The Beauty of Holy Wandering

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen -Holy Wandering3

I’m two weeks into life in our new neighbourhood, and slowly getting to know my way around. Each morning I strap the toddler into the pushchair and encourage my preschooler daughter onto the buggy board, and out we go to explore.

We practice getting lost. It’s something I learnt sometime around two moves ago, when this now-tall girl was just a baby needing to be walked to sleep each afternoon. I got quickly bored of walking the same few streets, and so I started to branch off, without a plan of where I was headed. I started getting purposefully lost: a right turn instead of a left; walking down the side street instead of sticking to the main road.

Getting lost is the best way I know of discovering wonderful new things. My kids and I, we’ve discovered new parks and playgrounds, we’ve found beautiful old churches hidden behind new housing developments, overgrown nature reserves on a dead end street, fascinating Eastern European delis and Indian bakeries on unfamiliar corners.

Letting myself become physically lost requires a degree of courage (and a strong battery on the phone in my bag!) Getting spiritually lost feels much more uncomfortable, but I am learning how to turn down those interesting-if-slightly-sketchy-looking side streets of belief.

I have been walking the main streets of belief for decades, with barely a step out of place. It is familiar and easy and seemingly safe, but it is also so unvaried—nothing changing, no new vistas to inspire, no new sights or relationships to challenge.

It doesn’t make sense to get lost—that is the prevailing wisdom of our culture. Stay on the path you know, because what if you never find your way home again?

But my physical adventures off my own beaten path inspire some spiritual adventures. I want to see in ways I have not seen before, to encounter God in new places and spaces, in new ways of walking and being. I’m confident of finding God down those side roads, because Jesus was so often found exactly where he “shouldn’t” have been. How often were his disciples and family so concerned he was getting lost? But he knew he was in the right place.

It no longer feels like such a big risk to explore this thing I call Faith. I’m exploring the side roads of belief and the back alleys of thought. And sometimes I don’t find much interesting or good there, and so I try a different route home next time. I am not afraid of getting lost.

The Celtic Christians adopted an idea that Augustine of Hippo first wrote about—the concept of peregrinate—a pilgrimage without a set destination. Driven by their own internal prompting of the Spirit, they would set out to wander the land without a map, sometimes even setting out in a boat without oars.

Esther de Waal writes, “What they are seeking is the place of resurrection, the resurrected self, the true self in Christ, which is for all of us our true home.”

And maybe this is what unites my physical wanderings with my spiritual ones: it’s the desire to find that place of resurrection, to allow all my knowings to be undone, my sense of direction turned on its head, so that, step by risky step, I become my true self in Christ.

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona lives in London with her Danish husband and her two young children. She is determinedly seeking the sacred in the ordinary, learning to see that even the most mundane moments of her day can be spiritual if she wakes up to the Divine in those places. She is in training to become a Spiritual Director, and baking is her favourite spiritual practice. You can follow her through her blog at fionalynne.com.
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
  • I love this, Fiona. I’m not afraid either … most days. 🙂 And it is so freeing and I love finding Jesus walking right by my side for the adventure.

    And I love going where my feet take me. Getting lost and finding Beauty.

    • fiona lynne

      Ha ha, yes, “most” days here too 😉
      So grateful for how you model this way of being for me and so many others. x

  • Helen

    Love, love, love this. Training at theological college is helping me practice getting lost and leading me to discover beautiful new things about this faith of ours. Thank you for putting it in such wonderful words.

    • fiona lynne

      That sounds so good and challenging and enriching! Would love to hear more. x

  • Heather Deeming

    YES! Finding Jesus where he “shouldn’t” have been – such a great encouragement to be brave and get lost.

    • fiona lynne

      Right?? Remind of this next time I worry I’m not where I “should” be, ok?!…

  • Love this Fiona. This resonated especially >> “It no longer feels like such a big risk to explore this thing I call Faith. I’m exploring the side roads of belief and the back alleys of thought. And sometimes I don’t find much interesting or good there, and so I try a different route home next time. I am not afraid of getting lost.” This idea that yeah – we won’t always find something astounding and amazing just because we dare to venture out onto the side roads. Sometimes it will be ordinary, or not even very nice – and that’s ok, we don’t need to be afraid. This is so very freeing – and there is freedom in every word of this post. Can’t wait to see you this weekend xx

    • fiona lynne

      Oh me too! xxx

  • I’ve always been one for the known paths, myself, but I’m up to my fetlocks in Eugene Peterson right now, and your words remind me of his thinking here:
    “We live our lives in the practice of what we do not originate and cannot anticipate.”
    I love the sentence, but the truth of it makes me a little queasy — but thankful.

    • fiona lynne

      Oh wow, that one sentence contains so much. Thank you for sharing that!

  • Oh, I like this. I was just journaling about how I tend to stick to trails and streets that I know to avoid being lost. It’s very much against my nature and upbringing to wander much. It’s a miracle that I got lost at all! I love the picture of wandering through faith. When I started to wander, that’s when I discovered I was already found and held.

    • fiona lynne

      Yes!! One of the images that was with me as I wrote this was of the good shepherd. Knowing he will not let me get too lost, that I am never out of sight or mind, that he will rescue me if necessary, it’s the thing that makes me brave to explore. xxx

  • sandyhay

    “…peregrinate—a pilgrimage without a set destination: I love this word. Purpose is such an over used word in the church. Purpose to me has a destination. Pilgrimage …now that’s a word I can relate to. And yes I do sometimes have a fear of going into new territory but at my age I MUST pass through that quickly;) As a side note: On my husband’s last military move many years ago, I would get in the car with my youngest, age 4, and drive in a different direction each day. That’s was a wonderful adventure for us…no phone or gps then…and we learned the area quickly.

    • fiona lynne

      I love imagining you and your son setting out on adventures! Yes, purpose has been a difficult word for me too. But I love the idea of pilgrimage and all I’ve been learning about it.

  • I can totally hear your voice as I read this, Fiona! Last year, when I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s “An Altar In the World,” I was so challenged by her chapter on the practice of getting lost. I think for me, fear is the biggest block to exploration. But if I can come to a place where I believe that we are held by Good, that underlying everything is good rather than evil, then I am free to wander. (Side note: my husband and I named our business Coracle Marketing after those rudder-less boats that Celtic monks set off in. Some people think we’re crazy that we don’t have a set “plan” for how we’ll grow our business, but to us this is one way we keep discovering God.)

    • fiona lynne

      What a great name!! And yes, that book has informed my spirituality so much since I read it a few years ago. Fear underlies so much for me, and it’s such a gradual process of releasing it. Maybe I should have expressed that more here, but it’s been years of not daring to step outside the lines but really wanting to, until I found the courage to start letting go of some of my tightly held beliefs and step into something bigger. I’m still learning!

  • Tracy Nelson

    wow. I can’t love this enough. I love the idea of peregrenate, too … like my favorite bird – just get lost in the adventure …. fantastic.

    • fiona lynne

      Ooh and now I’m imagining this whole adventure with wings! To not even be restricted by paths, but to swoop and soar wherever the wind of the Spirit takes us 🙂

  • I can relate to this on so many levels. We also will be moving soon, so I’m looking forward to the wandering and exploring. I agree that sometimes I find the best places when I am lost. But I can also relate on the faith level because sometimes I need courage to believe I won’t get so lost I’ll never be found when I am wandering the cul-de-sacs of faith (do you have those there? Like dead-end streets). Thank you for your beautiful words and images that pull me into your heart and into deep places I hadn’t planned to go before I sat down at my laptop. Love that we’re walking parallel paths in some ways.

    • fiona lynne

      I grew up in a cul-de-sac 🙂 I too love that we’re on similar paths. I can always relate to your writing. xxx

  • When we get lost driving or turn down a road we don’t know, my husband always says, “Roads connect.”

    • fiona lynne

      Love this x

  • Carey

    Love this- beautiful and challenging. Reminds me of One of my favorite books, Rebecca Solnit. “A Field guide to getting Lost.”

    • fiona lynne

      Oh I’ve not heard of that book but it sounds really good. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • I feel like I’ve been learning to venture into those unknown parts of faith in the last few years, but would never have thought to articulate it so clearly or beautifully. My whole life I was taught to stay on the path, lest you lost it never to find it again. It has been so freeing, joyous, and insightful to stray, and not be scared of it. Thank you for stating this so well–I love this visual so much!