We all have stories of getting lost. Here is one of mine: I crossed the Sahara one year on an expedition truck with 20 others, grinding and meandering from Cairo into the heart of Africa. We got lost often, once for three days, wandering farther and farther into the African bush with insufficient water, no GPS, and no people to point the way out. We were tense: we had to get off the earthen roads before the monsoon rains began. For most of those months, we were covered in dust, breathing through bandanas, praying we’d find the right path.
That’s one kind of “lost narrative.” Here’s another: As I write, I am on the brink of major life changes—some prayed for, a few drastic and unwelcome. I find myself stumbling, fearful, uncertain of these new snaking roads and unsure of God’s place in it all. Then I feel guilty. Where is my faith? Why am I not “counting it all joy” and skipping confidently into the sunny future?
A. J. Swoboda’s newest book, The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith (Baker), came to my door at the right time. It is, of course, about the second kind of trek: our pilgrimage toward the city of God, with its painful desert crossings and wanderings. Swoboda (a pastor at Theophilus, a Portland church, and a teacher at George Fox and Fuller seminaries) has traversed this terrain before in books. The titles give the flavor—like Messy: God Likes It That Way and A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension Between Belief and Experience. His lesson for weary travelers? It isn’t just sin and disbelief, but faith—even the stoutest, most persevering faith—that takes you off life’s straight and narrow road.1