Musings from a Meandering Pilgrim

So how do we exchange our running from into walking toward? If we start by being like Cain, we are running from danger, from our mistakes, from our shame, and from our problems. Or maybe we are on the run because of how others have treated us.  It hardly matters why we run, because it is only when we choose to slow down and stop the "running from" that we will be able to face it and begin to learn how to see our life's circumstances differently. We can then begin to open ourselves to walking toward a new way of being. With God's help, we can learn to adopt an attitude of openness to new pathways, new experiences, new people, and new spiritual disciplines for our lives.

What makes a pilgrim a pilgrim? It's not the sandals or a walking stick or a backpack on our shoulders. It's not even the journey or the scenery, but the ability to see with new eyes and to turn every moment into a journey.

I like the fact that we do not have to embrace any special idea of holiness or that we have to get ready to become a pilgrim: with all of our warts, with all of our problems, we come as we are into the journey. Whether we are more like a Cain or an Abel or, like most of us, somewhere in between, we can use this word to describe our moving forward with one foot in front of the other in search of the Holy in our everyday lives, wherever that path may take us.

At the moment, I am in Florence, Italy. The point of my being here is not primarily to see the artistic wonders of this great city but to see myself in a new way. It is the middle of Holy Week, and here I am wandering into the churches of this very Catholic city, so different from the Baptist churches of my childhood. How did I get here? I know the steps: Baptist to United Church of Christ to Presbyterian, and now an ever-broadening search for the full richness of Christian spirituality. Florence is not the answer to any spiritual question.  But I am glad I am here because God is speaking to me here, in every new chiesa or basilica, convent or monastery that I enter, and through the people I meet inside them and out on the cobblestone streets where I meander every day.

As una pellegrina errante, my job is to go where the Spirit takes me, observe what there is to see and who there is to meet, and ponder all of it in my heart. I am to allow the rabbi named Jesus to lead me into new knowledge and understanding and thus a larger purpose for the working out of greater compassion and love in this world.

Or, as Dante so beautifully put it over 700 years ago:

But as a wheel in perfect balance turns,

I felt my will and my desire impelled

by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.


After a 35-year career as a therapist and counselor educator, Rebecca now serves as a spiritual director, retreat leader, supervisor/teacher in spiritual direction training. Her practice is called HeartSpace Ministries. She is also a writer of prose and poetry.

4/5/2010 4:00:00 AM
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