Advent, Day 2: The Journey
Some of us start journeys with all the details in place: we’ve signed up for pre-check, packed our plane slippers a good mystery, and the right maps; we have our museum passes. And we’ve taken our dreams out of storage since the last big adventure. These we tuck into what an old friend once called “God’s pocket.”
Without naming this, we hope to be changed. But the secret of the journey is that change only happens if we hold the first set of travel tools lightly, and lead with the second.
I have known three people who’ve walked El Camino. One was a young adult. One, a recent retiree. One, a middle-aged woman.
The first returned home having heard a call to become an Episcopal priest. The second checked another hike off his long and impressive list. The third opened herself to a collection of new friends and conversations, and, full of the unexpected stories and synchronicities along the way, found herself swept into a transcendent spiritual experience as she entered the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Unlike the countless transformations that feel forced on us as we go about “ordinary” life, journeys are intentional. They require a sense of adventure, open eyes and ears and hearts, and should never be rushed.
How can we bring these pillars of transformation to the lives we are living in the present moment?
A relative of mine, in his prime, loved to map out marvelous trips for his family. They traveled the world, but they never lingered longer than was fully necessary, in his view. Which was: never long enough. The Louvre got half an hour; Machu Picchu, half a day. He was of the Instagram generation before there were cell phones.
These days, we disseminate every drink and flash-in-the-pan “high” to our friends in what often seems a substitute reality. “See, I am living now!” the images say. “Aren’t we having fun?”
But wait. Maybe fun, and the self-marketing of our cool experiences, isn’t as important as giving ourselves the space in which to take in their full significance, to let them work their transformations in us before we pass them on.
What is we were to “do” this season differently?
What if we committed to watching, listening, taking in, digesting — gathering what stirs and surprises us each day in a spacious time of quiet at day’s end? When we do this, we find much that we missed the first time around. And herein lies their power to change us.
This was why, back in the day, people kept travel journals. It is why so many I know today do the same. If a journey is an act of intent, the journal is a practice of mindfulness that supports the intent. It affirms the essential (and so easily lost) dimension of interiority in our lives. We can succumb to the checklist mentality, to our Google calendars. Or we can hold our journey in the broad and spacious dimension my friend dubbed, “God’s pocket”.
How will you journey today?