Unhappy Wanderer

An article I read years ago about children with ADD was entitled “Unhappy Wanderers.” It’s also a succinct and sobering description of many who struggle with mental illnesses. In fact, for many years it was the title I attached to our son, like a knight’s moniker … Douglas: the Unhappy Wanderer.

Friendships were fleeting and jobs were short-lived. Douglas was always uneasy, unsettled, unfocused. Always on to the next thing before finishing the current thing, he lived without roots yet without wings. Because of bipolar disorder he was trapped by a never-still mind and an always-busy imagination.

At one point he connected with other nomads who did door-to-door sales. For several years Douglas joined them as they wandered from state to state, always expecting to sell their way into riches, but never seeing a dime from their efforts. During those years we routinely lost track of Douglas. He called home very rarely and always briefly. He offered few details about his life, though he was forthcoming about their travels: Alaska, Florida, Colorado, New York, California.

During much of that time, I felt as though my Unhappy Wanderer was lost. And sometimes the weight of my fears for his safety and sanity would nearly bury me. However, God sent reminders time and time again that though lost to me, Douglas was never out of His sight and care. These reassurances came through the most unexpected channels.

One time my former boss called to tell me that her daughter in Colorado had just had a strange encounter with a door-to-door salesman. Turns out his parents worked for the same mission agency her parents did, and with the further exchange of information, they discovered that his mom (me) used to work for her mom. This random encounter and the ensuing phone call reassured me that God was watching over Douglas and that he was okay.

Another time when we hadn’t heard from Douglas in several months, I got an email from a friend in California saying she had just run into our son at a local store. Once again, God quieted my heart with the comforting confidence that, indeed, “The LORD watches over the sojourners.”

No matter where our Unhappy Wanderers stray, we can trust that God is there waiting for them to arrive and will travel with them to wherever their restless souls are beckoned next.

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