My Lovely Pilgrimage

The Pilgrim’s Credo–

I am not in control.
I am not in a hurry.
I walk in faith and hope.
I greet everyone with peace.
I bring back only what God gives me.

–-Father Murray Bodo*

I was raised in the Christian fundamentalist tradition, then happily transferred myself to the evangelical tradition (that is, very little tradition at all). The only pilgrimage I had heard of was the one that leads to Mecca. I knew nothing of Christian pilgrimages, even as an adult. When I began to hear stories of modern-day pilgrimages, I was fascinated. 

The purpose of pilgrimage, walking a path that believers have walked for hundreds of years, is not just the destination, but the journey—the unhooking from daily life, the connection with nature, the solitude, the slow pace, the conversations with God Himself. When I discovered this, I was past the age of experiencing it. But it sounded intriguing.

In the past few years, I have been close to death more than once. My loved ones and I didn’t talk about it; maybe putting the words into the air makes them more real. But we all knew. One of my sons, who moved 2,000 miles away 10 years ago, uprooted his family and moved to a home 30 minutes from mine. So there’s a clue. 

I didn’t mind the avoidance. The hovering was enough, and I didn’t want to handle their emotions as well as my own. So, I talked to Jesus about it—about my health, my fears, my confusion and uncertainty. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m certainly afraid of dying. And a picture formed in my mind of Jesus, holding my arm and guiding me past the veil that separates this life from whatever is on the other side. I was in a thin place, a place that felt like a breath away from peeking through to see what was next.

In a surprising turn, I began to get better. It has been excruciatingly slow, but constant.

The picture in my mind has changed, as Jesus steers me away from the veil and tenderly begins to guide me forward, in this life. 

My former life was full of striving, fixing, doing. All good things, but not all of them were mine, and I couldn’t differentiate the necessary from the superfluous, the urgent from the “wait and see.”

It’s different now. It feels as if my illness shook the unnecessary baggage off of me—the responsibilities that are no longer mine, the acquaintances who didn’t keep up with me while I was ill, the undone things that maybe don’t need to be done, at least not right now, or not by me. My life is cleaner now, it seems—simpler, slower, but sweeter.

And I am on a pilgrimage. My lack of control has become gladly obvious. My hope is not so much in making my life better, but in the peace and beauty I can experience and the kindness I can impart to others. Oddly, I don’t value this earthly life less. I think it’s more important than ever. The importance, though, is not in my accomplishments, or in the approval of others. It’s in seeing the goodness and grace God has inserted into this difficult world—glimpses of His kingdom. I want to hold onto this journey—the slowness, the clearheadedness, the peace—and the presence of Jesus, holding my arm and guiding me. 

My son is planning his move back to the West Coast. I smile, because his family’s presence has been a gift. I feel as though I have tricked everyone (including myself) and come out the other side, better. We call these my “bonus days.” There will be a day when Jesus turns and walks me gently through the veil. I’m not in a hurry. 

*from The Road to Mount Subasio by Murray Bodo

This podcast describes a personal pilgrimage:
Pilgrimage—A Lectio 365 series with Pete Greig

Marcia Thomas lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband of 41 years. She has raised four handsome, self-actualizing sons. She has found healing in exploring her story in the presence of others and treasures the opportunities she has to be that presence for others. She is surprised and pleased to find that the glad work of healing does not have a retirement age.