It’s been a long break for me, but I’m linking up again with Stephanie Spencer for her Psalms Journey series. Every Tuesday she writes about a new Psalm and invites bloggers to join in. A lovely and intimate group and I really enjoy the weeks I dive in. Today is Psalm 84. If you want to take a read without leaving your seat, you can find the whole thing on Bible Gateway.
There is a stretch of road I know so well that I need no GPS, no map, no helpful app to tell me which exits have the clean gas stations or parks to stretch your legs. I know the landmarks, from a half-built water park (that I suspect after eight years will never be finished) to a water tower shaped like a giant peach. I know where to stop to watch chocolate candy being made in a factory and the exits where you can pull over to dip your toes in the gulf. I even know where you can stop to pet baby alligators 100 feet from I-10.
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Did I mention that this stretch of road is just over 1300 miles?
I feel that pull toward home the way I imagine the tides do toward the moon. Inescapable. Hard to describe. The pull comes and the waves go in and out because they must.
Except it’s not like that, because I feel the pull in two directions: Houston is now home, but Richmond is my childhood home. Both have a hold on me and that well-traveled road is my familiar pilgrimage from one to the other. And also unlike the ocean, who has no choice, there are many things that keep me from the journey home: money, time, children, money.
The drive between has its own pull. I love being behind the wheel, or in the passenger seat with my feet making toe-prints on the cracked windshield. (Doesn’t seem to matter the car; our windshields are always cracked.) Familiar music playing, bags of snacks between the seats, the smell of coffee wafting up from the cup holders. I long for a good road trip even now.
The journey, the destinations: all are part of being a pilgrim.
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.
I’ve read Psalm 84 so many times and yet when I got to these verses, I felt I had never read them before. I loved this picture: pilgrims with hearts set on God, pulled toward his dwelling place, moving from strength to strength as they travel. Their sheer desire, it seems, floods a desert place with springs and rain. What a picture!
Reading this made me think about the journey and the destination. When I’m on my road trip going toward either home, as much as my heart longs for the end, I also love the drive. In life, I think sometimes we forsake the journey for the destination and so miss both.
What does THAT mean?
Take a moment to think of what you’re looking forward to right now. At the moment, I’m looking forward to being done with the barfy part of pregnancy, and maybe out of pregnancy altogether so I can get my body back. I also look forward to bedtime each day so I can get some quiet time for my introvert head.
When I was in middle school, I couldn’t wait for high school.
When I was fifteen, I couldn’t wait til I could drive.
When I was seventeen, I couldn’t wait to go to college.
When I was in college, I couldn’t wait to get out and start my new life.
At every stage in our lives, we are looking forward to something. This is not a bad thing. Except when we miss out on the right now in all the thinking about the later. When the end becomes the most important thing, we miss out on the journey and the joy it holds in and of itself.
When I read this section of Psalm 84, the goal is God. But it also says the heart is set on pilgrimage. By definition, pilgrimage is a journey. It is a journey toward a place of spiritual significance, but it can also be a metaphorical journey. The point is: to set your heart on a pilgrimage is to set your heart on the journey. Both the end and the journey itself are significant.
How might my life be different if I were really setting my heart on the journey of moving toward God? If instead of looking toward the next big thing, or even being super spiritual and looking toward heaven, I were living in the now, seeing every solitary moment as important because it’s part of the journey? The good parts, the hard parts, the parts where I’m just brushing my teeth: not all seem worthy of glory or weighted with significance, but God can use all things as he is developing my character, to bring me closer to him. This is the pilgrimage.
Mostly, I’m a bad pilgrim. I wish away time, then miss it when it’s gone. I can’t say with certainty how a different attitude might affect even the smallest parts of my life. It seems that pilgrimming might be the way to squeeze every bit of joy from life, drinking it down to the pulp.
Are you a road tripper? A pilgrim? Are you more about the journey or the destination? Want to join me and embrace pilgrimming?
For more great thoughts on Psalm 84, come visit the Psalms Journey!