The Pilgrim Way
Lent is a season that reminds me of a pilgrimage. It's a spiritual journey through the days that often drag on between Winter and Spring, between Epiphany and Easter.
During Lent, the ground, hard from the cold, begins to give way to flowers that force their way to the burgeoning warmth of the slowly warming surface.
It's the perfect kind of space to walk if you ask me.
As I sit here now, I remember the first encounter I had with the idea of pilgrimage came from an abridged version of John Bunyan's classic metaphorical work, Pilgrim's Progress, written in the 17th century.
I read that book when I was ten or eleven years old, and the thought that I had then returned to me now in a rush. Pilgrimage is hard. It costs you. And you find yourself along the way.
You also probably die. At least that's what seemed to happen to everybody in the book, a fact that, even at an early age, I thought was grim.
But the notion that pilgrimage is where you find yourself is the one that prevailed over all of the grimmer ones of suffering and sacrifice, and I've carried it with me all these years.
Once I went on a pilgrimage to locate the gravesite of C.S. Lewis along one of the tributaries of the Thames in Oxford, England. This was before the miracle of GPS, and all I had was a map and a misguided sense of direction.
The trip there took an hour, and the trip home took twenty minutes. Both were glorious in their own right.
I've also had opportunities to lead numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land over the past twelve years---journeys to holy sites, churches, sanctuaries, empty tombs, and the shores of Galilee and the banks of the Jordan River.
I've wandered the streets of some of the great cities in this world searching for particular places, a historic house, a statue of some luminary or another, or a spot where someone famous and dear to me (Dylan Thomas comes to mind) was born.
Every one of those journeys was a journey to myself. I learned more by walking than I did from arriving.
I recently read in a devotional from Fr. Richard Rohr that pilgrimage is the space where:
The Spirit yearns to break out and to break open our old practices, our protective shells of comfortable spirituality, connecting our inner selves more deeply to God’s love and to God’s world.
During the season of Lent, I wonder how to find pilgrimage space within me even when I'm not physically wandering, winding my way toward some sacred place.
Could it be that life is a pilgrimage, and every inner path we take is a journey to ourselves? Is this what it means to follow the Way of Christ---to be constantly following after Jesus in every aspect of our lives?
When we are willing to approach the Way of Christ as a pilgrim, we will often be led to places and spaces where we can have all the old practices that led us away from ourselves broken open.
And then, when our inner selves are exposed, we find ourselves free to journey unencumbered by the weight of who we tried to be in our old armor and find ourselves again connected to God by love.
May this be your experience in these last weeks of Lent. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
[Greetings friends! This will be my last Daily Devo until next week. I'm taking a short break to go on a quick trip with my two youngest boys for Spring Break. I'll be back in the saddle next Tuesday morning!]