This is the seventh in a series of eight reflections over the season of Easter on making a pilgrimage of resurrection.
Word for Today: Blessing
The gospel reading for the seventh week of Easter shows us Jesus’ ascension, which is ultimately a journey home again. Our own pilgrimage of resurrection calls us home, but we may wonder how we know if we have reached the destination. In our endless seeking and searching, sometimes we miss the reality: home has always been with us. The pilgrimage was to learn how to see this in our daily lives.
I sometimes describe the artist as one who creates out of the materials given, not necessarily the materials they wish they had. To be an artist of everyday life means to stay fluid and flexible, responding to the invitation in each moment. I don't believe that life is planned out ahead of time, but that God is immersed in a creative outpouring moment by moment and we are called to dance with whatever emerges. Sometimes it is not as we would want it, often this is because of the choices or limitations of others, or our own, not some God-given struggle to strengthen us. And yet, the divine presence is always there in the midst, helping us to create beauty right there.
Throughout our life pilgrimage, even in the midst of the strangeness and unknowing, I do have many moments of homecoming, glimpses of being able to see this place as holy. Moments of joy and a sense of rightness that I have said a wholehearted "yes" to the invitation to not take my life for granted and to not let opportunities for exploration and adventure pass me by. This is what the pilgrim must learn, not through books or words, but through a radical encounter with the home that dwells within.
If entered into mindfully and with a whole heart, each encounter on the road has the potential to transform. The pilgrim returns home not with all the answers, but with better questions: questions that bring the pilgrimage experience into daily life and reveal depth in all they see around them. Ultimately the pilgrimage leads us back home again. We always return bearing gifts for the community. We are always called back to share what we have been given with others. This will look different for each of us.
We are also called to a new relationship to “home.” A couple of years ago I became aware of a pattern of mine. I was away for three weeks teaching, which for me was an unusually long time. But I noticed that while I usually get homesick after about a week away, this time something had shifted and I wasn’t feeling this way. I certainly missed home, but I was aware of how my “homesickness” in the past would pull my attention away from the experience I was having.
I think we all long for home. Certainly The Wizard of Oz, that great archetypal film, invited us to remember that the power to go home is always with us. And while some physical places and landscapes feel more like home to us, ultimately it is in service to us discovering the primal home within each one of us.
Perhaps our pilgrimage ultimately invites us to rest into this question: Can you allow yourself to hold both the peace and unrest of your soul together? Can you see yourself as both an exile in the world and profound and intimately at home, in communion with all people and creation?
As we enter the final week of the Easter season, allow some time to be with your own expectations about where you “should” be at this point on the journey. Are you expecting some grand revelations? Were you hoping for clear answers? Did you have a vision for what “home” would look like? Can you release any thoughts about what the journey is supposed to look like and allow yourself to be where you are?
What if the journey has brought you exactly to this moment, full of everything you need to go home to yourself? What if you brought this awareness into your creative practice? Every journey has unfinished elements, more beasts to tame, more treasures to seek. And when we return from pilgrimage we come home in a new way, we bring gifts for those who have awaited us.
We sometimes think of the journey as a linear path to travel, when in reality we travel more in circles and spirals. We don’t arrive at the summit and proclaim ourselves done and complete. We arrive back at the desires which set us on the path in the first path, but perhaps with deeper wisdom or more doubts this time around.
Pilgrimage leads us home again, but that home is deep within each of us. We will cycle through our lives over and over, meeting old themes and habits again, being invited to release, to walk forward in trust, to embrace mystery many times.
You may feel like this journey is coming close to an end, when in reality it is just beginning. Now you carry the wisdom gleaned into the next cycle and season of your life.
At Abbey of the Arts, we are inviting the community to make a commitment to practice creativity daily in celebration of my new book being released in May 2015 The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within (Ave Maria Press). Please join us (details available at this post).
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD