21 February 2015

wandering

for Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Where am I going? Why am I here? Is there a purpose or meaning in all this wandering?

The beginning of the Judeo-Christian story starts in this place, with Abraham. Abram, as he was previously known, was called by God to the forbearer of God’s people. Yet even this story is a story of frustration as he was delayed in having a child, as he moved from this place to that, wandering.

What can seem strange to us is how Abraham’s call is in some sense a call to wander, a call to travel away from your home. Scholars say that so much of the Hebrew Scriptures were written after the time of exile, as a way of making sense of that exile. For the children of Israel, that time of exile in Babylon was a devastating loss, people forced from their homes, marched to a much different place, becoming slaves and strangers, apart from what felt familiar and safe.

So then the wandering that had caused so much pain, so much dislocation of place and spirit, the wandering becomes a call in itself. The wandering is what we may be called to.

Martin Buber writes about Psalm 119 where it is written, “I am a sojourner on the earth, hide not your commandments from me.” He cites Rabbi Barukh that in some sense God is like a second stranger with us, someone that just by the fact that he is a stranger too, in a strange land, becomes co-traveler.

There’s a children’s book that I read often to children who feel like strangers, A Color of His Own. Leo Leoni writes about a chameleon who also feels lost because his color does not stay the same. For other animals, there is a consistent color/home.

Elephants are gray. Pigs are pink.
All animals have a color of their own--
except for chameleons.

So it was not for the chameleon. Until he finds another chameleon. And instead of longing over and over to find a consistent color, they simply change together. But . . . they are together.

My own journey of faith has been one of a lot of wandering, sometimes away from God and sometimes closer. I can sometimes look back and see what then appears to be pattern. But I am hesitant to call it a plan. I grew up on one piece of land for my entire youth, but even then, felt out of place. With parents who were much older than my peers, reading books and music that most of my peers were confused by, I did not necessarily feel at home, even though that land had been in our family for generations.

So I wandered, not with a covenant, but because it is what felt like the right thing to do. But maybe there is a promise there somewhere in the wandering.

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