“I’m ready for a vacation!”
There are certain times of the year where you just sense you need a break from your regular routine. As you think about your next chance to take some time off work and get some time away from the demands of your schedule – are you thinking about being spiritually refreshed? We usually think about our need for physical, emotional and mental rest, but perhaps your vacation plans are so full that you take a “vacation” from your spiritual life as you get out of town.
When friends return from vacation we naturally ask them, “how was your time away?” “What did you do?” “What did you see?” When was the last time you intentionally asked, “What did it mean?”
As I have been studying Celtic Christianity and the saints of Ireland from long ago, I am inspired by their intentional travel we might refer to as “pilgrimage.” This distinguishing mark of early Christians had several purposes. They sought to see the fingerprints of God in creation, escape the demands of the people who rely on them, to eliminate distractions from hearing God’s voice and have an encounter with God. Sometimes their pilgrimage also included sharing Christ with those they came into contact with.
Their itineraries weren’t planned down to the minute and they learned that it is not so much the final destination that brings new life in Christ, but the process of the journey itself.
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible called the message includes this idea in 1 Peter 1:18, “Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.”
It has been said that “the longest journey is the journey inward.” (Dewaal in the book The Celtic Way of Prayer)
What if we took our modern view of tourism and vacation and enhanced it to give it spiritual value? The final goal of any pilgrimage is the spiritual transformation in us so that we look more like Jesus.
Cintra Pemberton explains, that we seek “interior growth resulting from an exterior journey.”
Vacation reimagined looks like having a holy expectation that no matter where you are going you are going to meet God, and grow as a result. It means instead of leaving your relationship with God at home, you bring excitement to encounter him with you. It also means that you plan enough time to allow God to redirect you and show you amazing things and still make your flight home.
I will be taking vacation time next month spending time in Ireland visiting holy sights, seeking the Lord. While my expectation is to meet with God and receive what He has to give to me, I also believe He will introduce me to people who I will ask to pray for me, and I will do things that make my heart sing like listening to traditional Irish music and visiting castles. There is great joy in seeing new things and pilgrimage contains massive amounts of joy, but it also contains incredible meaning that will change your life.
As you plan your next vacation, how can you apply this concept to your upcoming spring or summer travel plans? It might be as simple as planning to visit a church wherever you are and really engaging fully in worship and lingering. If there is an historical sight that has spiritual significance, perhaps you plan to see that and linger and write in your journal before rushing off. It might mean creating enough space so that if you strike up a conversation with someone at a hotel breakfast room, you can pray for them and encounter Jesus through serving and blessing others.
When you return from such journeys and people ask you what you saw and what you did… you can give them a testimony or two about what it meant to you. That will open the door for you to share more of who Jesus is in your life and what He means to you.
So, ask for that time off, book that flight and plan in aspects of pilgrimage this year.