“Hold on a minute, you want me to do what?” I asked my friend Terri. She explained, “We want you to come with us on a pilgrimage, hiking through Spain.”
It sounded like a grand adventure—which I’m usually up for—but making a “pilgrimage” sounded odd.
Why not just call it a hiking trip?
I’ve learned that a pilgrimage is more than just a trip—it’s a trip with a purpose. In this case, a spiritual purpose.
This piqued my interest. Traveling in search of spiritual discovery and renewal . . . but why travel?
I mean, if God is everywhere, why go on a pilgrimage?
Father Murray Bodo, a pilgrim guide, wrote:
“Pilgrimages are not about one place being more holy than another, for God is everywhere. Making pilgrimages involves a response to something inside us that longs to move toward, that seeks the holy beyond.”
Sounds pretty interesting, so I’ve decided to go.
In my experience, the best adventures are the ones you make with God.
What about you?
If you’ve never been on a pilgrimage before, then maybe you should consider making one. Here are some reasons why you should go:
1) To be strengthened in your faith. The Old Testament commanded 3 major pilgrimage festivals annually, each requiring a hike to Jerusalem. God commanded these annual get-aways for a reason. Studies show that when you break from your daily schedule, work and habits, it renews your perspective and opens your mind to learn and grow.
2) To set aside time and escape distractions to discern God’s will. On the night before He died, Jesus walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to get away from noisy Jerusalem to spend time with God and to discern His will.
3) To experience the joyous feeling of spiritual connection with God. God rewards those who seek for Him (Heb. 11:6). Since Jesus often went away to a “quiet place” to pray, it’s good for us to get away, too. (In fact, I wrote a book about how seeking and finding God can change your life. To read more click here)
4) To have Godly adventure with other believers. The Jews bonded as they walked the long path to Jerusalem together. Beloved customs developed, such as the Song of Ascents. They sang these songs in triumph as they climbed the final steps to Jerusalem together.
People make pilgrimages for many reasons, but perhaps some go for the wrong reasons. Here’s why you shouldn’t go:
1) To go in exchange for a miracle. God doesn’t trade for gifts, nor does He barter. God gives freely. Spontaneously. Each gift is an outpouring of His love, never something you earn. (Jn. 1:16)
2) To touch a holy relic for good luck. Since God is all powerful and always good, you don’t need a lucky rabbit’s foot or to kiss the Blarney stone in order for good things to happen. The Lord is all you need. Consider this promise: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
3) To gain forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is impossible to buy or to achieve. The only way to be forgiven is to accept it freely as the gift of God through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8).
4) To make God love you more. God doesn’t love you more if you do hard things (like hiking). His love doesn’t depend on how talented or successful you are. He loves you because He chose to love you. His love doesn’t grow or lessen over time. In fact 10,000 years from now, God will love you just as much as He does today.
Soon I’ll be setting out on my first official pilgrimage, walking soon through rural Northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela or The Way, as it’s called.
I’ve bought new hiking boots and a backpack. I have a Nalgene water bottle, snacks and even “body glide.” (What am I getting into?) My passport and journal are ready. I hope I am.
As I’ve prepared physically, I’ve already learned something: I must also prepare spiritually. This I know: if I don’t think about it beforehand, I won’t think much about it while I’m there.
I hope to walk those bumpy trails through ancient towns and ruins, to a place where the language is different and the culture is unfamiliar, to get out of my comfort zone. To open my heart and to open my eyes. To practice simplicity. Monotony. Endurance. And gratitude.
I pray to discover something more about God. And maybe to learn a little more about life. (I’d really appreciate your prayers)
We’re walking 12-14 miles a day, so my feet will probably be sore.
There’s no guarantee that I’ll discover anything spiritual or meaningful.
I may not be able to finish–at least on foot. But I’m going to try.
If you’ve already made a pilgrimage of some sort, I’d love to hear what you learned along the way. Please comment below or email me about your experience.
When I return, I’ll share what I found with you.
Until then, keep these wise words in mind as you travel through your day, for truly, all of us are pilgrims on the journey of life:
The Pilgrim’s Credo
I am not in control.
I am not in a hurry.
I walk in faith and hope.
I greet everyone with peace.
I bring back only what God gives me.