The first sermon I ever heard preached as a believer was over the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It was in a small East Texas fellowship church with strong Southern Baptist leanings. The preacher was middle aged, bald, and spoke with the firey conviction of a southern Baptist preacher. I was new enough in the faith that I soaked in every word, and furiously took copious notes, circling and underlining in my Bible, writing in the margins. On that day, the preacher highlighted the lack of grace and forgiveness in the heart of the older brother, thus making him a prodigal son of a different sort. The wanderer’s heart in me needed that level of grace and lack of condemnation.
A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor at our church preach over that same parable for the first time in nearly seven years. A lot of life has been lived in those seven years for me, and for the first time I saw the sins of the wandering son. I found myself recognizing him in a younger version of myself, but also saw the older brother in my present-day self. If I were honest with myself, I’d say both brothers reside in my heart. I am a committed, confessing, and baptized Christian, but my heart is prone to wander. I came to Christ as the younger brother, and so my heart understands the desires of the wanderer. But years of sanctification and my prideful nature has led me to resemblance of the older brother. It’s my suspicion that on some level, we all spend some amount of our Christian walk as both.
God can heal our wandering hearts, but He also is willing to use them for His advantage. How else would he convince people to go on mission? To be on a mission does require a healthy dose of a wandering heart, in the sense that we desire to see His world and His people, though not that we desire to stray from Him. It’s a fine line, but one He refines over time, I’m coming to believe.
Often times, Millennial believers fall into the trap of believing they’re called to radical changes, and that if they’re not running off to Africa to build wells for drinking water for tiny villages that have never heard of Jesus, they’re not bringing Him glory or living within His will. By and large, as a generation, Millennials are wanderers by nature. They are the new Lost Generation. They’ve always had choices that are bigger, sexier, more adventurous than any other generation before, and that affects their outlook. I recently wrote that sometimes Millennials are required to stay put and the reasons they should. But sometimes, they need to get out and have their faith strengthened. They need to step out in faith and shake things up and see the ways God will show up. So for all you Millennials who have always played it safe, for all you Older Brothers, or Wanderers-turned-Older-Brothers, and you’re wondering if this safety net you’ve built is right, this is for you.
Reasons to Go
Go because all your friends around you are exactly like you. Do you all dress similarly? That might be a first clue. Do you all listen to the same music? Do you all have the same political, spiritual, theological, beliefs? If so, you’re stuck in a rut and should get out. Have friends that aren’t believers. Live a life that is akin to how Christ lived. Dine with sinners.
Dare to have Christian brothers and sisters who have a different stance on pre-destination, believer baptism, or tongues, or their opposing ideologies. They have testimonies regarding those topics, and the book of Acts says we have far more in common than we think. You will learn from them, and they will learn from you. That’s what God does with His church: brings His people together to refine and sanctify them.
Go because it’s the random dream you’ve always had in the back of your mind.
God put that dream there for a reason. Explore it. Don’t idolize it, but explore it. He’ll either open doors or close them. And you are His child. He won’t leave you just because you sin and disobey. As Bethel Music says, “I’m no longer a slave to fear./You part the sea so I can walk right through it./I am a child of God.”
Go because you’ve been staying for all the wrong reasons.
I once dated a gentleman who’d been divorced, and he chose to keep the house he’d purchased with his ex-wife. Sometimes we’d talk about life and he’d say something like, “Do you ever just want to sell everything, pack the rest up and move somewhere?” My answer was always the same: Yes. Pick a place on the map; let’s go. Not long after we broke up, he went away to visit his family on the west coast. We got together for a drink when he returned, and he described being there like putting on an old pair of shoes. He yearned to return back to his home region, but he’s staying in the house he and his ex-wife purchased because he hates moving. He’s staying for all the wrong reasons.
Reasons not to go
Just as there are reasons to go, there are reasons to not go. It’s important to weigh your heart on them first before you commit to any of them.
Don’t go because you’re comparing yourself with anyone else. I applied to graduate school last year because I was comparing myself to everyone else in my age group at church. Bad idea. I hated my life for the first six weeks of grad school. So I quit.
Don’t go because someone just broke up with you, a death has occurred in your family, or another major life change has happened. There’s a reason adoption agencies won’t adopt out a child to a family that has recently lost a grandparent; it’s simply too much life change in less than a year. It roughly takes six months to adjust to any major life change, including new jobs, new schools, a new place to live, breakups, relationships beginning, births, etc. Give yourself time to adjust to the major life changes.
Don’t go because you feel like your small life is closing in on you. It’s not. You might just need a getaway. You might just need to take up some new hobbies, get a new group of friends. Do those things first, and then, if after six months to a year, you start to see the reasons to go taking root in your life, begin to prayerfully consider it then.
These are just a few reasons to go. Can you think of any others that might also apply?