I love being outdoors. Winding through mountain highways, caught somewhere still and beautiful between the cool, dry air and the sunlight brushing through the pines. Expansive, untouched places left for exploring and soaking up the freedom of wide, open spaces. It’s deeply woven into the fabric of all the things I love most. And sometimes, I start feeling like it’s one of those rare things that’s helped me to feel grounded just as much as it’s pushed me to go.
We’re all looking for those things that keep us feeling rooted. And that’s a good thing. It’s woven into us to pursue the things that give us purpose – the salt in our souls, the wind in our sails. Most of the time, even if you find something to foster that sense of belonging and to fuel intentional living, it seems to fade over time. It’s easy to feel untethered and off-balance, moving through the brokenness in pursuit of something whole.
The Israelites felt this, too. Their heritage was forged by God; they were His people. They watched as God built their nation from the smallest of all people to one as countless as the stars in the sky. They were there when He parted the Red Sea and rescued them from slavery. They held the promise of God’s very presence in their hands, yet they were distracted by the broken things of the world, pulled in every direction, untethered.
“Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. The Lord will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people.
“As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way. Above all, fear the Lord and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things he has done for you. However, if you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” | 1 Samuel 12:20-25
In the book of 1 Samuel, Israel set their gaze on something other than God again. This time it was a king. They wanted something else to govern their hearts rather than God. Whether they believed that God wasn’t enough, that His heart wasn’t truly for them or simply just craved the control of building a kingdom independent of God, the outcome was the same. They failed to remember.
How often is this our story? We are broken people redeemed only through the love of Jesus. We have the promises of life, the wisdom of God personified, one who binds our brokenness and frees us to be fully and deeply rooted in the purpose we were created for. And yet, we forget. We’re so easily tossed about because our gaze is misplaced. For a minute in time, we forget our deepest treasure and we find ourselves, like Israel, trying to hold onto something solid.
We know the sting of abandoning our deepest love for lesser things — the kind that turn up empty every time. And yet, our God is still the same. In this little passage of 1 Samuel, we see the depth of God’s love for His people, for us. Although rejected and forgotten, He seeks us out. He calls us out of sin, out of the untethered way of living that independence from God creates and reminds us that our hope rests in God’s unwavering commitment to Himself and to us. He who promised is faithful. His fierce devotion to us is the basis for our confidence. In Christ, we have a faith and a redeemer that holds onto us.
And when we remember, the call to return is all the same. “Above all, fear the Lord and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things he has done for you.” Remembrance fuels love. Love fuels obedience. Obedience fuels joy. It’s what we were created for. It’s God’s heart for His people, to lift our gaze off of the broken things of the world and onto the beauty of our inheritance in Christ.
I’m always looking for the places and people that push me to love deeper, cultivate just a little more grace, and depend deeper. But the root of what keeps us grounded and creates spaces where we can have a deeper joy than even the most beautiful mountain highways can offer, is that our God holds onto us. He calls us always to return to Him and to be established in His love. From this vantage point, we can truly begin to live deeply rooted.