Wandering and Identity

As you read this, Mary Kay and I will have completed almost four weeks of wandering where we have changed locations eight times across six states. During this time we have had very gracious friends and family who have opened their homes and lives to us.  We have been blessed during the process. There have been seasons in my life where I have traveled for four weeks, but this time it feels more disconcerting. Why?

As I have reflected on it, I think the reason is that we currently have no home to return to. Having a stable place called home in the past made a big difference in how we handled the instability of traveling. Traveling to so many places has caused me to live from moment to moment. This develops a somewhat shallow approach to life. If the environment around you is constantly changing, it is difficult to maintain a long-term growth profile for your soul. 

When your energies are being focused on adjusting to the continual external changes rather than an internal depth, it is a natural consequence for there to be a lack of depth. For this reason, MK and I have attempted to maintain our morning time of quiet reflection and reading, journaling, and focusing on the one stable part of our lives: who we are in Christ.  These morning times provide a touchstone and anchor for us to remember who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.

If you think about it, many athletes, entertainers, and businesspeople who travel extensively face this same challenge.  This lifestyle would seem to breed shallowness from simply surviving.  This shallowness is a byproduct of simply putting one foot in front of the other day after day.  When one is concerned with survival, there is little time, energy, or focus on developing depth, especially if you don’t have a stable home with solid relationships or a sense of destiny to return to. 

This has caused me to read the first five books of the Bible in a totally different light.  These books are sometimes hard to understand due to the many rules and regulations that occupy the last four of these books.  They were written to a tribe of people who were wandering in the wilderness for forty years after 400 years of slavery.  Think about it. This tribe of people (the Israelites) had been slaves for almost 20 generations and had lost most of their sense of identity and freedom to grow in their understanding of God.  They were surrounded by Egyptian deities, and their masters forced their pagan practices on the Israelite slaves for four hundred years!

When they became a free people under Moses’ leadership, they practically had no identity, destiny, or practices regarding who they were in God.  So, in the first book (Genesis), Moses establishes who they were from the beginning of time and who they are now as they exit Egypt.  As they begin their lives of freedom, they enter a period of forty years of wandering in the wilderness as the Israelite Nation. 

Forty years of moving from one place to another with little direction would provide a serious reset opportunity for their culture, values, and lifestyle.  This would explain why the next four books (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) would elaborate extensively on how to live in right relationship with themselves, others, and God.  As I read these books, I found them quite pedantic and boring. But for Israelites coming from 400 years of being told how to live and to whom to worship, these four books are like concrete principles on how to live lives in healthy relationships with God and others.

God seeks to give these former slaves routines, practices, and approaches to living to reorient their lives.  And what better place to do that than in the wilderness with no place to call home.  God was teaching them a new way of living. It was like going back to the basics for a tribe that didn’t even know which way was right.  God reoriented everything in the way they related and lived.  Ultimately, we know now that a whole generation had to die before this process could be embraced by the younger generation.  God formed a new culture, identity, destiny, and relationship from the ground up. 

Mary Kay will continue to keep our practices consistent while everything around us changes for the next month. Routines are good for us during this time. I now see their importance for the nation of Israel thousands of years ago. God used these routines (laws and regulations) to produce health and sanity and create stability for a people who had no sense of where to begin.






One response to “Wandering and Identity”

  1. Rob Maupin Avatar
    Rob Maupin

    What a great word! I hope you get a chance to expound more on this: missionaries, pastors, and many others could really use a good study on the anchor point of your practical connection to the Lord. Thank you, friend!

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