A SELFISH PILGRIM?
WINCHESTER to EXTON
Safely arrived in Exton. Really nice having Chris walk with me today… No complaining – just singing, lots of chat about zombies and Harry Potter, and general silliness. He did really well today despite a couple of blisters 🙁
Turning up at our hosts home and being given the choice of tennis, swimming pool or hot tub helped to ease things😀
Extract from Facebook post Monday 14th August 2017
Our journey from Winchester to Exton took us along the South Downs Way and we encountered several walkers and groups of walkers. This was the first time I felt like I was having to share my route with other people. I realised that I was in some way annoyed with this and as I reflected on it I came upon a question that had been on the edge of my mind for some time – Was it selfish of me to undertake this pilgrimage journey?
I guess the question has two aspects to it: ‘Is pilgrimage a selfish act?’ and ‘Was I being selfish doing my pilgrimage?’
So, I guess that the answer I have come to for both questions in ‘No’ and this is my reasoning….
No, I don’t believe that it is a selfish act for somebody to embark upon a pilgrimage, or to undertake any kind of faith, spiritual journey. I think that to say such an undertaking was selfish would be to say that it was selfish to take time out for a retreat, or for time of reflection or even for prayer. I believe that what all of these types of activity have in common, and what makes them valid options for an individual of faith, is that they are essential elements to discovering our identity in God. The Christian life is a life of discovery and a life of journeying. In an earlier reflection I wrote about the call of Jesus on His disciples to ‘Follow Me’ and if we are to respond to this call then we must, necessarily move or journey in order to follow.
It is quite possible, or perhaps even necessary for somebody to undertake their own personal faith journey without undertaking a physical pilgrimage. Some people may choose to do so through daily disciplines and others may simply not have the opportunity to take the time required for such an endeavour. Still others might be restricted from doing so due to practical, medical or circumstantial reasons, but they can still engage in the daily journey of following Jesus.
For myself – I believe that, whilst this 7 week walk from Land’s End to Canterbury certainly had very personal benefits, it also benefits those whom I seek to serve and lead in the church and wider community. By better understanding myself and learning more about my relationship with God. By facing and dealing with the burdens and challenges of life. By devoting what is really quite a short period of time to getting closer to God, I am convinced that I am better equipped in and for the relationships God has called me into. Better equipped to share something of God with others.
There were several times during the first 4 weeks of my journey when I questioned the fairness of leaving my children for the whole of the summer. When I questioned whether I was being selfish by not being around to share Ben’s anniversary with them, or to share Chris’s birthday. The best way that I can describe how I concluded my time pondering and praying about this, and time in the 12 months since, is that rather than being selfish I think I was being self-caring. There are times in our life when we need to make sure that we are taking good spiritual care of ourselves in order that we can take good spiritual care of others.
The photograph accompanying this reflection was taken in Exton Church. What I really like about it is how the tree, painted on the wall, seems to be growing out of the cross on the Altar. It reminded me of the promise that Jesus makes to us in Revelation 2:7,
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
If we stay rooted in Jesus and hold fast to the truth that is found in the Cross, then we will have eternal life. Staying rooted can be difficult in a world that works hard to distract us and confuse us with false truth and fake news. Taking and making time to devote ourselves to getting close to God isn’t a selfish act.