The beauty of holy wandering

I’m two weeks into life in our new neighbourhood, and slowly getting to know my way around. Each morning I strap the toddler into the pushchair and encourage my preschooler daughter onto the buggy board, and out we go to explore.

We practice getting lost. It’s something I learnt sometime around two moves ago, when this now-tall girl was just a baby needing to be walked to sleep each afternoon. I got quickly bored of walking the same few streets, and so I started to branch off, without a plan of where I was headed. I started getting purposefully lost: a right turn instead of a left; walking down the side street instead of sticking to the main road.

Getting lost is the best way I know of discovering wonderful new things. My kids and I, we’ve discovered new parks and playgrounds, we’ve found beautiful old churches hidden behind new housing developments, overgrown nature reserves on a dead end street, fascinating Eastern European delis and Indian bakeries on unfamiliar corners.

Letting myself become physically lost requires a degree of courage (and a strong battery on the phone in my bag!) Getting spiritually lost feels much more uncomfortable, but I am learning how to turn down those interesting-if-slightly-sketchy-looking side streets of belief.

I have been walking the main streets of belief for decades, with barely a step out of place. It is familiar and easy and seemingly safe, but it is also so unvaried—nothing changing, no new vistas to inspire, no new sights or relationships to challenge.

It doesn’t make sense to get lost—that is the prevailing wisdom of our culture. Stay on the path you know, because what if you never find your way home again?

But my physical adventures off my own beaten path inspire some spiritual adventures. I want to see in ways I have not seen before, to encounter God in new places and spaces, in new ways of walking and being. I’m confident of finding God down those side roads, because Jesus was so often found exactly where he “shouldn’t” have been. How often were his disciples and family so concerned he was getting lost? But he knew he was in the right place.

It no longer feels like such a big risk to explore this thing I call Faith. I’m exploring the side roads of belief and the back alleys of thought. And sometimes I don’t find much interesting or good there, and so I try a different route home next time. I am not afraid of getting lost.

The Celtic Christians adopted an idea that Augustine of Hippo first wrote about—the concept of peregrinate—a pilgrimage without a set destination. Driven by their own internal prompting of the Spirit, they would set out to wander the land without a map, sometimes even setting out in a boat without oars.

Esther de Waal writes, “What they are seeking is the place of resurrection, the resurrected self, the true self in Christ, which is for all of us our true home.”

And maybe this is what unites my physical wanderings with my spiritual ones: it’s the desire to find that place of resurrection, to allow all my knowings to be undone, my sense of direction turned on its head, so that, step by risky step, I become my true self in Christ.

This post was originally published on the She Loves Magazine.

I’d love to hear from you, how does it feel to head off the beaten track of your spirituality??