It is a strange thing to come home.
While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.
-Selma Lagerlog (1858-1940)
We’ve been home now for a little while; our Easter arrived and our journey through Lenten landscapes appeared complete. With celebrations and feasts, we marked the homecoming of our pilgrimage– grateful both for the cross and the completion of the journey it represents. But it soon became clear, perhaps a day or so into the return into the daily rhythms of the Eastertide calendar, that the time apart had changed us. The intentional space created by a journey of abstinence or abundance had not only left a mark on our lives, but elbowed out new permanent places in our spirit. So, while home once again, the hearth is not how we left it. And it will stay in a state of strangeness until we are able to assimilate our learnings and experiences into stories of transformation and actions of justice.
The one thing the pilgrim returns home with is wisdom and the responsibility to share the truth gleaned from the profound pilgrimage. The story that we bring back from our journeys is the boon. There is a universal code of sorts, which requires the pilgrim to “share whatever wisdom you’ve been blessed with on your journey with those who are about to set out on their own journey.”[i] The challenge and bitter truth of coming home from a pilgrimage is that we soon learn that what is a pearl to us is mere pennies to others. How can we even begin to describe the depths to which our soul has traveled? Ultimately, it is our changed life that must tell the story of our journey; no picture slide show or souvenir will scratch the surface of the truth found at the sacred center.
In Joseph Campbell’s popular book of essays Myths to Live By, he described something pertinent to our theme of sacred journeys: “The ultimate air of the quest if one is to return, must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others.” This parallels the belief of the ancient wisdom teachers that the ultimate answer to the sorrows of the world is the boon of increased self-knowledge.[ii] Interestingly enough, this responsibility resonates with Frederick Buechner’s definition of vocation as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It seems clear that the great value of a pilgrimage is to return with a knowledge of self that will enable one to engage the world’s needs in an authentic and passionate way.
Because of the journey to the sacred center, and the perils experienced to get there, you are transformed. And because you have changed, so will your home. You have encountered the Holy-experienced God in a fresh new way-and as a result of your epiphany and your struggle, you will not relate to your world or those in it as you did before.[iii] Your challenge is to now live into the new edges of your life, inhabiting the new spaces created by pushing through the trails of your inner-soul landscape. These are the places where dynamic opportunities lay for you to share your wisdom and bring back the boon of your journey.
Since you have been home from your Lenten journey, have you had the opportunity to share with anyone about your experiences? Have you identified the ways in which you have changed? What were the waymarkers that truly transformed you? In what ways can you continue living forward out of these places of transformation?
Set up waymarks for yourself,
Make yourself guideposts:
Consider well the highway,
The road by which you went.
[i] Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, (Boston, MA: Conari Press, 1998), 216.
[ii] Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, (Boston, MA: Conari Press, 1998), 217.
[iii] Sarah York, Pilgrim Heart: The Inner Journey Home, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001),149.