The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121
God who leads us safely through the varied terrain of life. Help us travel with wonder and purpose. Amen
This week’s evening drop series has been dedicated to the biology and spirituality of movement. Why does walking make us feel so good? What does it mean to “walk by faith?” Where do runners get their strength? This Friday evening, I want to celebrate the power of pilgrimage.
I spent my 50th birthday on the tiny Island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland. The trip was a pilgrimage with a close group of scholars and spiritual directors. That morning I took a solo walk to the north coast on the Irish Sea. It was raining, and the wind was blowing hard. I remember talking to God and saying, “The first 50 years have been been quite a climb– growing up, raising children, learning a vocation– I’m ready now to walk downhill, with the wind on my back and sunshine on my shoulders.
Well, my life still feels like ‘climbing mountains in rain gear’, and I suspect I will feel that way for as long as I have air in my lungs.
Life is a climb—a journey of constant growth, sacrifice, and trusting God for what we cannot see. Eugene Peterson said, we are pilgrims, and we are also disciples—always moving and always learning. The Pilgrimage Psalms (Psalms 120-134) were sung by traveling families as they made the journey up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts.
It is my opinion that travel changes a person and strengthens a family. In all my travels I can feel my pilgrim’s heart. What does this journey mean? Who might I meet? What can I experience in this new place that will open the eyes of my heart? Perhaps I just love traveling-with-a-purpose so much that I make it one of the highest priorities of my life.
Don’t misunderstand. We’re not a fancy family with lots of funds. Neither Dave nor I had parents who took us places other than National Forest campgrounds and southern Minnesota! (Things we love and visit to this day.) Most of our travels have been with a pop-up trailer and four kids. We were pilgrims to the Grand Tetons, the Olympic Rainforest, the Canadian Rockies, the Outer Banks, Yosemite and Big Sur…
I think God saw how happy we were on these trips, and God helped us reach for more. Somehow we found a way to visit friends in England and family in Bavaria. In seminary I got to know South America. When Sarah was studying in Spain, the two of us made pilgrimage to Rome one Holy Week. And then I was hell bent on Iona. And last week I got hell bent on Jerusalem.
And that brings me to the whole point. Let’s plan a pilgrimage NOW! I don’t know who you are and what is possible for you. But let’s all pick a place to go for our next trip, put it on the calendar and plan it out.
Safe, close spots include: Steamboat Lake, Chambers Lake, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Chasm Lake, Pawnee National Grassland, the top of Pike’s Peak… Can you travel further away? I love Moab, Santa Fe and the Anasazi Ruins. The moment it’s possible, I’ll be on a plane to NYC to pilgrim-around with Ryan and Sarah.
Life is a pilgrimage, and literal pilgrimage has a purpose in the spiritual life. What kind of travel has changed you? What have been your happiest moments on the road?