God works in wonderful and mysterious ways. As I was preparing for my Sunday School lesson last week, I felt the Lord leading me to focus on the idea of wandering. Easy enough since the series I'm teaching on is called "The Wilderness Wanderings," but the prompting was a little more specific. In the passage we were to discuss, the children of Israel had arrived back at Kadesh, thirty-eight years after they had decided it was too difficult to go in and conquer the Promised Land. Because of their unbelief, they had wandered around in the wilderness for decades, only to arrive back where they had begun.
As I was reading a book completely unrelated to my Bible studies, I came across some interesting information about plankton, and through it, God gave me a timely reminder. Did you know that the word "plankton" is derived from a word that means "wanderer"? The reason for this, according to the article, is that plankton (organisms that serve as a significant food source for much of the ocean-dwellers) begin their journey on the ocean floor. Unable to swim against the current, they are at the mercy of the shifting tides, which eventually carry them to the ocean's surface. Once there, the plankton (specifically phytoplankton) soaks up valuable nutrients from the sun and begin the process of photosynthesis. At the proper time, the plankton is then carried back down into the sea where it becomes fuel and nutrition for other ocean life. In fact, 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from plankton, while the remaining 50% comes from plant life on land. Who knew the life cycle of plankton could be so exciting?
But here's what I learned. Wandering isn't always a bad thing, and finding ourselves back where we started could all be part of God's plan for us. Like plankton, we have been called to soak up the light (the Light of God's Word and His truth) and then to take it to those who dwell in darkness. I'm sure the plankton would be delighted to float on the water's surface soaking up more and more energy for itself, but God has other plans for it. Similarly, God wants more for us than to just soak up as much of Him as we can get, basking in the warmth and goodness of His love. Yes, He wants us to do that and allows times in our lives for us to do just that. But then, He wants us to share what we've learned with others. He has called us to see beyond ourselves and to be willing to offer life and warmth to those who need it. He wants us to be like plankton!
Times of wandering are often difficult and frustrating. So much is uncertain, and we grow weary with the journey. But remember this--our wandering has a purpose. It is during these times that we learn and develop. And whether we realize it or not, it is on the journey that we receive the energy and life-giving power we need to reach out and help others. So, view the wandering as a time of growth, and when you find yourself back where you started, ask the Lord if perhaps it's time for you to share what you've been given. Look beyond yourself to the needs of others and trust that God will get you where you need to go in His perfect timing.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:13-16