have always loved beginnings. I love the freshness, the passion, standing right on the brink of greatness; when you are packed, planned, and about to take your first step, waving to the world you’ve left behind, sick with thrill of the great unknown that lays ahead. The hardest, yet most thrilling part of any great journey, is merely…to begin. Sadly, beginnings don’t last long. Soon we find
ourselves stuck in the daily grind of our new season of life. As pilgrims we get bored, our feet ache, it seems like what we hope for is perpetually around the next corner. So how do we live intentionally as pilgrims when the passion of beginning is worn away? When we are tired of our journey, when transformation seems slow in coming?
in July, I hunkered down into job search mode and ever since have found my life filled with busyness and frustration. With so much unknown, so much anxiety, and so much discouragement, it’s nearly impossible to live in that slow and generative way I long for. I feel like a pilgrim who has set out, expecting to reach the next set of terrain by nightfall, but here I am still alarmingly plodding through the woods as dusk closes in–and I can’t see the forest for the trees. Blessedly, I met with my Spiritual Director last week. In talking with her I realized that I hadn’t been treating this season of job searching as a season in itself. I had been expecting to move right from ending school to
starting a job. This drawn out and uncomfortable liminal space I’m finding myself in was not a part of the plan. So when she asked me how I was living intentionally into this season, I had absolutely no answer. Together we worked on recognizing some practices that help me ground myself–help me reconnect with who I am, and thus enable me to connect with God and others in a healthier way.
I was surprised to see that most of these practices centre on the body. Theologian Rowan Williams writes: “Only the body saves the soul…the soul left to itself, the inner life…is not capable of transforming itself. It needs the gifts only the external life can deliver.” How true I have found that to be in my own life. Last Fall I started taking regular walks around my neighbourhood as a way to pace myself, to enjoy nature, to learn slowness. It gives me a break from my anxiety and functions as a way of walking prayer, as I learn to live deeply where I am planted. Likewise, I go out and work on a farm every Friday in exchange for food. Going out into the country, doing hard manual labour, and
coming back with a bounty of produce is one of the most satisfying and relieving parts of my week. I could say similar things about running, doing yoga, cooking, even cleaning my house. These are the things I need to attend to, particularly in my discouraging seasons.
means amidst the 4 walls of our homes, or the few blocks of our neighbourhoods. This daily walking, this physical presence, the faithful commitment to journey on, this is where God is at work. This is how we actually get someplace different than where we began. Pilgrimage author Antonio Machado, writes “The way is made by walking.” The clarity we seek only comes when we look behind us.
And so we walk. One human foot after another. One job application after another. One load of laundry after another. The pilgrim’s way is made by walking.