Traci Rhoades’ faith journey began as a little girl attending a Southern Baptist church in rural Missouri with her mother. At age 7, she gave her life to Christ. From there, she has attended nine churches in five different denominations in six different locations.
This Michigan-based writer and blogger draws upon her own life and faith experiences, and introduces us to the faith stories of a dozen other believers across the spectrum of Christianity, in her debut book, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost, a title based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous line from The Fellowship of the Ring.
Combining an almost childlike sense of wonder and curiosity with a strong desire for continued growth in her own faith in Jesus Christ, Rhoades skillfully weaves her own story with the stories of fellow sojourners, most of whom she learned about by asking questions on various social media platforms. The takeaway of the book is that no matter what our faith tradition is, we can grow closer to God by building relationships and learning about the beliefs and traditions of others who might worship God differently than we do.
“We’re all sinners who need to repent and recognize our great need for a Savior,” Rhoades writes in the introduction to the book, where she describes her experience attending a Catholic Ash Wednesday service for the first time. “Everyone—Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants alike —agrees on that.”
Rhoades guides us through the different ways Christians observe such practices as baptism and communion with the help of those who shared their stories with her. She also learns and incorporates into her own faith the observance of various seasons on the church calendar, such as Lent, and the importance of liturgy in some faith traditions.
Rhoades doesn’t shy away from tough stuff in her book. She opens her heart to those who struggle with faith because of a negative experience with legalism or abuse in the church. She speaks openly and honestly about conflicts within some of the congregations she has attended, particularly when a pastor is forced to leave. You feel her grief when she writes about the death of her father, who didn’t attend church. She also grapples with such divisive topics as to how to relate to those from an LGBTQ+ background who want to be part of a church.
“Even though fellowship might feel broken, we’re still under the lordship of Christ,” Rhoades writes after going through the experience of three pastors being let go from one church she attended in a span of 12 years. “Church family is still family, even when we don’t get along.”
If you’re seeking to grow deeper in your own faith and want to learn more about the faith practices of believers across the spectrum of Christianity, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is an excellent primer. You can read more about Traci Rhoades and her faith journey on her website, tracesoffaith.com. (Church Publishing Inc.)