Prone to Wander
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way. – Isaiah 53:6 (NRSV)
There is a magnificent chorus in Handel’s Messiah based on this text from Isaiah. Near the end of the chorus is a long series of intricate fugues among the several voices that keep repeating the line, “We have turned.” The effect is striking, as the music describes in sound everyone turning and turning (like sheep) in new and different directions (but always astray).
One of the earliest and most abiding Christian insights about human nature is that we were made for God but keep turning away. Just as flowers are “heliotropic,” designed to turn toward the sun, so we humans are “theotropic,” designed to turn toward God.
But somehow our natural theotropism has become faulty and broken. We are more likely to go astray, to turn to our own way, than to turn toward God.
But the good news is we have a still-seeking God who does not give up on us. It is true that we are “prone to wander.” The phrase comes from Robert Robinson’s powerful hymn, “Come, Thou fount of every blessing.”
In that hymn Robinson also wrote this: “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.” He knew that, though we turn to our own way again and again, God keeps bringing us back.
Seek us and find us, Still-Seeking God, and turn us back to you, the source of our life.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His most recent book is Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (and not so young) Ministers. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.