A couple of days before I departed for a pilgrimage to the holy land, I got around to reading the paperwork they sent. One of the pieces that stood out to me was the one with details about the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist. While I had been calling this trip a pilgrimage, I realized I did not fully understand the difference.
As I read the list, one stood out, while a tourist was prone to take any change in plans or figurative bump in the road as a frustration, pilgrim would take it as an opportunity to ask, “what do you have for me in this, Lord?”
A pilgrim is more interested in being present than the perfect experience. Less focus on seeking the perfect souvenir and more on the perfect presence. Being rather than achieving.
While in the Holy Land, this proved to be true over and over. A feeling came over me that I refer to as, “pilgrim peace” and it lasted the entire trip. When the books did not download for the overnight flight, when people in our group fell ill, when I was really tired, when I missed “the perfect picture,” all of these were met with a feeling of peace. When I did not buy the rosary at the first stop, my worry was met with peace. A feeling of openness to how this might connect me deeper to the Lord. I noticed less worry, less fixation on perfection and control, more peace. Pilgrim peace.
What if we looked at Advent as a pilgrimage? A journey towards the manger. A journey not unlike the one Mary and Joseph undertook during these very days. And what if we entered this season less like a tourist fixating on perfection and panicking at each and every obstacle or change of plans, or missed opportunity and instead took it with an openness and as an opportunity to ask, “what do you have for me in this, Lord?” Rather than striving to complete 5 devotionals and 15 virtual events and 25 perfect posts for social media, rather than achieving, what if we focused on presence? On the journey. On the peace of a pilgrim journeying slowly towards the manger.
How would this look in reality? For me, it is selecting one or two meaningful resources to walk with, but holding them loosely. Reading them not to achieve completion, but to be present and to see what Jesus has for me in the words. It means that if I spend three days on one reading instead of completing all 3, it is good. It means journaling with what I am learning. It means resisting the urge to do more and more and more and being comfortable where I am. It means starting each day inviting Jesus to walk alongside me, to, “Come, Lord Jesus,” (Rev 22:20) come and show me what you have for me in this moment, this morning, this day-even if it is not what I had planned.
There were times on my pilgrimage that I did not actually know where we were heading, and we would enter a space and I would be moved to tears. These weren’t always the ‘big’ places, often the smaller, unexpected places we stopped. The places that as a tourist I might not have even seen. What might Jesus have to show you if you walk slowly as a pilgrim this advent season? What might you learn from a posture of pilgrim peace?
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