In this final installment of our Pilgrim in Residence Series with Mary DeJong, Mary literally brings it home by painting a powerful picture of what it’s like to return from a journey and the impression our journeys have not only on our souls, but also on our communities and ultimately the world. -Lacy
“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)
COMING HOME: A STRANGE RETURN
It is in the going out that we discover what is really going on, both in our inner-heart’s landscape and in our physical home places. The journey away from home brings with it fresh perspectives and abilities to see our normal lives with a new sense of discovery and sensitivity. We return with a posture of being newly awakened — attuned to and aware of the Spirit all around us.
The daily challenge is to carry over the quality of the journey into everyday life. You want to integrate the new ways of being and thinking into your life as you move into the final stage of pilgrimage: reincorporation, or bringing back the boon.The intentional space created by a pilgrimage not only leaves a mark on our lives, but elbows 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 lessons and experiences into stories of transformation and actions of justice.
“The daily challenge is to carry over the quality
of the journey into everyday life.”
Pilgrims return home with wisdom and the driving responsibility to share the truth gleaned from the profound experiences of the 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” (Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage).
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, especially if our epiphanies are conveyed as nothing more than novel curios. But 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.
“Ultimately, it is our changed life that must tell the story of our journey…”
Because of this 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 sacrifice and struggle, you will not relate to your world or those in it as you did before.
Your challenge is to now live into the new edges of your life, inhabiting the unfamiliar 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. You must create new ways of relating to your home – to those within it and surrounding it, which are imbued with the meaning of your journey.
“Your challenge is to now live into the new edges of your life,
inhabiting the unfamiliar spaces created by pushing through
the trails of your inner-soul landscape.”
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.
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.
“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.”
Upon re-crossing the threshold home, the mystical methods of pilgrimage begin to unravel. The freedom from systems and modes begins to dissipate as sacred time quickly returns to linear time, and sacred space is replaced with vistas of cityscapes. It is all one can do to refrain from hiking the pack right back onto the shoulders and heading straight back out the door. It becomes evidently clear that there is real work involved in unpacking the gifts of the journey and relating them to our homescapes.
For years I have been challenged with the notion that ultimately, the pilgrimage calls us to return home and live forward on behalf of something other and greater than ourselves. This idea that the road out actually causes us to be beholden to something back home is something that I’ve been personally working on for years. For our lives to truly reincorporate and reflect the stories of our journeys there must be effects behind and beyond our front doors; if there isn’t, the travels and travails of the road quickly get reduced to petty ramblings and narcissistic knock abouts.
Ultimately, the greatest influence we can have on ourselves, our families, and the world around us is to live out the effects of our sacred journey on behalf of Other and the Future. I acknowledge that this could appear trite and formulaic; however, the notion’s simplicity allows for a focus of energy around a transformed state.
“Ultimately, the greatest influence we can have on ourselves,
our families, and the world around us is to live out the effects
of our sacred journey on behalf of Other and the Future.”
I believe that when Campbell talks about a “wisdom and power to serve others” on account of our wayfaring, he is getting at a fundamental aspect of the gift of pilgrimage. We go out on these personal, intimate soul-adventures to connect to God in fresh, inspired ways. But if these encounters aren’t having a greater result on the world around us, they are worthless. I believe that by applying our gained wisdom on behalf of Other and the Future, we are re-gifting our communities and the earth with our God-given blessings encountered on the road.
Living on behalf of Other and the Future is a scalable metaphor; that is, it may refer to simply anyone or anything other than yourself and decisions that impact the future. In broader, and more challenging terms, “Other and the Future” is a way of embracing all of life, especially those that are without voice and marginalized in society, and intentionally orienting lifestyle decisions that will have a positive outcome on our earth and future generations.
As a result, our personal sacred journey is global in both scope and impact, and we are invited to transformative micro-practices that overhaul how we view our homes and home environments. Our return home requires us to leave the door open to the world just beyond its threshold, maintaining a posture of looking out for opportunities to give of our blessings.
Set up waymarks for yourself,
Make yourself guideposts:
Consider well the highway,
the road by which you went.
We long for and are called to a journey that will not only renew and refresh us, but also transform the very lives of those around us. The gifts of the pilgrim’s path are ultimately not to be pocketed away and subsequently displayed like a well-traveled trinket or souvenir. The ancient call to go on pilgrimage is ultimately an archetypal instigator to recover one’s sense of self through God so that, upon returning home, the boon of the journey can be translated for the benefit of the greater good, for the common good, for all and for our future. Other and the Future become touchstones for our journey, tangible waymarkers to which we can apply our transformed lives.
“The ancient call to go on pilgrimage is ultimately an archetypal instigator
to recover one’s sense of self through God so that, upon returning home,
the boon of the journey can be translated for the benefit of the greater good,
for the common good, for all and for our future. “
Through the ancient practice of pilgrimage, we are challenged to live forward into deeper understanding of ourselves and our God-given talents and gifts. Because the inner-journey has righted priorities and passions, we embrace the gift of relationships in our lives — loving and respecting those who have been given to us to nurture. We answer the call to apply our gained wisdom to justice, knowing that however we employ our calling that it must somehow serve the Other – those surrounding us in need of a voice and advocacy. We respond to the realities of our planet with care, concern and conviction, knowing that if we don’t, our children’s earth-home will be one less hospitable and fecund. We leave home on our journey only to come back with a greater sense of it, with a greater impression of how to serve it, and an inspired way of how to live in it. We live forward with a renewed sense of knowing home.
Questions to contemplate about your journey…
How will home be different after I return? How will I be different after my return? To whom am I beholden and how can I live on behalf of these relationships to revitalize my personal homescape?
Questions to reflect on in the comments below…
What were the waymarkers that truly transformed you? In what ways can you continue living forward out of these places of transformation?