The pilgrim setting off with next to nothing is part of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It’s there in The Way of the Pilgrim and Catherine De Hoeck Doherty’s classic book Poustinia. My brother met such a pilgrim here in the United States. The conversation went something like this:
“What happens to you when you travel like this. Do you just walk or hitch-hike?”
“I don’t hitch hike, but I accept a ride if it is offered.”
“Do the police pick you up?”
“Sometimes, but when I explain what I am doing they are usually friendly. Sometimes they give me a bed for the night.”
“It’s a chance to do some prison visiting and evangelize the other guys in there.”
“Where have you traveled?”
“All over the world.”
“How do you get plane tickets?”
“Someone will be traveling to where I want to go and they offer to buy me a ticket and travel with them.”
“Do you have any money to feed yourself?”
“People usually buy me a meal and give me food. Sometimes I’ll go to the local priest’s house.”
“I see. Where are you going to spend the night tonight?
“Probably at your house.”
So he came home and told the rest of his story. He was not a lunatic, but quite sane. He was simply taking the Lord at his word in a radical way. He professed that he had witnessed many miracles by living this kind of life. God’s hand was evident in everything. He was a genuine mystic and holy man.
So what’s to learn from such an encounter? A couple of things: First, it is possible to take the gospel at face value. Second, it is possible to live a life that is radical in it’s obedience. Third, when you live this way–living by faith–you will see miracles. Fourth, if you don’t live this way you will not see miracles. It’s not that God doesn’t want to do miracles–it’s that he doesn’t need to if you are busy looking after everything yourself.
See, God is very gentle and easy going. If you want to look after yourself and work hard to earn a huge salary and buy health insurance and pay in to your life insurance plan and set up a neat and sensible retirement investment portfolio and do everything yourself God is good with that. He says, “You just go ahead then and set up all your safety nets and your sensible plans and prudent savings. I still love you, but I’m letting you get on with your little plans. However, if you want to live a life that is truly abundant and free and dynamic and alive in the Spirit–do something more radical.
Give it all away. Then you will see miracles.