Wandering

Some of my best neighbourhood moments happen on warm summer evenings when the sunset lingers long. I slide on my old Crocs, pour a drink, and shuffle down the street. I have no destination except to wander, linger, and meander wherever the moment carries me. I must be hilarious to watch as I slowly walk down the middle of the street wondering who might be out and about, too. Some of the best stories have happened here. My neighbour makes fun of my old shoes and we stop and share jokes, my other neighbour’s garage is often open and I swing in to see what he’s working on. Still other kids whistle by on their bikes and wave, and another couple walks by with their tiny dog. No destination, no goal, and no purpose except to wander and see where the journey leads. I’ve never regretted shuffling through the neighbourhood, in fact, I look forward to it.
The idea of wandering in this way was given a name by the Celtic people, they called it, “peregrinatio” or “holy wandering.” In their tradition, a person would sense a longing, or a call, to go out into the world as a kind of seeker, or pilgrim. The goal was then to listen, follow, and attend to wherever God would lead. Some would travel alone, or in a group, but invariably these adventurers would learn trust, discover the wilds of their own souls, and discover a deepening purpose in life that could not have come about in other ways. There are even stories of people heading out in small boats, just to let the winds carry them along. Through it all, rooted in their culture, was the sense that wandering was not frightful, or to be avoided, but the very place where something good is found.
It was JRR Tolkien that wrote, “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…” In our pursuit of the sure and secure path, we set out our course and destination with certainty. We are often put out by any deviation from the plan, and we get grumpy if we’re cut-off or delayed. With Google Maps as our travel partner, we’ve become proficient at following the most direct route, and grumble when we miss our turn. The destination is the goal.
Holy Wandering is a counter-cultural shift. It suggests that sometimes we do not need a destination to find the good life we’re looking for. Wandering, in this sense may be the very best way to step out an into our communities. Neighbours and the relationships that await us down our street are not something we can predict, control, or foresee. Our neighbourhoods are places where new stories await, and where strangers share ‘hellos’ and tell jokes. If we have big expectations for our community and insist that each neighbour behave a certain way, we will be disappointed. But if we step out like an adventurer or pilgrim, intent on merely being present to whatever, or whoever, comes our way – the world around us becomes a place of possibility and even joy.
Consider this week where in your life you might have an unknown destination. Is there uncertainty in your future? How might embracing the posture of a wanderer help you to find your way, and the hope that this journey might bring? Wherever you wander, and wherever your journey takes you, I hope you’ll discover the beauty you long for along the way.

About the author

Preston Pouteaux

Preston Pouteaux

Preston is a pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere and experiments mostly in the intersection of faith and neighbourhood. Into the Neighbourhood explores how we all contribute to creating a healthy and vibrant community. Preston is also a beekeeper; a reminder that small things make a big difference.

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