This post is by Lizzy Brady, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of August. Lizzy recently graduated from college and just returned from five weeks of traveling throughout Europe, guiding student pilgrims on the journey of a lifetime. If I weren’t here in Seattle settling into a new home and entering a new season of life, I’d be right there alongside Lizzy, living out of a backpack for months on, hopping from country to country, following the Sacred longings within.
Instead, I’ll have to live through her vicariously. Luckily, she’ll be with us each week this month, sharing reflections on a journey so fresh on her heart and mind. Learn more about Lizzy here. -Lacy
I used to think that there were good seasons in life and then there were bad seasons in life. Good and bad seasons were as distinct to me as night and day, until this past Fall when I worked alongside a community of Hope, joined clergy in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience on the streets of Chicago, and uttered last words to my father on his deathbed.
What did I even say? I can remember tears, beeping monitors, being at a loss for words. I loosely recall mumbling something about what I hoped heaven was like, with the lines “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” from the Our Father still ringing in my head. Looking back, I was desperate for glimpses of that unshakeable Kingdom as his life slipped so quickly into death.
Hope and Grief are inextricably connected these days, no doubt. Nearly two months after my father died, I received the Email of all Emails asking me to interview for a position as Travel Partner for Youth Hostel Ministry (YHM). YHM is a student-run organization of Wheaton College that has been sending students since 1971 to share the love and light of Christ with the traveling community throughout Europe. This year, 16 students were selected and placed with various partners in Europe (one of those partnerships with former YHM and Wheaton College alumni!).
I interviewed, was offered the position, and set out almost immediately after graduation. As the Travel Partner, I traveled for ten weeks alongside the Chair of YHM to encourage, counsel, and visit these dear pilgrims as they navigated this liminal space.
In the days and weeks prior to leaving I was exhausted and scrambling—perhaps crawling across the graduation stage to receive my diploma would have been a more accurate depiction of how I felt that day. To be honest with you all, I was terrified of the spaciousness the next ten weeks would hold. The thought of slowing down and letting these fresh realities sink in was enough to keep me scrambling; for I knew that the impending suspension of these chaotic rhythms would lead me on an unavoidable and Sacred exploration of where I’ve been, who I am, and where I’m going.
And I felt the weight of it all—the risk and the fear of the unknown road set before me—yet it was that desperate search for Life that is truly Life that pulled this Pilgrim heart of mine upward and onward and outward.
He leaned his back against the wall, welcoming the silence between pauses. Every so often that silence was interrupted by the sounds of organized chaos drifting into the room as the line for a bowl of afternoon tea started to form in the distance. We didn’t mind.
“The Kingdom of God is in these small, simple acts of love, solidarity, obedience, community,” he said almost whispering now, crossing his legs and leaning forward with an eagerness in his eyes.
Tears filled my eyes as word by word and crack by crack, small beams of Light seeped into the dark, dingy places that bred such fear of the unknown.
“Wherever it is that you may go, enter into those unfamiliar spaces with the rhythms of prayer and meditation by centering yourselves on God. Take small steps towards God’s Kingdom.”
It was precisely this physical and mindful movement forward that fostered the spaciousness for an interior journey of the heart. Journeying in the wake of such significant loss, I was well acquainted with the tension between Life and Death, between Hope and Grief, and was (unknowingly, at times) searching for the Peace and Hope of God’s Kingdom in the here and now more than I ever have before.
And so these weary feet that months earlier stood beside my father’s deathbed were now taking small, yet courageous steps toward healing, meaning, and Light.
“The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”
What small, yet courageous step toward healing, meaning, and Light is calling you? Leave a response to the question or the post in the comments.