By Jeff Goins, Editor
Continued from Leaving Home: Why we need a pilgrimage
When we leave home, we need to be ready to find that home is not where we thought it was in the comfy levels of security to which we easily become addicted. We must be willing to accept that home is some place entirely new to us, that our longing has led us away so that when we return home, we realize that it is not home at all.
I experienced the essence of being wrecked – of realizing that I wasn’t cut out for comfort and a life without questions when I returned to the U.S. after spending a semester in Spain. It was my first time out of the country, and I loved it. I dove into the culture, donned the Spanish name Pepe (even made it compulsory for my American friends to call me by it), and learned most of my Spanish in flamenco bars. I came home to middle America, and every day was painful. Smells would remind me of the streets of Seville; sounds in the middle of the night would recall European memories that were growing dimmer every day. I started to get homesick.
They call it “reverse culture shock” and say that it’s often worse than the initial shock of going some place new. You return home thinking that life will be the same as it was before, and it is, for the most part, but the shock comes in realizing that you have changed significantly.
So, a pilgrimage is not so much about changing the scenery, but really about changing you. My friend and fellow pilgrim Kari just got back from a summer in Uganda, and it hasnt been all roses:
Life is difficult. I am sad a lot of the time. I cry at night or when a powerful memory comes close. I don’t feel like I belong here anymore. Everything suddenly seems strange and ridiculous. Do I really care what kind of fabric softener is the best? It is a torturous feeling to be somewhere you aren’t meant to be.
Shes preparing to sell her house, quit her job without flaking out, and move back to Uganda for good. We shouldn’t take for granted that the culture into which we were born is the one in which we’re supposed to stay. A culture can mean your hometown, state, country, or even a particular level of income or comfort. The important part is that you leave it, just for awhile, to see if you really need it at all.
Let God do the work in your heart; hell guide the process better than any formula or set of rules that you can provide. One thing is for sure in the rite of pilgrimage you will be changed, and a certain part of you will never be reclaimed. The part of you that wasnt true. The part of you that doubted why youd do something so silly as leave home. The part of you that hid. Another friend who finished a year on a backpacking expedition called the World Race said:
This year has been an ongoing challenge to realize how to be surrendered. How do I know what my purpose is in life? How can I possibly make a difference in this life? God has given me a glimpse into this world as to where he wants me to begin to find out. He has let me touch families that have suffered from hurricanes in Guatemala. He has shown me the life of persecuted orphans in India. He has shown me what AIDS is doing to the entire continent of Africa. I will never be the same. I never want to be the same.
We change. We lose a part of ourselves, but its the part of us that needs to get lost on the journey. Its the other part the real you that needs to be discovered. Regardless of where we end up, we have to realize that there is something substantial and significant to be gained on a pilgrimage. Although life is a grand journey, a pilgrimage may be the best kind of trip you ever take, because there is much to be gained.
In a pilgrimage, we are actually searching for ourselves. And it would do us good to stay disciplined in the search the answer tends to present itself in fragments. We have a lifetime to put them together, as were traveling down this road together. May you find what you’re looking for.
If you want to read more about pilgrimage, just search “El Camino de Santiago,” check out The Alchemist or visit the World Race – a modern-day pilgrimage for Jesus-followers.
Jeff graduated from Illinois College , a small liberal arts school, with a degree in Spanish and Religion. He lives in Nashville, TN. He works for Adventures in Missions and is getting married in January 2008.