“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”
Psalm 84:5 NIV
“Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jeremiah 6:16 NLT
Why would anyone intentionally walk 500 miles? 500 miles is a LOOONNNG way to walk. I’m talking about a pilgrimage. By the time you are reading this, our Discover Hope team will be in Spain, serving those who are making the long pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, (The Way of Saint James), ending at the Cathedral of St James in northern Spain.
We will help provide care for soles and souls! Tired pilgrims need care for sore feet, a place to lay their head, a meal, and a listening ear to take in their story of literally walking for over a month! God is at work in many ways, both overt and subtle, and we are honored to serve and hear about it.
This year, over 325,000 individuals will travel the Camino. This number is increasing steadily each year. As diverse as the people, so are the reasons for making the pilgrimage; the desire to mark a life milestone or transition season, celebrate recovery, or take up the physical challenge. Others walk to honor a loved one, draw closer to God, or to find purpose in life.
Author Ian Cron says, “A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet. You go on a pilgrimage because you know there’s something missing inside your soul. And the only way you can find it is to go to sacred places, places where God made himself known to others. In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for yourself.”
It’s a slow, solo act, even in the company of a group. To compete against the clock or against another defeats the true purpose of pilgrimage. There is time to admire the fascinating creativity of God’s artistry in landscapes and skyscapes, appreciate and adapt to the uniqueness of fellow travelers, and acclimate to the slow pace of foot travel.
In the long days of walking, there is an invitation to engage with the stirrings of the heart, and recognize and connect with God. There is time for recalling past meaningful life events, painful and joyful, identifying deep desires, and fears that surface from deep within that previously remained hidden in the busyness of life. The enormity and mystery of life that brings perspective and invitation to respond to God. Or not. The escape of distractions is as real on a 500-mile pilgrimage as it is back home. AW Tozer had some thoughts on this, “Why do some find God in a way others do not? I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they have in common is spiritual
So is it possible for us to be on pilgrimage without traveling to Spain, Rome, or another holy site? Life happens, and we are all on the journey from birth to death, so doesn’t that count? I don’t think so. Pilgrimage is intentional- a choice. It’s a response to an internal desire to draw nearer to God than ever before. Dallas Willard says, “We are invited to make a pilgrimage- into the heart and life of God.” Will we accept that invitation and choose to be more spiritually receptive to God? Will we choose to go on pilgrimage with our “…mind set on things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Col 3:1 NASB
Our destination is clear: our Father’s house, prepared for us.
Our mindset as we begin might be informed by advice the prophet Jeremiah gave to the rebellious tribe of Judah:
Jeremiah 6:16 Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Stop at the crossroads- get off the treadmill of life for a minute. Just stop. You have a choice- continue as you are or choose another road.
Look around – take inventory of what you’re putting first in your life; is this really how you want to live? Are you noticing a restlessness or a longing? Something to release or receive?
Ask – for the old godly ways; Pray, and remember the foundation of your faith. God calls you Beloved, you are invited to live as His child: forgiven, safe, valued, overflowing with living water, and bearing fruit that honors God.
Walk – Beloved Pilgrims walk slowly, deliberately, noticing God in everything.
Rest – A rhythm of life: Stop, look, ask, walk, and rest.
What a beautiful way to live. On Pilgrimage to our home with God. Intentional and open to the Spirit as we follow our Jesus into whatever the day brings.
So here’s my plan for serving the Camino pilgrims: RESPECT THE PILGRIMS, their journey is a hard one. Listen well. Serve physical needs, and because I am following Jesus, on a pilgrimage of the heart, my prayer is that I will daily ”…put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…and above all these put on love.” Colossians 3:12,14.
My question is, ‘Isn’t this how God would have us care for everyone we come in contact with as we travel on our own pilgrimage? Let’s do it!
It is said that we are all just walking each other home. Let us value the company of others, stop to admire the beauty of God, praise the power and great love of our heavenly Father.
“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” – Thomas Merton