Author J.R.R. Tolkein once stated, “Not all who wander are lost.” Many of us might desperately wish that these words were true of us. Adulthood often feels like one long exercise in wandering. It is difficult to find value in seasons when we just want some answers but cannot seem to find any.
Whether you feel called to a certain vocation and it hasn’t worked out yet or you have just been trudging through adult life for a while, unsure of where your path is leading, wandering for a prolonged period of time can be painful. Each of us has a deep desire to discover her unique calling from God. When that’s unclear, the ache is very deep.
When you’re in the thick of uncertainty, it is tempting to think you have been forgotten or rejected by God. Maybe you wonder how you can possibly pursue holiness when you are not even sure what you are called to. Take heart! God’s Providence covers everything, even your confusion and uncertainty. You are precious to Him, even if you feel like a lost sheep.
The Road Trip
Not too long ago, I felt directionless in my life. I was extremely anxious and frustrated and told a priest I knew about the confusion I was going through. I hoped he would give me some sort of step-by-step guide about what to do next, courtesy of the Holy Spirit. Instead, he shared with me a parable of sorts. It completely shifted the way I think about uncertainty and vocation.
He put it this way: You’re walking along the side of the road and suddenly an old, beat-up car with a creepy-looking guy in sunglasses pulls up next to you. He tells you to hop in, because he’s going on an adventure. Are you going to join him? Of course not! Now, picture your best friend doing the same thing. How would you respond then? Most likely, you would get into that car without a second thought. You might not even ask where you are going, because you know that wherever it is, you get to spend time with your friend who you love and trust.
Now, he said, picture Jesus driving up in that car. He’s inviting you to join Him on a road trip. Jesus is that friend—the One Who you would be so excited to hang out with that you would leap into the car and just go.
This is the kind of life—the kind of adventure—we’re called to. We are invited into a relationship with One Who is so trustworthy that no matter what twists, turns or unexpected pit stops we make, all will be well.
WEEKLY BLOG UPDATES (+ more!)We'll send you the blog updates weekly in your inbox (with some special tips + tricks to living liturgically from our Blog Editor, Olivia Spears).
3 Saints Who were Wanderers
Happily, there are Saints who have trodden this long, winding road before us. Their lives were anything but straightforward and they remain a testament to God’s loving providence. No matter how random you may feel like your life is, every second, every decision matters. Holiness is possible even if you feel like you have not yet found your “call.”
Here are three Saints whose path to their vocations was anything but straightforward:
1. Saint Louise de Marillac
Saint Louise de Marillac (1591-1660) felt a calling to religious life as a young woman. However, her confessor was not supportive of the idea, and she ended up marrying and having a son. Eventually, Louise’s husband became ill and suffered through a long, difficult time as an invalid while she cared for him.
After his death, Louise approached St. Vincent de Paul and asked him to be her confessor. For a long time, busy with his many duties, he put her off. But at long last, he not only consented to give her spiritual guidance, but also helped her establish the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. Even after the order was begun, it took a long time for Saint Vincent to grant Louise and the three other women with her permission to take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Louise’s life was certainly one of patience and perseverance.
2. Saint Benedict Joseph Labre
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783) was a wanderer his entire life. He tried entering different monasteries three different times, but was rejected. In spite of this disheartening experience, Saint Benedict continued to follow Jesus in what ways he could, and spent most of his days as a poor pilgrim. For a while he even lived in the Colosseum.
He is invoked as the patron Saint of the homeless.
3. Blessed Lindalva Justo de Oliviera
It took a while for Blessed Lindalva Justo de Oliviera (1953-1993) to find her permanent “vocational home.” As a young woman, she drifted through a variety of professions, getting a diploma as an administrative assistant and then holding jobs in retail and at a gas station. After taking care of her father as he died from a terminal illness, she decided to pursue nursing.
It wasn’t until the age of 35 that she entered religious life, joining the Daughters of Charity. With them she was able to pursue her great love for serving the poor.
A Prayer for the Road
We can wear ourselves out looking at our lives through the narrow lens of our own plans. Or we can choose to look at each phase of life as an adventure that God has lovingly prepared especially for us. Surrender to this adventure allows us to step into a new kind of freedom—the freedom of a daughter of God, who is loved purely and simply for who she is. If you’re going through a season of wandering, don’t lose hope. Your Heavenly Father is watching your every step and cares deeply about this time in your life, even if it feels dry.
When you are with Him, you are never truly lost.
Maria Bonvissuto is originally from Nashville and currently lives in Washington, DC. She works in marketing and communications for a school in Northern Virginia. She loves writing, reading at least three books at a time, playing classical guitar, dancing, and traveling.