I’m going on a pilgrimage. It started nearly six months ago when my stepmother suggested it at Thanksgiving. “We should all go to Israel together.” I thought my husband would lose his mind. I’d known it was on his bucket list for quite some time and he was 100% in from the get go. Me? Well, we’re leaving Monday, and I’m excited, but have spent a great deal of time thinking about the trip and what it is for me.
First let me say that it’s a huge blessing. My folks are taking my siblings and our spouses which is incredibly generous. I know I wouldn’t be going otherwise.
Second, there’s some fear rolling around in there. It’s the longest vacation I’ve been on, the farthest away from home, into a country that is not known for peace these days. And ohhh do I love peace. Not a fan of sketchy situations much less a war zone. So, to say I had concerns over that is an understatement.
The biggest piece of it was working through what my own expectations are. My husband (and 95% of the people who go) is thrilled to be going to the Holy Land. To take the steps Jesus took. To see where the miracles happened. To have the Bible come to life.
And all those things resonate with me too. But there’s something else for me and I’ve wrestled with what it is. I’m not 100% sure, even today, what that something else is with my bag half packed (in my head…note to self, I really need to get on the packing thing). I think it relates to the concept of pilgrimage.
You may be familiar with the Hero’s Journey, it’s the common theme in a broad category of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. That’s the simple version. Joseph Campbell, who wrote about it more than 50 years ago details 17 stages of the journey. What stuck with me was the thought that the journey itself is filled with the unknown. The only thing that’s known is the departure and that there will be a return. What happens on the journey is unknown, therein lies the mystery and the transformation.
It’s Luke Skywalker…the Lord of the Rings…Moses…Lisa Kirby…oh wait that’s me…I’m not going in search of the Ring and am not going to save the galaxy. But could I find parts of me that were untapped, unknown?
Yes. But I must be willing to explore the unknown. I’ve lived a lot of my life staying in the ‘known.’ Making plans, following rules, playing it safe, all those things are in the known. Playing small is also in the known. Not living to my full potential, not stepping into my life’s calling, my life’s purpose, not fully using my gifts and talents, not being vulnerable, that’s all in the known. That’s safe. But it’ sells you short. The hero’s journey was not safe.
My journey is not one of a hero, or if it is, the person who needs the hero is me. That’s what this journey is about. It’s part of my authentic journey which includes living more fully. Stepping into the unknown. Taking the risk. The pilgrimage is the search for moral or spiritual significance that is there for me to learn. And it’s going to be different for me than for others because what I need to learn is different. It’s based on my life and where I’ve been so far. What I’m praying for is to be open to whatever that is. To hold space for what I need to learn and experience.
I know I need to be brave enough, not a superhero, just brave enough to let my authentic self show up. To step fully into the experience and know that I still have so much to learn but I must be brave. Be open, step in with both feet. To experience what’s there for me. My own journey.
What about you? We all have room for the hero’s journey in our lives. The one that takes us into the unknown and transforms us. And a lot of the time, we don’t have to leave home, but we do have to leave what’s comfortable. Transformation doesn’t happen when we’re comfortable. Believe me, I’ve tried. I hope you’ll take time this week to think about your own journey, your pilgrimage. And know that it could come at an unexpected time, but exactly when you need it – be brave – you got this.