Guidance for Wandering Well

By Jaime Sherman

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt and away from brutal slavery and oppression, He knew they would need rules for wandering, for they had no idea how to journey well through the desert to a new land, how to face new challenges, and how to live in newfound freedom. God graciously gave Moses specific instructions for how the people should wander well, and today these rules form the book of Leviticus. God didn’t want His people to be ill-prepared or lost on their trek through the desert, and as long as they followed His guidance, they would be set. However, they failed time after time to lean into His best for them, and an 11-day journey turned into 40 long years.

As I read God’s rules for wandering, I am reminded how important it is to set out on any journey with the correct guidance from the correct source!

As I read God’s rules for wandering, I am reminded how important it is to set out on any journey with the correct guidance from the correct source! When my husband and I were dating, we’d often drive an hour or two to a new hiking destination to spend the day in God’s creation and most of all together. I wasn’t much of a hiker before meeting him, but I came to love these outings. I would often take along a few necessities but rarely much more than what was needed for a few hours of exploring, namely a topographical map of the area, plenty of water, and a snack. But that all changed when we got married and our hiking adventures shifted to overnight jaunts and the packing list got a lot heavier. 

Prior to our marriage, my husband’s overnight backpacking companion was an avid outdoorsman whose knapsack nearly outweighed his skinny frame. Canned food and thick steaks were usually on the menu around the campfire. No freeze-dried backpacking fare for this hiker — or for my husband. 

For our first newlywed hike, my loving husband outfitted us. He bought us matching boots — heavy leather ones designed for a construction site that laced halfway up my calf and caused me to lift weights with each step and to trip over the smallest of twigs on the path. He also purchased us backpacks that could hold enough for a week on the trail — even though we weren’t venturing for more than two nights. To fill up those packs, we had a small stove and fuel, water filter, pans, plates, bowls, utensils, and yummy food, for the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right?

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention that we had plenty of clothing for any weather, a full-size tent, bulky sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and even little pillows. Apparently a way to a new bride’s heart is sleeping comfort. 

We were loaded down, and even though my husband took most of the weight upon himself, I immediately hated backpacking. After a few trips out, including one with a new puppy and a constant downpour from the heavens, I never set foot on the path again for an overnight journey. Epic fail.

If I had been properly prepared for our overnight treks with a minimalist view from the list of top 10 things to take on a backpacking adventure and the top 10 things not to take along on a hike, I think I would have become an avid hiker, but we were taking our cues for wandering from the wrong source.

Are you tempted to take your rules for wandering through this life from the wrong source?

Are you tempted to take your rules for wandering through this life from the wrong source? When the world screams loudly — when the items on the shelves at R.E.I. scream, “You need me, too!” — where do you turn for guidance? The internet? Social media? Self-help books? People around you?

While we can at times find wisdom from those places and people, they shouldn’t be our main sources for how to live a godly life. God wants us to turn first to Him in prayer and to His Word, for He is our Good Shepherd who wants to guide us on our journey through this sin-scared world.

At the beginning of their journey, God provided the Israelites with a top 10 list of items to take with them on their journey, which we call the Ten Commandments or the Ten Words (Exodus 20). He gave them further, detailed instructions in what we know of as the book of Leviticus, and within these instructions for how to thrive in a new land, He asked them to celebrate a weekly sabbath and seven feasts to celebrate His goodness to them. He knew they would need constant reminders, weekly and seasonal reminders to reset their focus on His guidance. 

Oh, how we need that, too.

I’m excited about our upcoming 7 Feasts study, which begins this Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in person and on Zoom and again at 6:30 p.m. First, we will be looking at the importance of rightly studying God’s guidebook for our wandering through this world (week 1). Then, we’ll move through seven chapters on seven feasts that take us from the desert-wandering Israelites in the Old Testament to the story of Jesus, His death as the final Passover Lamb and His resurrection, and to the incredible giving of the Holy Spirit to His followers. Through each feast we’ll also keep our eyes fixed on Jesus’ second coming when He will one day return to make all things right.

Will you set out on this journey with me and the rest of the women’s ministry team as we prepare our hearts of Easter? As we do, let’s keep our eyes on the best source for how to wander well.

Now, 20 years later after those first backpacking adventures with my new husband, I’ve learned from people more like myself in frame and endurance the rules for wandering well on Oregon’s trails. Yes, back in our newlywed days we always had the essentials on our hikes — tools for navigation, a light, sun protection, triage supplies, a multi-tool, a fire starter, a shelter, plenty of food and water, and weather-appropriate clothing. But we lacked the wisdom to leave behind the things that weighed us down, including the advice of a man who would live all his days on the trail if he could. I recently found a list of what not to take on the trek, and curiously one of the items was hiking boots. The blogger stated they are only needed when hiking for days on rugged terrain or doing the Inca Trail.

I think I’m ready to head out again, for I ditched those heavy, clunky boots years ago. But before we go, I’ll convince my husband we don’t need steaks for dinner on the trail!