In the past four weeks, I have been sent on a pilgrimage, a journey, a venture into the unknown. As I prepare for the Journey to El Salvador, learn from two religion courses, and develop new relationships, I have noticed a profound change within myself and my understanding of purpose.
For the first time, I have placed academics below relationships, I have explored new options for the summer, I have been led into spontaneous adventures and moments of learning from failure. I have seen myself struggle with the relationship between divine love and human love. I have found myself exploring liberation theology, beginning to understood the implications of social Christianity within a capitalist society. In short, I feel that my purpose is woven into my existence as a social creature; community is the breath of my daily existence.
But crucially, I must remember that I am on a pilgrimage. My faith journey does not end when I find a group of friends that bring me comfort – I am called to a deeper understanding of Eternal Love through all of my relationships. I need to realize that in some of my relationships, I express my insecurities rather than the wisdom of patient, all-inclusive love. Other times, I give in to my inclination to seek exclusivity, validation, affirmation rather than a life-giving connection. The walk of my pilgrimage, then, is a walk to borderless love, a path where I no longer feel the pain of social anxiety but I can truly open my heart to all beings. In this place of selfless love, I know I am centered in God. I become a dwelling place of the Spirit where connection is freely made and transformed.
However, this centering in selfless love often requires a decentering of the ego, as I am slowly realizing how deeply my ego lives by self-centered falsehood. My monkey mind clings for consistency where only change exists. Just when I think I have my life schedule controlled, unexpected callings throw off my self-centered mind. This mind creates patterns of judgement on facts of reality. To let the false self die, I must trust that all change is necessary and part of evolution. I must surrender my control over my own death. The cycle of birth-and-death is painful, yes, but I feel blessed to experience it with others as we lovingly support one another. No pilgrimage is without its moments of loss, which we continue to grow through by walking in faith.
Now, as I approach the season of Lent in light of this walk of faith, I feel it is crucial that I take time away from the culture-driven life to fully experience Christ’s peace through the growth. His example and call to “take up our crosses and follow him” is filled with a peaceful assurance of inner freedom. “Peace is within, do not seek it without,” as the Buddha writes. Peace brings me the strength to continue in my pilgrimage; it is the eternal well that waters my weary soul. It reminds me that God leads the pilgrim in peace beyond understanding, requiring trust in every small step.
It is my prayer this week that God plants seeds within quiet, intimate moments that give me authentic courage to be continue walking to Love even when I stumble. To be rooted in my open heart, to nurture connection without attachment, to give love without expectation of return. It is there, in places of selfless love, that I can truly be a servant, overflowing with God’s grace. This is the path of the pilgrim.
A poem for this semester’s journey:
“Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried,”
the Archbishop Oscar Romero writes.
We must follow our Lord’s command,
He and I, brother and sister in Christ.
The Lord has planted a seed within me
that from the heart’s depths cannot be shaken;
its fragile shell voices a strong desire
to surrender itself to God –
it knows it shall not be forsaken.
it tells me that it must buried with pain
rained upon with the world’s brokenness
to be broken open –
to be taken into the depths, the flames,
where God’s unceasing compassion
reclaims all struggling seedlings.
this seedling of faith
calls me to abandon
my self-righteous fear and control –
the castle of my comfortability,
and to lay myself upon the fertile ground
of unchartered vulnerability.
though i am afraid, i need that ground
of interdependent growth and relationship
to give myself to the covenant of Christ –
i need to dive in solidarity,
in the vitality of the communal Life.
i see the faces there,
faces of loved ones i have not met
yet i long to share in their stories
and to let my heart and my hands be One with theirs
as children of the Living God.
Those who dwell in God’s Kingdom,
they are servants with broken shells, willing
to sprout in patience, obedience,
and transformation, open to God’s tilling.
Now, i ask Thee, O Lord,
take me to the faces and places our world has caused pain
and open me to the flame of Your righteous heart.
Take me as a seed, now and forever,
so that I may be Your compassionate servant.
Set me aflame with the Light of Your Love. Amen.