LuAnn and I identify ourselves as pilgrims. As such, we have made a study of pilgrims and pilgrim journeys, both modern and ancient. We recently learned about some of the earliest examples of pilgrims; the Irish Peregrini. Those radically devoted souls would board their boats, without sails or oars or rudders, and trust God to take them where He wanted them to go. It’s said they were “the most trusting of God’s grace of all the pilgrims.” Arguably so.
Well, we don’t have a boat, but, in the spirit of the peregrini, we set our sights on an unusual regimen for a season—for this past Season of Lent. (I hinted about it in my last blog.) Longing to be the most trusting of God’s grace, inspired by a call to pilgrimage, and sustained by God’s mercy, LuAnn and I designed the time, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, to simply wander, without direction, throughout the country with no destination beyond stopping at every church, or monastery, or sacred place we saw and with no plan other than prayer, fasting, reading, walking, talking, and loving—and hopefully a lot of laughter.
Acts of daily devotion, discipline, and penance were strategically planned and regimented for our Lenten Pilgrimage but things like where we would be, what we would do, who we would meet, and when we would stop and go were intentionally left fluid. The only agenda we had every day was, find a park to pray and read, find a path to walk and talk, and find a parking lot to spend the night. We literally made it up as we went along. Sound crazy? Yep, it probably was. I assure you there were times we looked at each other and asked, “What are we doing?”
As we embarked on this pilgrimage, it was impossible to predict or even conceive what the heart and mind of God might have in store for us in such a radical departure from logic and sensibility. We were certain of one thing: In our search for the inconceivable, a little crazy would be required—to think the impossible and do the unthinkable. This season of wandering might be the craziest thing we’ve done so far but it has proven beneficial and fruitful. (I’ll share some of those benefits and fruit in a future blog.) This leg of our journey has been so significant; we’ve decided to extend this peregrini approach beyond Easter. How long? Well, as you might guess, we don’t know.
I can’t imagine those crazy peregrini, drifting along without sails or paddles, traveled very far very fast. And neither have we. We’ve been on the road (on lap number three) for 41 days and we’re just barely 1,000 miles from “home”—Holland, Michigan. That’s an average of only 24 miles per day. Ha. What can I say? The “winds of the Spirit” have been blowing us steadily along but it’s been a gentle breeze. Some days there’s no wind at all so we just stay put. We spent 14 days in the Ozarks when we thought we’d only pass through. There have, however, been more than 1,000 miles added to our odometer. We backtrack, zig-zag, go in circles, and change our minds and our direction a lot.
At one point, we thought we might be with friends at the historic San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey, California for Easter. That didn’t happen. We celebrated Easter Sunday in Oklahoma City. That’s not even close to the Monterey Bay.
We’re a long way off our mark but we’re exactly where we want to be.
As much as LuAnn and I talk about and look forward to the day we will finally settle down, find good jobs, and acquire a home of our own, we also wonder if these past three years have been the training ground for a life even more unsettled and transient than the one we have been living. I confess that can be a scary thought. We wonder if and how we could sustain this lifestyle. It’s hard to see ourselves doing this much longer. But, who knows? That, like most things, is probably not going to be our decision. As we become more accustomed to the soul of the pilgrim and the heart of the pilgrim journey, we come to see that life isn’t about us.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. —Galatians 2:20