“Not all who wander are lost.”
Tolkein, The Riddle of Strider
There are deep, festering questions that we all have deep inside of us. Every person knows that deep down, they are trying to figure out the answer to questions like, “who am I?”, “what am I here for?” “is there meaning to life?” “why is there evil in the world?” “what happens after death?” Yet, for whatever reason, we tend to ignore these questions until tragedy shakes them loose.
We can learn another approach from The Magi. They’re those odd Persian astrologers that show up to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They where known for taking a religion called Zoroastrianism, which was sort-of monotheistic, and then adding to it elements of astrology, where you read the future from the stars. Some historians also point to the fact that the Jews were exiled to Babylon, and the book of Daniel tells stories about Daniel interacting with the wise men of Babylon. They also seem to have some understanding of Jewish scriptures, on top of their Zoroastrianism and astrology.
It would be easy to write the Magi off. They seemed to be obsessed with religion. But it’s more complex than that-they are seekers. They have such a thirst to find meaning and direction in life that they look for it everywhere they can. What’s crazy is that they end up in Bethlehem, and in the Bible. They had worshipped false gods and practiced astrology, two practices universally condemned in the scripture. The logical thing would be for God to condemn them for worshipping the wrong way.
But their story isn’t that cut and dry. Rather than being condemned for astrology, they are given a sign. A star appears in the sky, leading the Magi to the baby Jesus. God, rather than condemning or ignoring them for doing it wrong, speaks to them in a language they can understand. They are so focused on this search for truth that they are willing to look anywhere, in religions or in astrology. They are even willing to pack up their camels and ride all around the known world to figure things out. And the crazy thing is, God doesn’t condemn them for looking in the wrong places, he meets them wherever they are at.
What if, rather than ignoring life’s deep festering questions, we took a page from the Magi, started looking for truth wherever we go? The story shows us that God can reveal himself anywhere. If we just took the things we do normally throughout the week, but we look for the truth behind what we are doing.
Think about it. Maybe this week when you are watching Walking Dead, you can think about what it teaches us about our capacity to love and hate? Maybe the next time you are riding your bike or going for a run, you can turn off the iPhone, and see where your thoughts lead you in the quiet. When you are at a party or a bar, rather than just telling funny stories or dancing like no one is watching, take a moment to ask someone about their story, learn where they come from and what they care about. If you who are a parent, when are there opportunities to talk to your kids about the stories they love or the games they play? Seeking truth doesn’t mean changing what you do every day. It means doing it mindfully, spending sometime asking, “what am I doing, and why?”
Maybe you’ll decide to approach it a little more drastically. Maybe you’ll to turn off the television or Facebook, and we spend that time discussing the hopes and dreams of our heart with friends? Maybe you’ll spend less time partying and more time journaling? Maybe you decide to develop a habit of using a prayer of meditation, like the prayer of Examen.
God’s love for seekers shouldn’t shock us. In fact, it’s all over scripture. Proverbs, an ancient collection of Hebrew wisdom quotes God saying:
- “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” Proverbs 8:17.
- “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3:25
Then there’s Jesus himself,
- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
Not all who wander are lost. In fact, those who move from practice to practice, belief to belief may actually be more on the road to truth than the rest of us. Because at least they’re looking. The story of the Magi show us that It doesn’t seem to matter so much what our methods are. As long as we are seeking truth, God will meet us there.
This post came from the cutting room floor of my latest sermon, which you can listen to here.