Seven of us were departing on pilgrimage. I was heading towards the east coast. Another brother was heading to northern California to begin his sojourn with Benedictine monks, while another was headed south to Oklahoma. So went the list of places each of us felt called seeking grace and discovering the ways God would call us to service. One might think we were full of the Holy Spirit, full of zeal to go out to the world. Perhaps in twenty more years I’ll have romanticized the past to believe it. Truth be told, anxiety and hesitation was mostly the flavor of the evening and early morning. Nervous laughter and longer glances at the clock brought closer the reality that within a few minutes or hours it would be time for us to walk out the door and start our pilgrimage. Although our one-way tickets were guaranteed it was pretty much everything else after that scared the confidence out of us. As the mind is want to do in these moments fears, doubts, and the realization that we have absolutely no control danced wildly, inflating the imagination to places not ventured. These are not necessarily emotions we experience on a routine basis. In fact, it is a daily routine that prevents us from stepping to the threshold and facing fear, questioning doubts and accepting that we may not have control…but we have faith in a God that does not fail us.
Two of us remained. We waited in the dining room having one last cup of coffee. This my other friend was someone I admired for his faith and deep insights on our theological beliefs. He was for me a strong man of mind and heart. So I was a little taken back when he placed his cup in the saucer, spun it left, than right. He pursed his lips then anxiously rubbed his chin before rubbing his hands together. I had never seen him so nervous. He quickly looked up and saw that I noticed. He smiled gently and then admitted quietly,”I’m so nervous. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” “Everything will work out fine, I’m sure.” The only reason I had the tenacity to respond that way was because of my morning prayer, during which, I came across the following passage:
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your request known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guide your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ” (Phil 4:6).
I spent extra time that morning re-reading this passage, memorizing each word, allowing them to spiritually nourish me for the journey ahead. Like a drip of water on a sponge I absorbed consolation and was equally consoled to be able to share it with my friend prior to our departure. This was no coincidence.
The unknown makes a pilgrimage daunting. Though, this is true about most everything in life. Inevitably we reach those two roads Robert Frost so eloquently wrote about. Whether it is the road most traveled or the one “that was grassy and wanted wear” the journey must continue. Depending on the circumstances of life and the prayerful discernment we’ve made, it is comforting to know that whichever path we take the peace of God is but only a prayer and a petition away, and from there one foot in front of the other as He guides us onward.