Column: Seven Lessons for Your Spiritual Journey
By Chuck Davis
I am taking a group of members from our church on pilgrimage in Spain. We will follow El Camino—The Way—to Santiago de Compostela. Physical pilgrimage can teach us a lot about our day-to-day spiritual journey.
The Scriptures call us to walk with God. We are reminded that his Word was given to us not as rulebook, but “as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” Jesus referred to himself as the Way, and as a result, the early church was originally called the people of the Way. As followers of Christ, we are exhorted to keep step with God’s Spirit.
I did a portion of El Camino last year to prepare to lead our pilgrimage group this year. I recorded the following principles of spiritual journey that have been instructive to my walk with God since that physical journey.
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 1. Pilgrimage is a metaphor for life. We are going somewhere. The journey and the destination are both important. The quip, it is not the destination but the journey that matters, sounds enlightening. However, arriving at the wrong destination does not always justify the pleasure of the journey. So enjoy the journey, but know where you are going.
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 2. Life, like a pilgrimage, has signposts. The Psalmist says it directly: “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.” Distraction can cause us to get off the path. Beyond distractions, there is a propensity to leave the path. The old hymn is right on: Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the one I love. Be alert while you travel. And make sure to give yourself back to the Way Maker regularly. As the hymn goes on to express, Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 3. God is always on our journey with us. He is always present, but not always obvious. The question then is, am I on journey with him? God often does not force his hand in the journey; he waits for us to acknowledge his presence. God is not invasive but he is always engaged.
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 4. Pilgrimage is most meaningful when experienced in a group. Camaraderie in journey can make you forget that you are tired along the way. Travel together!
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 5. The best route is not always the straightest path. The Spanish mystics captured this well: “God draws straight with crooked lines.” Trust God. He is more involved in programming the journey than I often realize. Trust God. I planned my summer route over six months prior to my departure. But it was not really me. Trust God. He had assignments lined up before I bought plane tickets, made reservations, and packed my bags. Trust God.
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 6. Walking with a backpack improves my posture and opens up my shoulders better than any therapy that I have undergone. I have more mobility in my shoulders today than I did before the pilgrimage. Now that discovery is not highly spiritual, but it is quite useful.
Pilgrimage Lesson No. 7. Sometimes in the pilgrimage of life we forget some of the most fun things, because we get distracted by the responsibilities of life. Slow down! The best things in life are still the simplest. Do not forget to live in the present when the day-to-day gets overtaken by the tyranny of the urgent.
Hope to see you in spiritual journey this summer or just on a walk around Tod’s Point. I find that the two often merge in my experience of enjoying our Creator.
The Rev. Dr. Chuck Davis is senior pastor at Stanwich Congregational Church.