Not new, but true.
From the womb to sunlight and air, even the newborn travels an arduous path. A year-old learning to walk may please proud parents, but to the child it is as much a necessity as eating and drinking. An internal drive pushes him to pull up, step forward, and rally from falls whether or not he has an engaged audience. He must mobilize.
Childhood brings speed and confidence, as he literally runs circles around adults, kicks up dust and tugs on parents' hands and patience like a puppy on a leash. He savors the world we've forgotten: pill bugs and four-leaf clovers, cracks in sidewalks and underneath tables, turtles in clouds and joy in mud. He has no fear and wants no restraint.
Wait - that's a teenager - a larger version of the carefree child, with a longer stride and a newfound purpose (freedom, girls, music, money?) for his journeying. He has more skill and bravado (both false and true) and therefore greater ability to venture further away to see more of the world he has only heard of vicariously.
Before long, the young adult makes commitments (college, career, marriage, children?) which quickly determine new routes and new horizons, while simultaneously limiting choices tremendously. While each decision inherently narrows future options, and we know we cannot choose both roads at the fork, we begin all too often to live in a state of physical motion, but of emotional "what if's" and spiritual drought. We imprison ourselves and don't even try the key in our hand. We want to stop and smell the roses, but we are so intent on getting to our goal we don't even glance down at our feet. We push to go farther faster, but our goal is a mirage we never reach.
In middle age, our previous somewhat private road becomes a super highway on which we lose our personal rhythm, increase our speed to match others' and often don't see our next turn until we have passed it. Once we finally do reach our destination (success), we are frazzled, tired and don't know why we ever left home. We stripped joy from our journey. We turn it into work, a chore, computing how many miles remain, how much we will pay for gas, and letting GPS direct us rather than our own intellect or even intuition. "Are we there YET?"
.....I've always loved traveling, especially road trips, from as a kid (one month east; one month west), to taking my girls to California (I-10 out, I-40 back), to Banff alone (6,100 miles in three weeks). Now, I'm being led to take a different kind of road trip: a pilgrimage.
Side trips on life's journey make the strongest impressions and memories, as they are less expected, less planned, and more spontaneous. My ultimate final destination has always remained the same: in God's embrace. In the last several years, I've seen, smelled, tasted, touched and felt more of this big beautiful world, learning to love it with more passion and less judgment, smelling wild random weeds more often than cultivated roses and counting their aroma as sweet. Paradoxically, as I enjoy my journeys more than ever before, each step draws me nearer my final destination. Although I occasionally want to ask "Am I there yet?" I am definitely not ready for the answer to be Yes.
My pilgrimage will teach me how to enhance the entire remainder of my journey, like a gorgeous spring day teaches the heart to sing. I will decompress myself, slowing down to a snail's pace to appreciate nature's detailed beauty and my own humanity as a part of that beauty. As a child has insatiable curiosity, I desire inexhaustible gratitude. Not "Thanks" but "Oh. My. God. Wow!"
So I will walk. Alone mostly. 500 miles. In a foreign country. On a path Christians have walked over a 1,000 years. I will streamline my life, carrying very few necessities on my back. I will listen more than talk, eat and drink whatever, whenever and wherever it is available, sleep wherever I stop, and follow God's lead each step, rather than my own pre-planned, controlled, created route. If it rains, I will thank God for feeding his world, and if it's cold I will thank God that our own heart and core gives us warmth. I will worship in Catholic churches and be honored to steep my soul in their ancient traditions. I will hear God's voice in many tongues and see his love in smiles and good deeds and hospitality.
As a stroke victim relearns how to speak, eat and dress herself, I desire to relearn how to listen, be fed by and honor God. Although I have made a few plans (like plane tickets), I will allow God to stretch me into flexibility and spontaneity, trusting that he knows better than I. "The best laid plans of mice and men..." I give up control, which is my greatest sacrifice. I give myself and this pilgrimage to God. May you hold me in your arms so tightly that I cannot breathe without thinking of your grasp on my heart!