”The Kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible (outward) displays. Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! Or see, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you (in your hearts) and among you (surrounding you).”
Luke 17: 20b-21 AMP
The spiritual discipline of pilgrimage, like any spiritual discipline, is intended to draw you to an awareness of God and His Kingdom.
Sometimes that can come from seeing new and incredible vistas you've never experienced before. Sometimes that awareness of God can come from seeing ancient and historical places where God has been experienced in the past. Then there is the most common way that an awareness of God is experienced on pilgrimage: through the exposure to the reality of your own junk!
If you think that pilgrimage is just about travel and experiencing another culture then you're really just on vacation. Vacation is not a bad thing, it's a wonderful thing, but a pilgrimage is intended to be different. The effort it takes to stay focused on what God is saying to you in the midst of all you are experiencing will result in a healthy pilgrimage experience.
On our recent pilgrimage my junk got exposed, maybe not to others but it certainly did to me. The Spirit seemed to be working overtime to raise my awareness of how much I don't trust God, how much I fight against the peace God has to offer me. My neurotic choices, habitually embedded within me so long ago, came rushing to the surface.
Here's how I wrote some of them down in my journal throughout part of the week:
“I so worry whether the people going on this trip will think I've done a good job of making arrangements for hotels and transportation.”
“I know I'm a pleaser, I want other's approval for the work I'm doing.”
“Will my creative expressions be appreciated?”
“Coming out of the train station in Edinburgh I was totally turned around. My Google map was of no help, Siri was even useless! I had the group looking to me to lead them to the hotel and I had no idea where I was. I could feel the old panic rise up, not because I was lost, but because I didn't have the answer! There it was again, my old nemesis.”
These journal entries give you a glimpse into my soul. These are but some of my idols, the fruit of my forgetting that I am created by God, loved by God, redeemed by God, provided for by God, and blessed by God. I've lived a lot of years learning to sweep these idols under the proverbial carpet. But what an effective spiritual discipline does is shine a light on these supposedly hidden and stuffed responses to life and bring them to my conscious level.
Once they've been brought into the light, I can see them, admit them, name them (all this is what confession is about) and then receive from God how He wants to replace them with aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. This is the process of following Jesus. It eventually occurs daily, or more often. It is what I believe walking in the unforced rhythm of grace is all about. It is the in breaking of the Kingdom of God.
Others on the pilgrimage have stories of their own, I'll let you begin to hear from them next time. But I write this in hopes that it might be a blessing to you. I also hope you will take a look below at the opportunities Rhythm of Grace is hosting for you to practice some spiritual disciplines with others.