“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84 5-7
“Grief is like the ocean; it’s deep, dark, and bigger than all of us. And pain is like a thief in the night; quiet, persistent, and unfair. Diminished by time, faith, and love.”
“And Hansel said to Gretel, ‘Let us drop these breadcrumbs… so that together we find our way home. Because losing our way would be the most cruel of things.”
If you are going to talk about the pilgrim’s walk you must first know the pilgrim. The pilgrim has a story, and that story mattered to someone. The pilgrim had a family, dreams, hopes, and love.
As we learn about the pilgrim, and what their story has meant to others we can relate. Even though no story is the same, and no walk takes the same path. We are all in the same valley. Some of us take the long way through the woods, others stay close to the stream, and many look for the easy way to their destination.
Part of your story becomes part of other stories, and even though we may feel all alone on our walk, there are others who are just as alone.
Moments happen in the pilgrim’s life that change the course, and it creates a ripple effect in that story. If the pilgrim loses someone that really made them feel safe in the valley, the ripple can turn into a tidal wave.
It is unfair to judge any pilgrim since our Lord tells us he without sin cast the first stone. So there should be no stones thrown. However, it is human nature to blame, feel anger, and pain towards others along the way.
Each pilgrim carries that grief in the bundle that is already wrapped around one shoulder. They carry it through the woods, along the stream, and down the path until it no longer hurts. They sit by the waters and take out the grief to examine it. They think about what could’ve been, what should’ve been, and the regret of not doing more.
Grief is like an ocean, and each pilgrim handles the ocean of grief in their own way. Some drown as they get tossed around in the waves, and others keep up with the current until exhaustion wins the battle. However, you see the grief that is carried on your back is still bigger and deeper than we can handle.
We find the strength lessening, and our hearts heavy, and our minds filled with memories. We carry other pilgrims on our backs in our walks.
No one can tell you how and where to walk on your own pilgrimage. It is something that you need to do alone. Of course, there will be others with you in your heart and soul. There will be moments when those who walked with you before offering you some relief in your sorrow.
When you enter the valley you will be filled with an overpowering fear that something will be stolen along the way. You will fight to keep those you loved safe from the journey ahead. Some will be lost along the way and this is part of the journey we all must walk.
Pain is a thief in the night that comes when we take a moment of rest. It makes us feel condemned for taking our eyes off the grief for even a brief moment. How can we do this walk without the ones who make us feel safe, loved, happy, and hopeful?
Reflection is a big part of the walk. We reflect on what we were, what we have become, and who we want to be. We hold true to what our heart whispers to us in the valley. We feel the gentle tug of forgiveness.
All of these moments, emotions, memories, and reflections happen as we; the tired pilgrim, struggle to stay on the right path. We struggle to not get lost along the way. Of course, the whole point of something like grief is that it blindsides you. It kicks you off balance. It messes with your compass, and all the gears and switches are off.
But have faith, because that part of the journey does not last forever. Someday you will get your footing, and your compass will hold true. You will get back up and take it one step at a time. You will wake up and breath in and out. You will watch the sunrise and sunset as you are blessed with another day on this path.
You must drop breadcrumbs along the way so that you don’t lose your way. Losing your way would be the cruelest of things, especially after coming so so far. You are so close to the mountain, and once there you can start the climb. You can climb and climb to that big bright light in the sky. It will lead you home.
Part of the pilgrimage is not just in the walk but in the climb ahead. The climb will seem endless. Many pilgrims find themselves on the climb for a very long time.
Do not be discouraged by the climb my fellow pilgrims, because it is in the climb that we really figure out who we are. We have grown, lost, and reflected in the valley. Now we must figure out what all that means on the climb.
It will be a very steep climb so be prepared. Be ready to take it a little at a time. Don’t be impatient, cruel, or quit. You will reach the top one day. You will have so many memories, moments, and emotions that you can share with others in the climb.
You see fellow pilgrims, this is the part that we do together. No matter how long it took you to get here, or which path you chose to take along the journey. We all end up on this climb together. We can encourage one another on this climb. We make friends on the climb, our family grows on the climb, and we will lose people too.
It is the pilgrim’s compassion, trust, faith, and love that keeps a steady hand on the rope, and another reaches out as a helping hand. If we hurry up the mountain when another near us is struggling than what joy is there in the climb? What joy is there is reaching the top if you watch other pilgrims fall to the bottom?
Use the gifts you have been given, the trials you have experienced in your valley, and the faith you have built in the sorrow to help others up the mountain. It will be so much sweeter in the end if we can all look at one another and say we made it. Help a friend who is scared to climb. Help a family member who lacks faith in the mountain. Above all, help a stranger who doesn’t know the mountain is even there.
God wants all of his children to make it up that climb. He wants all of his children to find their way home again. Because losing our way would be the most cruel of things.