I’m off on pilgrimage and thinking…
Jesus “went apart” to refresh and pray.
The Desert Fathers of the early Christian church went into the desert to live in caves or other oddball dwellings.
Medieval anchoresses were (literally) walled away from the world on the side of a church.
Yet in all these cases, the individual who “went apart” was performing an important service to the community that so needed them. Their solitude wasn’t so much an escape from service as a preparation for it.
Jesus would spend time alone with God, then go back into community to lead and serve.
The anchoresses and desert hermits lived in what would seem like a lonely setting, yet were routinely visited by people of the community who sought them out for guidance and prayer.
Those who sought them out saw value in their unusual choice. Everyone could see something special about their connection with God. Something deep. Something that could speak to their own need.
So often in the church and in life in general, there’s an assumption that in order to serve and be part of the community, we have to jump right in and be a joiner. Like we all have to be those people (and they may be wonderful people) who are supporting all these events and outreaches with their ministry.
But we were all made with different gifts and intended to serve in different ways that honor those gifts. There is no one “right” way to be spiritually useful, even in the context of a traditional church.
Meanwhile, those who introvert in ministry may serve in the usual way (maybe with more spaces in between) or completely differently. We have historic examples of the quiet faithful whose solitude brought blessing to a lot of people who knew they had something worthwhile to give because they’d chosen that path.
Going apart can happen in small ways—10 minutes in a quiet room, a walk through the woods, prayer in an off-hours chapel. It can also happen in retreats and pilgrimages of different lengths.
There’s no one way to do it. Perhaps the key is that we shouldn’t keep using ourselves up without replenishing.
As I prepare to pick up my short pilgrimage once again, that’s what’s happening for me—sore in body, but calm in spirit.
Pilgrimage is more than just covering ground. Sometimes the inner journey is just as important as the outer one. I need to learn all over again to see.