I love to travel.  One of my very favorite things in life is to visit a place I have never been before. I love the anticipation and preparation before I go; the guidebooks, online searches, itineraries and maps….I especially LOVE maps!  And when we arrive, I want to drop our bags, grab my map and explore!  I want to see everything there is to see and, left to my own devices, I tend to plan somewhat of an ambitious schedule.  

My family, on the other hand, tends to tire of my “energetic” pace and eventually intervenes or stages a mutiny…like they did in Paris a few years ago.   “Mom, today we are going to STROLL, not MARCH! We are NOT marching today!”  “But,” I protest, ” we still have to see _____!!”  In spite of my attempts to convince them that our trip would just not be complete without checking off all the items on my list, the girls and their father insisted that it would be ok to miss a few things and just sit and watch the people for a while.  While this departure from my agenda cut considerably into my planned photo opportunities, it ended up being one of the most enjoyable days of our trip.  Since then, we tend to compromise and have both marching days AND strolling days on the itinerary (and yes, I still make an itinerary!)  I have learned to relax and enjoy those unplanned days.  I am, however, still a little ticked that we didn’t make it to the Rodin museum!

Today in my devotional, the topic was pilgrimage and the scripture was from Psalm 84:5-7.   

Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (or weeping,)
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

What does it mean to have a heart set on pilgrimage?  Pilgrimage is defined as “any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or act of devotion.”  Is a pilgrimage then, in this context, the long journey towards God?  The author of the devotional I was reading this morning talked about our need to “arrive:” the perceived need for the perfect home, the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect _____.  He said “so often, we reject pilgrimage and look for heaven on earth” as the source of our sense of self worth and value.  Is process of seeking the Kingdom and the manifest presence of God….knowing that we won’t fully experience it this side of heaven…a worthwhile goal in and of itself?

This line of thinking reminded me of that familar quote “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Sometimes I tire of the search and I just want to “arrive.”  I want to have the perfect formula for living a life of balance and meaning and purpose.  I want, as Micah says “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God,” yet I haven’t quite figured out how to do that consistently.  I want to see all the sights and check them off my list, but sometimes I find myself weary from the marching.

As I’ve pondered this word ‘pilgrimage’ today, it seems there is something to be said for the reminder that my quest to know God is indeed a journey- it is a process, an unfolding, an imagining and it won’t be anywhere near complete until I see Him face to face.  In fact, it is just this journey- this pilgrimage- that God is calling me to right now. The uncovering, the discovering, the trial and error are all part of the journey.  Getting lost and then getting found again is part of the journey as well.  And this scripture reminds us that we grow stronger and stronger through the process until we reach our final destination. Perhaps it is even an invitation to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Some days my pilgrimage does require marching, but often a leisurely, expectant, open-for-anything stroll might be even better!