Just before setting out on our first day’s journey on the ancient way of El Camino de Santiago, my husband and I read the following reflection as a prayer for pilgrimage:
Up early on this first day and not at all sure you want to embark on a journey to some distant, fabled place. Why bother? You would prefer to be asleep, warm within the comfort of your day-to-day routines.
Yet you start on your pilgrimage, unsure of what lies ahead or even why you’ve chosen to go on such an arduous adventure. You only hope that, drawn forward by the lure of some far-off sacred city, you will find journey’s end worth the hardships along the way.
At the same time, you sense a call to some larger purpose, a call that will not be denied.
Knowing that the road flows forward beyond your time of pilgrimage, just as it winds behind you through countless other lifetimes, fills you with a sense that you are part of a great continuum.You take a deep breath, put your pack on your shoulders, and step out onto the road. (Austin Reparth, “Starting Out,” in Pilgrim Cards (accessed June 10, 2009) <http://www.pilgrimcards.com/).
The spiritual journey too is marked with an invitation to wake up. The Buddha is remembered to have said that people live most of their life asleep.Of course he didn’t mean that people spend most of their lives in bed, physically asleep. Five hundred years before the time of Christ the Buddha referenced the spiritual condition of humanity. Jesus echoed this universal truth when he said, “I came that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)—in contrast to a “partial” life. The Christian journey begins with an invitation to wake from our sleepfulness. As St. Ireneaus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” It’s hard to be fully alive if we stay asleep. By waking up, we determine to embark on the spiritual journey.
- The spiritual journey begins with a desire to wake up. Take a moment to consider your desires. On a scaled of 1 to 10, 1 being very little desire and 10 being the greatest desire you could have, how much do you desire to wake up and embark on the spiritual journey?
- Take a moment to listen deeply to yourself. Without judgment and expectation ask yourself, “Is there anything holding me back from awakening?” Fear? Doubt? Control? Something else? Listen to what emerges, notice it, embrace it and ask God for the grace to overcome what’s holding you back from a more abundant life with God.
- If your desire to awaken and embark on or continue on the spiritual journey is a resounding 10, take a moment to remember what it was like when you were “asleep.” Notice the work of transformation that has already taken place in your life to bring you to this point and notice if you have any other desires at this juncture in the spiritual journey. Notice, embrace and ask for God’s leading.
*photo credit: Jennifer Speight