We just returned from quite a journey in Peru—which is why you haven’t heard from me in a while. We spent time in a small town, Curahuasi–one of those “in the middle of nowhere” destinations (there’s a medical clinic there that serves the people who live nestled in the Andes. Diospi Suyana Clinica) We lingered in Lima—a city of 10 million!. And we visited Huancayo and Cusco—remember that one from Emperor’s Groove?
Each stop on our journey had one thing in common—we encountered fellow pilgrims, people on journey to know God and serve him. The people we visited were missionaries, all foreigners adapting to life in a second culture. Of course we had intriguing talks about cultural differences and second language challenges.
But most of all, we reminded each other of the inward journey—the journey to walk in God’s presence. We conducted a couple of retreats about the heart of a pilgrim. It’s a theme that missionaries can relate to because their lives put them on journey. They live with daily reminders that they are strangers in this world. Even so, it’s still easy to neglect the inward journey, the pilgrimage that invites us to walk with God. (2 Perils of the Missionary’s Pilgrimage)
If you’re a Christian, wherever you live, you’re a pilgrim too. Just because you haven’t packed a suitcase lately or stamped a passport, it doesn’t mean you aren’t on a journey. Christians choose to live as strangers—pilgrims–in this world so we can journey home to the Heavenly Father. (Check out these 6 questions – do you have the heart of a pilgrim?)
How is your journey going? Have you paid attention to your spiritual journey lately? Who are you walking with? Are you getting closer to home?
I’m not talking about your church attendance or how many service projects you’ve completed. Those can keep us so occupied that we forget to pay attention to the inward journey of encountering God’s love and opening ourselves up for transformation.
We can get so busy doing God’s work, we forget to let God work in us. Our lifestyles keep us moving fast, but we’re not moving closer to God.
The inward journey is so easy to neglect because the physical journey shouts louder for our attention. We postpone the pilgrimage of the soul like we postpone planning a family vacation—it just requires too much effort. So we carry on as usual.
There are always a few more tasks to complete. Someone else’s needs seem more urgent than my soul’s needs. It’s easier to talk about others who need an attitude adjustment than sit in silence with my own attitude and let God make adjustments.
Maybe it seems counter-intuitive, but in order for us to move closer to God, we have to move less. We have to slow down a bit on the outward journey to create space for God to move us toward him on the inward journey.
Once we start paying attention to the what’s happening on the inside, we’re sure to face obstacles along the way. Our Peru trip reminded me of that—there were as many obstacles on our friend’s spiritual journeys as there were on the mountain roads (and believe me, we had lots of obstacles).
But live like a pilgrim, and you’ll be in good company, obstacles and all. Scripture is full of God’s people on pilgrimages. They journey through pain, fears and conflict. They wandered in desserts, climbed mountains and crossed the sea. They walked through darkness into light.
They “lived like strangers in a foreign country…because they looked forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… They lived like aliens and strangers on earth…they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11: 9-16
My hope for you is that you’ll keep walking the journey, whether you find yourself climbing a steep hill, walking a narrow path or enjoying a stroll through a green valley.
Pay attention to what’s brewing on the inside. Slow down enough to be honest with yourself (this Prayerful Review for the end of the day may be helpful). And give space for God to transform.
As I restore order on the home front after our recent Peru journeys, I’m giving thanks for the reminder of the pilgrimage we’re on. And I’m thankful for the inspiring pilgrims we walked with in Peru.
You’ll be hearing more about this pilgrimage in future posts, but for now, I’ll leave you with the invitation to pay attention to the journey of your soul.
Let’s keep walking.
What helps you stay focused on the journey?