Friday, June 27, 2008

The Pilgrimage Journey

I just returned from the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Academy for Spiritual Formation, where the theme for our faculty sessions was Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage metaphor has given me a great gift as I seek to understand my journey. The life of the Academy is part of my ongoing pilgrimage, initiated by the undeniable niggling hunger of my heart. This ongoing pilgrimage is larger than any single retreat or set of retreats. It is a marked path others have travelled before; it is the path of spiritual formation, the labyrinth journey, a circular homegoing. It is longing for my true home in Christ's arms and going to "thin places" where I can find healing, transformation, and rest, letting go of that which takes me away from center and taking up that which comes from my passion for God. Then returning to the base camp of ministry in our culture and world. This ongoing departure to sacred space, this continual pilgrimage and return, is my voluntary intention to leave behind the status quo and pursue what the restlessness of my heart draws me to. I am learning that most of my spiritual life is lived in the in-between places of going or returning.

I rely on a community of fellow travelers shaped by common experience, yet it is a subversive community for it changes all we leave behind when we pursue God together. We encounter resistance and find ordeal in our continual return to the world. For me, the greatest resistance is not without but within, yet I am slowly growing to trust in the "ministry of presence" in the setting I return to. I am becoming the kind of person I long for God's people to become, and not everyone will "get it." That's okay, for this is the nature of encounter with the holy.

I am being made into a subversive, cross-bearing, carrier of the fire, and most of my journey is not living on the mountaintop but in the darkness and ordeal of longing and return. This becomes more mysterious the longer I am on the journey as a wayfaring stranger. This subversiveness is the kingdom of God, and resistance is to be expected. I think something is wrong when it feels dry or dark, but nothing is wrong. So I stand on the threshold again and again, called to hear Christ's voice and follow the hearing, then to return changed from one degree of glory to another.