I am off on pilgrimage to a Texas Christian University reunion with friends I haven’t seen for decades. We were a tight group, who obviously had something special (since we’re spending time and money for this reunion). But some of us have had difficulty keeping connected–even Christmas cards fell away with best intentions. Now is an opportunity to get reacquainted in a fresh way–remembering, and sharing celebratory moments and battle scars.
Thinking of life as pilgrimage has been a constant for me. It still amazes how God teaches us with a rhythm of heartbeats and breaths, under sunrises and sunsets. One day at a time is plenty with its concerns, said Jesus in Matthew 6:34.
Below is a freshened excerpt of a former “There’s a Blog in My Eye post.” It is what I am thinking about while reflecting on TCU graduation, this reunion, and daily pilgrimage.
Imagine a California traveler journeying down a rocky path in the 1700s. It is the rainy season. He is cold and wet, hungry and thirsty, riding his mule for hours. Suddenly, in the darkness, he sees some flickering lights and hurries toward them. He knocks on the large mission door and is welcomed inside. Here is a place to rest, eat and drink, find encouragement and information–until he must travel again. The Camino de Real or King’s Highway was a pathway along the California coastline which connected some 21 missions for weary travelers. Each mission was a day’s journey of 30 miles from each other. One can still visit many of these missions that stretch from San Diego to San Francisco.
With a little faith we can stretch the Camino de Real into a metaphor for our life journeys. We’re on God’s road; his time table. The journey sometimes is easy with joy, but often difficult with tears. We press on.
I once heard poet Luci Shaw use the Camino de Real as a symbol for journaling. She suggested that daily, reflective writing can be mission respite from our work. It can refresh, encourage, and reveal insights we do not understand until we write them down. I have found this helpful, but journaling isn’t for every one. We each must discover what aids us best in traveling.
Recently, I discovered blogger D.L. Mayfield, a young woman who struggles with her vocation. Mayfield writes that she didn’t feel “called” to minister to the poor as much as she felt dragged. I appreciate her honest writing. She admits that she
often feels helpless and overwhelmed by the hurts of others. She wonders if making Funfetti cakes for sad neighbors really is meaningful. But then she writes:
“…I feel like God said: you keep baking cakes. Some of the most unrecognized ministries are my favorites. Like, the ministry of playing yu-gi-oh cards with awkward adolescent boys. The ministry of bringing white styrofoam containers of Pad Thai to people whose baby is very, very sick. The ministry of picking up empty chip wrappers at the park. The ministry of sending postcards. The ministry of sitting in silence with someone in the psych ward. The ministry of gardening flowers….The ministry of noticing beauty everywhere–in fabrics, in people, in art–and in the wilderness.
“The older I get, I realize now that the ministries I once thought so trivial I now think are the most radical. I spent the last year being stripped of anything that would make me feel lovely to God, and I came out a different person. Because I discovered that he always loved me anyways. I’m not Joan of Arc, it turns out. I’m just somebody who likes to bake cakes.”
That’s D.L. Mayfield. With her I relate to small tasks transforming the trivial to the radical. Water turns into wine. Our work, our life journeys, the very essence of ourselves, matter to the One who keeps us. And if we believe this, our best works are done in response to the love that does not fail. In faith, and not alone, we keep traveling.
For a good armchair pilgrimage find the award-winning 2010 DVD The Way with Martin Sheen. The movie is about a grieving father embarking on the historical pilgrimage “The Way of St. James” in Spain.
You can check out D.L. Mayfield at www.dlmayfield.com . Her new book of essays Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is scheduled for release in August from HarperOne.