In my previous blog, I wrote about expectations and disappointments. I’m sure every honest pilgrim has had some disappointments during the pilgrimage — the weather, the food, the company, perhaps even the goal wasn’t as expected.
In Wales, when we stayed at a retreat center called Gladstone’s Library, I talked with an Anglican priest who had walked the entire way of the pilgrimage to Santiago Compestela, at least 100 kilometers through France and Spain. I said something banal like, “That must have been great…” He replied, “No, not really. I expected to have some spiritual high moment but I never did. It was just physically hard. But I had promised myself that I would do it before I was 40 and this was my last chance. So I can cross that off the list.”
I don’t know what went wrong with this man’s pilgrimage but I am learning something about my own. Lessons you may recognize yourself!
Hold expectations lightly — enough already said about that in my last post!
Also, don’t let one or two negative aspects color an entire experience. Noisy teenagers at Taizé, theology in a Bible talk that I thought was way off base — I determined not to let that ruin the rest of the time at Taizé. The center of the community there is worship and prayer. So I made that the center of my few days at Taizé.
The noisy French teenagers who wouldn’t be quiet before worship actually prompted another question: what do I pay attention to? Do I allow myself to get grumpy because of them, or do I focus on all the other thousands filling the church, kneeling with eyes closed, obviously praying? In the midst of 5-8 minutes of silence for which the Taizé worship is known, do I let the intermittent (ok, it was pretty constant!) coughing and throat clearing hijack my thoughts (why don’t they give out cough drops!?!). What am I paying attention to — coughing and throat clearing or the “sounds of silence” rising above?
A pilgrimage is what you make it. God is everywhere at all times! What is God inviting us into? To what are we paying attention?