And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
at the last turn—Zion! God in full view! (Ps 84:5-7, MSG)
A thought occurred to me this morning as I was praying for my best friend’s holiday travel to see his family. I wondered, what if we saw holiday travel in terms of holy pilgrimage?
I would define a “holy pilgrimage” as a journey undertaken (often with danger and considerable sacrifice) to a holy place. At least, that’s the definition I’m assuming as I write.
Very few things I do would qualify for such a journey; perhaps the closest thing is the occasional hour long trip I take to the Abbey of Gethsemani for a weekend retreat. There is a certain time involved, certain preparations to be made, particular meditations and activities that occupy my mind as I drive. I hope and pray for certain things to happen.
Although our family is not travelling this year, I found it helpful to think through such travel through the lens of pilgrimage in my quest to bring every part of my human experience under the Lordship of Jesus in his Kingdom. Also, it helps me pray for my friend.
Think of the destination. Do you have positive feelings about it? What would have to happen for your time there to be beneficial and life-giving? Are these realistic things to expect and pray for?
What kind of person will you be when you are there? So often these places are familiar places where we often assume old roles and patterns without thinking, many of which are unhealthy. Are there any things you can do, mentally or physically, to disrupt this pattern, at least in yourself? We can’t control what other pilgrims say or do.
What truths will you be clinging to? Usually truths about our identity and security in God are very helpful to me in preparing for these places and times.
When things get hard or unpleasant, how will you handle it? What places of refuge (if any) exist where you can escape and recollect your heart?
What do you think God wants to give you and your family this year? What obstacles stand in the way?
As I pray for my friend, I ask the Lord will sustain him and his family physically, that he would have the mindfulness to be aware when his heart and mind are being overthrown by old patterns and habits; that his hope and security would be firmly rooted in Jesus who travels with him, and indeed goes before him (Deut 31:8 ); I pray that the Lord will meet him in unexpected ways, that he will be surprised by grace.