So I looked up pilgrimage and my iBook widget dictionary thing (technical term!) describes it as:
“a journey to a place associated with something or someone well known or respected”
One of my favourite books growing up (after my all-time favourite book, Tully) was The Horse Whisperer. In the book, Annie takes her daugher, and her horse, Pilgrim on something of a pilgrimage across the USA from New York to Montana in the hope that the journey and Tom Booker will help her heal the horse, her daughter and the various broken relationships, lost dreams and so on.
I wonder how many other pilgrimages are started after a person’s world seems to crumble around them, their worst fears perhaps realised?
I made my own pilgrimage almost 2 years ago.
My world had crumbled a great deal because I’d been fighting to self-sufficiently ensure all my dreams came true, apparently blind to the fact that really I was not seeking my dreams at all – I’d actually given up on them without even realising I’d given up on them.
I almost tried to fix it by well, doing what ‘I’ thought was best (basically just doing the exact same thing that had got me into the mess in the first place) but thankfully was halted by an opportunity to meet up with my friends in foreign climes. I had a choice – New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand or Hong Kong.
I chose Australia. I felt I needed somehow to go back to my roots. I’d always wanted to go, and my ‘Dad family’ had long ago christened me ‘Koala‘. It seemed appropriate that I should go to where koalas come from.
My pilgrimage to rediscover who I was, what I was capable of, what gifts and strengths God could give me, how He could help me with so many of my fears did literally take me to the other side of the world.
I so vividly remember how sickeningly nervous I was walking through the corridors at Heathrow, how incredibly long and frustrating my sleepless and turbulent filled flight from London to Sydney was, how glad I was to see my friends but how difficult it was to communicate how I was feeling and why because my Aberdeen life had been so separate from my Edinburgh one. I had lost track of all the secrets I’d kept from so many of them. My morning chats with God walking through Sydney, cycling through Cape Byron. The day I separated from my friends, walked into my empty youth hostel dorm and dissolved into tears thinking I’d made a huge mistake, only to take a courageous step (for me) to eat in a café alone and for God to provide all my needs that day, not to mention getting to hug a koala. The power of text messaging when I stood in an airport toilet cubicle having discovered a mole on my stomach had grown bigger, darker and was bleeding and scabbing. The peace and calm that came when I got stuck in Cairns with no passport, no credit card and no access to my insurance documents. The joy of meeting my Scottish-Aussie relatives and discovering that they too, believed and followed the same God as I.
I think pilgrimage is important. It’s an intense and kinesthetic learning experience of discovery which involves all your senses.
It’ll never be the same – even if you go to the same place, the experience will be vary each time, and the pilgrimage different depending on the person.
But if you haven’t had a pilgrimage, go on one. Do one. Experience one.
At least once in your life.