Written by Kacie Drake | ChattHOP Staff
Whenever I travel to a new place, I always realize one thing I have conveniently forgotten about every previous travel: how LONG it takes to reach the destination.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been on an intentional pilgrimage, one where you’ve physically set out from Point A and journeyed to Point B. But whether you have or haven’t, I am sure that you have experienced the long monotony (or challenge) of getting TO a destination.
The past two summers, I have willingly packed myself into vans with twenty plus other college-aged students and headed across the country to get to the mountains of various national parks. When I talk about these pilgrimages, I always mention the glorious peaks and trails and sunsets and terrains. I can pull up pictures of Delicate Arch or Going to the Sun Road, talk about the moose we saw or the time we slept in a land of poison ivy in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota. But you will rarely hear me talk about the hours upon hours of driving while crammed in a van with other humans. Note: it is comparable to that anxious feeling you get when trying to fit 25 crayons into a 24-pack of Crayolas.
And honestly, when I think about any time I have traveled, I rarely consider the actual travel worthy of being shared. I only want to tell you the exciting things: the people I saw, the places I experienced, the food I ate. I mean, I’d love to tell you about Asia, but please don’t ask me about the 17 hour flight filled with nose bleeds and the flight attendants’ bright idea to serve the whole plane seafood Ramen at 3am.
But what am I trying to get at?
The journey is the thing.
This is the magic of pilgrimage: every moment is important. There would never be a destination if there was no process to lead to it. Who can enjoy the final destination if their heart hadn’t been journeying in the process?
When I think back on these summer pilgrimages with then-strangers and now-friends, I realize just how much of the pilgrimage was spent in the van, in process. At the time, I was cramped, tired, claustrophobic, car-sick. But I was still on pilgrimage, and my heart was still growing and stretching and learning. And sitting beside me were other souls on pilgrimage, and because we were stuffed in a van together for hours, we began to know one another. We laughed and asked questions and heard stories and talked about light and heavy and slimy and holy things.
And I found that when we got out of the van and journeyed to the top of the mountain, I wasn’t hiking to the top alone. I was surrounded by other souls—fellow pilgrims—and we had been through the drive, the climb, the summit, together.
Many pilgrims travel alone. They are on their own journey of the heart. I have been on these solo journeys. I had a month to travel Europe by myself. But even though I was intentionally traveling by myself, I was rarely alone. Kind strangers opened up their homes to me; I had meals with strangers-turned-friends; I met people everywhere. And I realized as I returned home, that my favorite parts of Europe were not the places I set out to see, they were the people I got to share moments with. And where there are people, there is beauty. You just have to be willing to see it. The people beside us matter. They are the only other things on earth that are eternal.
I don’t know what kind of season you are in. You may be in the van, in a season of sitting. You may be at the bottom of the mountain, slowly making your way upward. You may have set out on a solo journey, but are noticing others around you. You may be at the summit, seeing the very things you have been working towards.
Whatever season you are in matters.
Even now, we are heading towards our destination – Jesus – and there will be a thousand seasons of the soul until we stand with Him in glory. As we walk toward Him, we pass through valleys and mountains, shadows and storms, but He stands unmoving. We are not journeying toward a blind hope. We know we will see Him face to face, because we have His Spirit within us, and He gives us endurance and joy.
Our greatest success is to be with Him. And that was His success. He chose to be with us first.
The journey is the thing – where we get to choose, in every moment, to be with Him now as we journey into forever.
And you know what else? Jesus prays for our pilgrimage. In John 17, He prays to the Father that we would be with Him, as intertwined as He is with the Father; and He prays that we would be one with one another.
Our pilgrimage ends in the fulfillment of the greatest command: love God and love others. And that command is for us now.
Whatever season you are in, be all there. You know the end of your pilgrimage. You will be with God and others in glory. Every moment matters. Christ is in you, and others are right beside you.
The journey is the thing.
And it’s all the moments that make the journey complete, including this one.