Today, I began a second part of my sabbatical journey.
For the first two weeks of the month, I spent uninterrupted time with my family…my whole family. For the first time in a couple of years, all of my children, my wife, and I were in the same place for unhurried time together. What a joy it was to reconnect, to enjoy the family, with which God has blessed me, and to generally do things families do together.
The second part of this journey, I have labeled pilgrimages. Tonight, I found myself on the campus of Asbury Theological Seminary. In 2002, I began a spiritual, intellectual, and professional journey that culminated in my Doctor of Ministry degree. As I parked my car, and walked into the Asbury Inn, memories of conversations, of struggles, of lectures, of assignments, of friendships, of shared meals all flooded my memory. I was reminded what a sacred place and time ATS was in my formational journey.
Before we arrived, I shared dinner with my daughter at a BBQ Restaurant. It too was a sacred place. I ate their with friends from my various classes. I ate lunch there (all you can eat ribs) immediately after my successful dissertation defense. My family shared a meal there with me (again, all you can eat ribs) after my graduation. Tonight, I shared a meal, and laughter with my youngest daughter. Supper was a pilgrimage in time and memory. Our meal brought us closer together and strengthened the love with which God has blessed us.
Tomorrow, I will visit Trevecca Nazarene University, where God solidified my call and prepared me for ministry. On that sacred tract of land, God brought me together with my wife. During those four years, my faith was built, my love and passion for learning was kindled and life-long friendships were built.
Each of these places, and many, many more, are places where I have erected altars, places of remembrance and celebration. These significant people and places have been tools in the hands of God to form and mold me into who I have become. It is doing me good to revisit, to remember, and to celebrate who God has been. As I remember how God has revealed himself to me, I can see where he is taking me… My faith grows stronger as I celebrate his ever-present direction, care, and deliverance.
Throughout scripture, God, following his mighty acts of deliverance, challenges his people to build an altar so that they might remember what God had done, at that sacred spot. As they passed by those altars (as they made pilgrimages) they would rehearse in their minds God’s love, his power, his glory, and his deliverance. Pilgrimages have an amazing power to recreate energy, to encourage our hearts, and to strengthen our faith.
What pilgrimages would God take you on today?