Why are we so restless?
All of us have a little wanderlust—a desire for that next thing, that new place, but this competes with our longings for security, control, and safety. We don’t like how it feels to be unsettled and uprooted. Whether we’re navigating a season of transition, dealing with the fallout of broken relationships, or wrestling with a deep sense of restlessness, we are all experiencing some form of exile. And most of us do whatever we can to numb the feelings of unbelonging, powerlessness, and unsettledness that come with it. But the truth is that exile has a profound purpose if we can just learn to lean in.
Over and over again Scripture tells us that the people of God are exiles and wanderers. And this is good news because exile is what transforms us into pilgrims. In Christ, we are no longer directionless wanderers, but pilgrim followers who have a clear purpose and a secure identity. In Born to Wander, Michelle Van Loon weaves together personal stories and keen insights on the biblical themes of pilgrimage and exile. She will help you embrace your own pilgrim identity and reorient your heart toward the God who leads you home. Engaging and thoughtful, enhanced with practical suggestions, prayers, and questions, Born to Wander will teach how to trust God even when you don’t understand what’s happening around you and follow Him even when it hurts.
If you keep chasing security, you’ll never find it. Embrace the purpose behind the wandering and discover the freedom and safety of resting in God alone.
“Every one of us carries a restlessness that runs as deep as the marrow of our born-again bones. Our relationships shift like tectonic plates. We change jobs. We switch churches. And our culture tells us the cure for our restlessness is to buy a new mattress, a new car, or a new tube of toothpaste.”
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About the Author
Since coming to faith in Christ at the tail end of the Jesus Movement, MICHELLE VAN LOON'S Jewish heritage, spiritual hunger, and storyteller's sensibilities have shaped her faith journey and informed her writing. She is the author of five books, including If Only: Letting Go of Regret, Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith and the forthcoming Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity. Michelle is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's women's blog, In Touch magazine, and is the co-founder of www.ThePerennialGen.com, a website for midlife women and men. She's married to Bill, and is mother of three and grandmother of two. Learn about her writing and speaking ministry by visiting her website, www.michellevanloon.com.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Uprooted 17
Chapter 2 Sent 33
Chapter 3 Waylaid 47
Chapter 4 Displaced 61
Chapter 5 Warned 77
Chapter 6 Divided 91
Chapter 7 Remembered 105
Chapter 8 Trekked 117
Chapter 9 Sojourned 135
Chapter 10 Diverted 151
Chapter 11 Revealed 165
For Further Reading 179
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
You might be familiar with the classic hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. There is a part of the song that states: "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. " Born to Wander is a new book that takes a closer look at the times in our lives when we feel like we are wandering and have lost our sense of purpose. Or for some, maybe that sense of purpose was never there to begin with. The author, Michelle Van Loon, believes that all humans are born to wander. For some, hard times push them into what seems like an endless period of wandering. Van Loon looks to scripture to show that Christ is the answer for people who find themselves in the desert of life. The Bible is full of examples of people in exile who have been uprooted from their homes and are searching for a place to settle down. As believers, we can be secure in knowing that our ultimate home is with Jesus. No matter where we might roam, He will guide us “home” if we follow Him. This book shows how we can look to examples of God’s work in other peoples’ lives (both in the Bible and those around us) and to not lose hope when it feels like we are just aimlessly wandering through life.
I feel it in my bones. I'm a born traveler ... a sojourner ... a stranger ... a pilgrim just passing through. Michelle Van Loon's latest book may be her best yet. I couldn't put it down. "Born to Wander" helped me better understand myself. What a great feeling. May you enjoy personal epiphanies, too...
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.] I feel I must admit that I wanted to like and thought I would like this book a lot more than I did. I'm not sure whether that is because the author simply rubbed me the wrong way, or whether there is something more substantial in the author's approach that I found to be bothersome that may be shared by a broader audience. On the one hand, the author's discussion of our status as pilgrims and sojourners in this earth is a worthwhile one , but the author seems to approach the subject from two particular points of view that I find deeply troublesome. For one, the author has more than a bit of that social gospel tendency to praise political leftism as if it was godliness, something that is deeply unscriptural and personally offensive. Additionally, the author seems to be showing off by tossing around Hebrew words even if she appears not very knowledgeable in or obedient to the Torah. The result is a book that promises much but disappoints much as well. The less than 200 pages of the book are divided into eleven chapters with single word titles in which the author mixes her attempts at exegesis and discussing the relevance of the topic for contemporary believers along with her own reading and stories from her personal life that are designed to increase our ability to relate to her. Through these eleven chapters the author tells us how we as believers are uprooted, sent, waylaid, displaced, warned, divided, remembered, trekked, sojourned, and diverted before God finally reveals His plans and purposes for us. Each of the chapters closes with some discussion questions by the author that are meant to spark thought on the subject matter by the reader. For the most part, though, I found myself in reading the book rather annoyed or irritated by the author's approach and point of view and not inclined to make myself vulnerable to her even as a reader, much less as a reviewer, and it seems likely that this book will likely be most appreciated by those who either think the author more knowledgeable about the Bible than I do or by those who empathize/sympathize with her more than I do. Ultimately, this is a book that talks about a worthwhile subject but where the author (and whoever was editing her) likely could have done a lot better job at focusing on how to appeal to her target audience. Even as a single, never married believer I found the author's insult of churches for focusing on families in light of the societal crisis we are in right now. The author was similarly tone deaf on showing herself to be in general the sort of leftist Social Justice Warrior whose books I regularly skewer with relish, which made it strange that she tried to present herself as representing a biblical view rather than owning her partisanship. The book's back cover presents her as a "master storyteller" but the author would have been better served to have increased her humility and decreased the shrillness of her presentation of the various alienating experiences of her life as well as her worldview errors. Even so, the historical commentary the author provides is at least interesting and the author appears to have at least read very worthwhile books, so there is something to get out of this book, namely a feeling that with so many similarities one should like the author and her book more than one does.  See, for example: https://edgeinducedc
I’m reading Born to Wander by Michelle Van Loon and she brings the wonderful reminder that we are all pilgrim travelers, with a clear purpose, a secure identity, and a safe resting place in God. “Wandering” has been defined as “moving from place to place without a fixed plan; roaming; having no permanent residence” (dictionary.com). I’m not one to move about. I would say I have a permanent residence as we have lived in our current home for twenty seven years now and have no intentions of moving. Yet I have been on a pilgrimage my entire life, as have all of us. We are each set out on this pilgrimage from the day we draw our first breath. Every twist and turn of the road is meant to be a powerful compass directing us back to the place which is truly home. Jesus unsettles us, nudging our souls from the comforts of home. “He [Jesus] is calling us to un-settle and embrace a life of pilgrimage. He modeled it for us as He journeyed to the cross. Those who are settled and comfortable have no real incentives to follow Him. Nor are those who’ve wrapped themselves so firmly in the identity of exile they’ve learned to live in a bunker and sought salvation as a way of avoiding a world they don’t particularly like. (page 14) But as author J.R.R. Tolkien noted. “Not all those who wander are lost”. Michelle Van Loon also observes, “You were born – and born again – to wander.” She leads us through eleven chapters of “wandering”, each chapter bringing to life the story of pilgrimage in Scripture. She shares stories from her own life, transparently, to illustrate the common roots found in our wandering. She closes the first chapter with an insight and question designed to pull the reader into this most thought provoking book: “The ache of being uprooted is designed to graft us into the One who made us. Uprooted-ness is an uncomfortable identity and not one most of us would choose for ourselves. Early church fathers said the state of humankind was that of the homo viator (traveler, pilgrim). We have been born to wander. The questions of where we’re from or where we’re going are clarified by this truth. They become: “Are we moving toward God or wandering away from him!”” The book is beautifully written, explaining Jewish terms often hidden from those without a Jewish heritage, bringing the familiar stories of the the Israelites and their wilderness wanderings to life with new insights. The idea of wandering continues into the lives of believers today as well. Jesus invites us each to journey with Him: “He Himself is on the road we travel and is our companion on the way. And He is our destination, calling us to come to Him. We were born to wander, but we are born again to wander home.” (from page 173) *I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers for review. All opinions are honest and my own.
I did not set out to live at the same address for 25 years, and, technically, I suppose my deep roots in this country hill may disqualify me from reviewing a book entitled Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity. At the outset, I actually thought I had been born to wander, having purchased my first one way plane ticket at age 17 with no intention of ever returning to Maine. Life does have a way of handing us gifts we didn’t expect, and for me, the gift has been rootedness. For the past 25 years, the only time I’ve changed mail boxes is when the snow plow has wiped ours out and sent it flying into the ditch. However, having read Michelle Van Loon’s thoughts on the pilgrim life, I have found that there are those who “pilgrim in place.” (135) This is good news to me, because I know from experience that it is possible to choose to stay in one church for two decades because staying put is more difficult than cutting and running. I have borne witness to the gritty process of knowing and being known by people who remember most of my faults and failings, but love me anyway. Looking for Me in All the Wrong Place Even when staying put, the pilgrim at heart acknowledges that the Christian life is one of exile. Post-Eden, humanity has lived uprooted. The people of Israel in Old Testament times were formed by wandering and displacement. The New Testament church grew because the hot breath of persecution blew them like milkweed over the field of the world. Contrary by nature, Christians have become experts at finding ways to live opposed to this part of our history, either by leaning into safer narratives and getting stuck or by turning the pilgrimage into a self-centered pleasure jaunt. Van Loon describes a tourist mentality as a “slogan-based approach to faith.” (39) When we fold aspects of the American Dream in with a pinch of entitlement and a dab of self-focused ambition, we have dropped our pilgrim’s staff and re-defined the following life. The Gentle Slope, Soft Underfoot C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape described the safest path to hell as a gradual one with a “gentle slope, soft underfoot without sudden turnings,” and perhaps this is also the best description of how easy it is to fall into the life of the “Settler” — without even realizing it. While we crave contentment and were created with a longing to live in safety and security, the Apostle Paul describes a form of contentment alien to most of us in 2018 with our desires continually spurred on by affluence and Amazon Prime. This godly contentment says “enough” regarding material things, while also keeping the believer in a state of discontentment that will not be assuaged on this planet. “Godly contentment makes pilgrims out of us.” (55) The pilgrim life is lived in moment-by-moment obedience, praying like breathing, and assiduously avoiding the diversions offered by formulaic living. This is best done in community, but with the caveat that “formulas may work in math class, but real life in a rebel world is rarely that simple.” (152) From the moment of new birth, the believer is drawn into the wandering life that is imprinted upon our spiritual DNA. As we follow the invitation to come and be loved by the God who promises to meet us at every point until the end of our following road, we find that the home we have always longed for is not a destination, but a Person, and can be captured by this question: “Are we moving toward God or wandering away from Him?"