In this reflection we consider four aspects of pilgrimage which, as well as being relevant for a physical journey of pilgrimage, also apply to our life's pilgrimage: what, how, who and where.
What We Carry When I walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage all I had with me was what I could carry in my rucksack. Life was stripped back to the bare essentials.
Staying overnight in hostels, there was often piles of stuff- clothes, toiletries, books - things pilgrims had thought necessary but then realised that their rucksacks were too heavy. They risked injury and not being able to complete their journey- they needed to leave stuff behind.
On my pilgrimage I carried emotional baggage- anger, grief, pain and unforgiveness. Jesus says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". (Matthew 11:28-30)
What do you carry that is weighing you down?
How We Journey On my journey I soon realised that it would be very easy to daydream my way through and could suddenly find myself at the destination and look back and wonder what it was all about. One day as I was walking I sensed a simple invitation from God: "walk with me". For many years I had been scared of God and struggled to trust Him. Later, I reached a point of telling God that the most I could do was to trust Him for one day. Each day, just for today.
I carried with me a stone to lay down at an iron cross on the highest point of the Camino. As I approached the cross I realised the laying down of my stone, was the laying down of myself, surrender to God and trust in Him.
'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.' (Isaiah 43:18-19)
How is your journey? Do you journey in fear or in trust?
Who We Are Journeying With On our life pilgrimage we meet many people along the way. They come into our lives and they go out of our lives, travelling with us for varying periods of time and depths of relationship.
Each one of us is known and precious, accepted and loved. Jesus said: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Through life's ups and downs and the challenges of our relationships consider who you journey with and who you carry in your heart.
Who especially needs to know that they are loved and precious, and accepted just as they are?
Where Are We Going A pilgrimage is not about wandering aimlessly- the destination is clear and we follow the waymarkers. The old cliche says it's about the journey not the destination. Our life pilgrimage is about both. The what, the how and the who of our journey are so important -but so is the where. Pilgrimage is about the heart.
Where is your treasure?
True pilgrimage is about the opening of our eyes, our ears and our hearts, not simply about travelling. It has to do with relationships rather than with destinations; it involves seeing this world as God's world, and the people in it - including ourselves - as people loved by God. Pilgrimage is more about the heart than the soles of the feet!' (David Adam)
Life is full of ups and downs and we will go through the 'Valley of Baka', (Valley of Tears) but as the Psalm goes on to say we will go from 'strength to strength'. As you journey on your life pilgrimage, be aware of God's invitation to you. He says- come for a walk with Me ...