This week’s post is by Katie Jensen, one of my closest friends. A few years ago when we met, we shared a bathroom that connected our two bedrooms, and we haven’t stopped sharing things since–passions, ideas, moments, life. Just like our individual bedrooms years ago, we each come from our own unique perspectives, but we always find ways to connect. This is true when it comes to pilgrimage and the language of journey as well.
Katie is a lover of story, of beauty, and of meaning, and in this post she shares how she’s recently discovered all of those things in this season of life (and path on her journey) that she never expected to encounter. This is how Katie describes her experience on this journey that once seemed stalled: “when you are bored, your feet ache, and what you hope for is perpetually around the next corner.” Can you relate? Read on to see what made her keep walking… -Lacy
P.S. Guess what? If you love this post, you’re in luck! Katie will be joining us over the next year as our Liturgical Guide beginning with Advent, walking us through another journey that is built into the very fabric of our lives.
The smell of the morning air, the adventure of the journey before you, the hope of what is coming. Finally you are starting what you’ve been waiting for. Walking stick in hand you begin the journey. I have always loved beginnings. I love the freshness, the passion, standing right on the brink of greatness; when you are packed, planned, and about to take your first step, waving to the world you’ve left behind, sick with thrill of the great unknown that lays ahead. The hardest, yet most thrilling part of any great journey, is merely…to begin.
Sadly, beginnings don’t last long. Soon we find ourselves stuck in the daily grind of our new season of life. As pilgrims we get bored, our feet ache, it seems like what we hope for is perpetually around the next corner. So how do we live intentionally as pilgrims when the passion of beginning is worn away? When we are tired of our journey, when transformation seems slow in coming?
“How do we live intentionally as pilgrims when
the passion of beginning is worn away?”
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself lately. I’ve been stuck for a while now in a long and discouraging season of job searching, still having no idea what lies before me. Graduating from Grad School a few months ago, I thought the transition to working and living a spacious, low-stress, creative life would be a quick and easy one. Finding a job with a Masters in Theology and Culture should be pretty straightforward, right? Alas, that has not been the case. After taking off a few blissful weeks in July, I hunkered down into job search mode and ever since have found my life filled with busyness and frustration. With so much unknown, so much anxiety, and so much discouragement, it’s nearly impossible to live in that slow and generative way I long for. I feel like a pilgrim who has set out, expecting to reach the next set of terrain by nightfall, but here I am still alarmingly plodding through the woods as dusk closes in–and I can’t see the forest for the trees.
Blessedly, I met with my Spiritual Director last week. In talking with her I realized that I hadn’t been treating this season of job searching as a season in itself. I had been expecting to move right from ending school to starting a job. This drawn out and uncomfortable liminal space I’m finding myself in was not a part of the plan. So when she asked me how I was living intentionally into this season, I had absolutely no answer. Together we worked on recognizing some practices that help me ground myself–help me reconnect with who I am, and thus enable me to connect with God and others in a healthier way. I was surprised to see that most of these practices center on the body.
Theologian Rowan Williams writes: “Only the body saves the soul…the soul left to itself, the inner life…is not capable of transforming itself. It needs the gifts only the external life can deliver.” How true I have found that to be in my own life. Last Fall I started taking regular walks around my neighborhood as a way to pace myself, to enjoy nature, to learn slowness. It gives me a break from my anxiety and functions as a way of walking prayer, as I learn to live deeply where I am planted. Likewise, I go out and work on a farm every Friday in exchange for food. Going out into the country, doing hard manual labor, and coming back with a bounty of produce is one of the most satisfying and relieving parts of my week. I could say similar things about running, doing yoga, cooking, even cleaning my house. These are the things I need to attend to, particularly in my discouraging seasons.
The wise spiritual teacher Kathleen Norris writes, “It is not in romance but in routine that the possibilities for transformation are made manifest.” It is in our everyday routines that we are changed. It is through washing the dishes, making the bed, folding our laundry. As pilgrims, this is the daily walking that leads us to God and to life–not in the destination, but in the journeying.
“It is in our everyday routines that we are changed…
not in the destination, but in the journeying.”
In my long days of turmoil, of anxiety, in my inability to see the future, it is my body, my friends, my external life–the walks around my neighborhood, doing my dishes, working on a farm, bartering with the egg lady down the street. These are the things that are saving me. This is the salvation of God through my walking stick, my aching feet, my long-winding journey to the center of the labyrinth.
It’s the body that saves us. The ordinary saves us–particularly for the pilgrim, day after day across the same terrain–especially in the forest, especially through the mists. We keep walking forward, step after step. There is good sacred ground beneath our feet.
In this light, I began a new practice this week. For each job application I send in, I am taking a rock, drawing on it, and putting it in a bowl on my table. This is my reminder that what I am doing every day, what I am offering out into the world is not just disappearing into thin air. What I seek to offer is of goodness, of life, and of beauty. Like the ancient Israelites who would pile rocks in memory of the faithful presence of God, so this bowl is my Ebenezer, my marker of the daily goodness and beauty of what I am doing and of how I am walking in this season. They remind me of the faithfulness of God.
We are pilgrims because we are ones who walk, who journey, who physically travel and interact with the world around us, even if that only means amidst the 4 walls of our homes, or the few blocks of our neighborhoods. This daily walking, this physical presence, the faithful commitment to journey on, this is where God is at work. This is how we actually get someplace different than where we began. Pilgrimage author Antonio Machado, writes “The way is made by walking.” The clarity we seek only comes when we look behind us. And so we walk. One human foot after another. One job application after another. One load of laundry after another. The pilgrim’s way is made by walking.
What elements of your daily walk remind you that you’re on a journey?