With one hand navigating the steering wheel, my other fumbled blindly through the pockets of my purse. My fingertips deciphered different shapes and textures as my hand patted around for the familiar hard cylinder of my chapstick. My hand found a small rectangular slip of paper that I deposited in the cup holder to throw away later, assuming it was an old receipt or wrapper. As I parked and collected my things to go inside, my eyes flicked to the discarded scrap. Like the slip from a fortune cookie, I smoothed its coiled edges and read the small typed letters.
“And the presence of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
I don’t know how this paper found its way to the bottom of my purse, but after an exhausting day of the tedious tasks of a stay at home mom, it felt like God had planted it there for me to find at that moment.
The next morning I stood beside my husband as we looked at our reflections in the bathroom mirror. He styled and restyled his hair as I dabbed on a quick layer of makeup. To fill the silence I asked him, as I usually do, what he was preaching about on Sunday, “I got the same Philippians 4 verse for the third time in 3 months, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.” I paused with the mascara wand in mid air and asked, “Which verse?” As he began to speak, I already knew what He would say, “It’s Philippians 4:4-7.”
I think no matter what Bible verse was scrawled on that paper, it’s something that could apply to my life, but the coincidence of finding the paper and my husband’s own experience with that verse, made it hard for me to dismiss. Was God trying to tell me something?
Christmas is around the corner, and this season, my life has felt cluttered. Cluttered with the list of to do’s taped to my fridge, beside it the grocery list for the dishes I’ve promised to prepare, the squares on my calendar filled with events, the closets crammed with packages waiting to be wrapped; and all of it crowds my mind and clammers for my attention. Too often the undone things steal my attention away from doing the things that matter most. As I stress over what I need to do, and what’s still undone, I get irritable and distracted, and the sacred moments of the season pass by without me pausing to participate and appreciate.
But God is good. He is gracious and forgiving. And despite my wandering mind, and my tendency toward complacency and complaining, He gently guides my heart and my mind back to Him.
As if my week hadn’t had enough serendipitous coincidences, I found myself driving behind a Jeep yesterday with a spare tire cover that said, “Not all who wander are lost.” I read it again and again and pinned those words on the bulletin board of my mind. Later as I washed the dishes from dinner I began humming the song, “Come Thou Fount.” The tune clung to the front of my mind repeating again and again, but I couldn’t think of the words to go with it. In the quiet of my house after all had gone to bed, I searched for the lyrics. As I read them, I felt an excited chill up and down my spine:
“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy praise; Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise (…) Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for thy court’s above.”
I felt like God was taking me on a scavenger hunt as I anxiously searched about the history of the song.
The man who penned “Come Thou Fount,” Robert Robertson, lost his dad at a young age and became wild and misguided young man. He was convicted from a sermon by George Whitfield, and three years later became a pastor. As a young pastor he wrote the hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” and years later as a much older man, began to question his faith in God. One day he was riding in a stagecoach with a young woman he didn’t know; he was a stranger to her also. But, in the course of their conversation, the woman quoted to him a verse from his hymn and explained how encouraging the song was for her. He replied, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who composed that hymn, many years ago. And I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I then had!” She gently responded, “Sir, the ‘streams of mercy’ are still flowing.”
Sometimes we feel like we need a waterfall of God’s mercy to get back on track, and sometimes it just takes a trickle. The point is, that in order to experience God’s mercy, or His transcending peace, we don’t need to be in the terrible place Robert Robertson was that day. What I realized, is that my heart and my mind wander daily from the things that matter most. But God guides me back to Him through the people He places in my life, through small surprises He tucks into my day, and even in songs that I hum as the hot soapy water splashes through my fingers. No “not all who wander are lost,” sometimes we’re just on a journey that will teach us more of who God is.
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