Wanderlust is such a popular term, such a glorified thing.
I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise when lusts of every kind are praised in our culture; be it materialism, sexual lust, gluttony or wanderlust, lust is a god our culture worships in throngs. Recently I have heard the term Wanderlust used so often; with books and movies and general media praising this idea of traveling to find oneself, traveling to get away from unhappy marriages or difficult families. It’s this new and socially acceptable thing for 20-40somethings to simply run away.
I remember feeling it as I entered my twenties. I remember feeling trapped by my feelings and thinking, if I just go somewhere new I can figure this out. But that trapped feeling hung around no matter where I was, whether it was sitting in my car at a river, or breathing in snowy air on a mountaintop, or watching surfers in Sydney, Australia. I ran all the way to Malawi, Africa; and my God met me there. He told me to stop running. He reminded me that my mistakes were covered by his blood, that he held my uncertain future in his hands, and my fears and anxiety were because I had an absence of faith in his goodness.
Travel in itself isn’t bad, it can be very, very good. It can be a source by which we can be the hands and feet of our God, or an opportunity to know him better through his people who are spread across this globe; but as with any good thing we tend to abuse it. So many of us travel to escape. To run away to some place new and exotic, far away from the people who know us so we can be just another face in a crowd. To reinvent ourselves in conversations, to be the person we wish we were and to walk away before people see the discrepancy. We run to ignore the pain and emptiness we feel. We run away from hard things that demand more of us than we think we have to give. And it’s like a drug that momentarily numbs, with all it’s excitement and newness and the euphoria of being with people who know nothing about you and demand nothing more than a conversation.
We run away from being known, or from our pasts, or even from the futures we fear.
We wander and wander until the world feels small and there is no place left to wander and we are left with ourselves. We are left wanting and empty. And we realize we can’t run away from that. No exotic location or new people group can satisfy us or assuage our guilt for any real length of time.
No matter how far we go, we cannot silence the voice that tells us we are not enough.
Because, although that voice is only a whisper, it is heard over the raucous of any crowd, be it India or New York; and it whispers even in the most isolated of refuges, it weaves between mountains and rivers and oceans. It reminds us that we are not created to pursue lusts, or seek to find “ourselves”, it reminds us that we were created by and for the living God. It reminds us that we cannot be good alone and all the lusts we pursue only leave us empty and despairing. It reminds us of the Servant King who alone can take our guilt away and make us whole again. It reminds us that we can only find ourselves when we lose ourselves in him. It reminds us that we don’t need to find someplace new, we need to be made new by the Creator God.
And thankfully, no matter how far we travel, we cannot run away from him.