He’s the real deal.
How does this work in real life though?
I’ve been dwelling quite a bit on the first two lines: all that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.
The things in my life that I see as a success, as golden, may not be the most attractive things, and may not glitter. When it comes to ministry, I’ll be the first to tell you that it is one of the messiest and most rigorous careers out there. Sometimes people are hard to work with, and it gets real real, real quick.
Wandering is usually characterized as a bad thing, associated with straying from the faith. But I push back on that. Within our faith journeys, we HAVE to wander. We have to explore what it means to follow Jesus, what it means to be a Christian in real life, and how to live well.
I wander a lot. I think that the golden things in life have to glitter. I take everything that I do for granted too often. I often suck.
But in those moments, I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve been set free from slavery to sin in order to live a free life in Christ. I’ve been set free in order to explore everything He has for me. Sometimes my former self, the parts of me that hold relational regret, creeps up, and I fall. But I’m brought back to the center of it all by God’s grace, to keep wandering in His goodness.
My brain has been all over the place lately. I’ve thought way too hard about what I should’ve done differently, what I shouldn’t have done in the first place, and then beat myself up for living in the past.
But not all those who wander are lost. And I find comfort in that.