Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above. (“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson)
“His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Luke 15:21–24 NIV)
In 2009, researchers in Germany decided to test the common belief that people who are lost in the wilderness tend to walk in circles. After a variety of tests that included depositing willing volunteers with GPS trackers in unfamiliar terrain, as well as testing other volunteers who were simply blindfolded in an open field, the researchers came to the conclusion that the common belief has a solid basis in truth. The study goes as far as to say, “Without the use of an external directional reference, humans (like any animal) are not able to maintain a fixed course.” When we rely solely upon an internal sense of direction rather than in conjunction with exterior rubrics, such as the sun, we will fail to stay on the intended path.
For millennia, followers of God have said the same thing—humans are prone to wander and need external guidance, which we understand best comes from God. Our lives as believers would certainly be easier if we could bind our hearts to God’s as though we were a prisoner shackled to a guard, but God will not do this as He does not want this kind of relationship with us. Rather, like any good father, He would rather we love Him freely than be in relationship with Him out of obligation or compulsion. So when we fall prey to our wandering nature, our Father in heaven eagerly and watchfully awaits our return; God is a good Shepherd who seeks out His lost sheep to ensure they are safe. Invite the Holy Spirit to point out the areas of your life where you have wandered—where you have trusted too readily on your own internal compass without seeking God’s external guidance—then confess your wanderings to God and allow Him to welcome you back with His open and welcoming arms.