A familar vacation?


“We are invited to make a pilgrimage – into the heart and life of God…the major problem with the invitation is precisely overfamiliarity…they think they have accepted it – or rejected it, But they have not, The difficulty today is to hear it at all.” (so writes Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy, p 11)

I suspect most of us have a day or two or a week or two that we are going to call vacation this summer. I have wondered what to say to encourage us to make vacation more beneficial. I am resisting the temptation to write about not taking our tithes on vacation with us, or to encourage godly play, or to focus on the relationships most important in our lives and for our futures. These are worthwhile exhortations, but only one thing is necessary.

A trip is something we go on and come back from, more or less unchanged. A journey is something we go on and if we return, we are changed. A pilgrimage is more. A pilgrimage seeks a larger space, a larger place outside us. This place is a place of connection, of renewal, of seeking purpose and consolation. A pilgrimage that works is a pilgrimage “into the heart and life of God.” If we are moving deeper into the heart and life of God, things likes money, recreation and relationships will find themselves in the correct position in our lives. So how do we do this?

First, the Bible is where we encounter Christ (John 5:39). I am going to pick the gospel of John to read slowly and thoughtfully while I am on vacation. I am going to write in my journal the things about Christ that I am freshly aware of or reminded of.

Second, I am going to practice solitude, even when my travels take me into a crowd. In the solitude I will speak to God and listen for his voice, easy and gentle (Matthew 11:29). Again, I will record in my journal the fruit of my solitude.

A trip, a journey or a pilgrimage: which will my vacation be?

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3 thoughts on “A familar vacation?

  1. I was reminded of the image of the journey, used by T S Eliot in his poem Little Gidding.
    It comes at the conclusion of the poem, where he seems to be saying that life is a journey of discovery, on which we are continually exploring, and returning to places we have been before but finding new understanding for the first time of things we thought we knew. And the goal of this search, whether we knew it or not, was for the ultimate source of meaning and value, thus “costs not less than everything” and will eventually bring the creature into oneness with the creator.

    We shall not cease from exploration 
    And the end of all our exploring 
    Will be to arrive where we started 
    And know the place for the first time.
    Through the unknown, remembered gate
    When the last of earth left to discover
    Is that which was the beginning;
    At the source of the longest river
    The voice of the hidden waterfall
    And the children in the apple-tree
    Not known, because not looked for 
    But heard, half heard, in the stillness
    Between the two waves of the sea.
    Quick now, here, now, always–
    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of things shall be well
    When the tongues of flame are in-folded
    Into the crowned knot of fire
    And the fire and the rose are one.
                 -T.S. Eliot

  2. Your description of the journey as an experience of change, and a pilgrimage as an even deeper experience, and associated not incidentally with the practice of solitude, brought to mind the image of the journey used by T.S. Eliot in his poem, Little Gidding. It comes at the conclusion of the poem, where he seems to be saying that life is a journey of discovery, on which we are continually exploring, and returning to places we have been before but finding new understanding for the first time of things we thought we knew. And the goal of this search, whether we knew it or not, was to find the ultimate source of meaning and value, thus something that “costs not less than everything” and will eventually bring the creature into oneness with the creator. I have always been awed by the final stanza of this poem, and when I realized the number of parallels with your blog, it gave me the holy shudders.

    We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, remembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree Not known, because not looked for But heard, half heard, in the stillness Between the two waves of the sea. Quick now, here, now, always– A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) And all shall be well and All manner of things shall be well When the tongues of flame are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one. -T.S. Eliot

  3. Herb, It’s great to hear about your work and your travels! Thank you for writing! I so enjoyed meeting you (in your adult state!) and Paula last November at my sister Susan’s funeral. Blessings on your work! Connie

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