“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
That old hymn expresses my desire for always being attentive to my Father, His Son and Spirit—who I also am consistently wandering away from. Yet they are always “there” for me, graciously giving me “my space”, and mostly just waiting quietly for me to grow sick of going it alone, occasionally whispering or even rarely shouting when needed, in unceasing hope of my return.
And then another song also came to mind, Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Here are a few of the more than 50 ways I typically have wandered from my first Love:
- I begin to lose my peaceful pace and soon start speeding up everything in my life – and then am rushing past God and others.
- While driving I slowly drop my conversations with God and instead, I find I start listening excessively to NPR, wondering why I’m feeling alone.
- My capacity for empathy and gentleness diminishes and I get more harsh and judgmental with everyone – specially with loved ones.
- I subtly withdraw from being on a heart to heart level with soul friends and find an excuse to reschedule my next appointment with my spiritual director.
But by far the most pernicious way to leave God is the way this all starts, the slow and steady erosion of my morning devotional routine, unintentionally but effectively edging God out, with less or no time to pray a simple Lord’s Prayer or that day’s names for intercession. In the midst of the self-centered fog of my little shrine, like the disciples on the mount of transfiguration, there is a voice—it never fails to come—if I stop long enough to notice the ache in my soul. The Spirit opens my heart to hear my Father say, “Hey, look up again, here is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”
Join the Conversation
How do you know that you have wandered away from God?
How do you know that you have returned?
Keith Meyer coaches pastors, leads staff retreats and can be contacted at keithmeyer.org. He is the author of Whole Life Transformation: Becoming the Change Your Church Needs.