A Journey of Purpose:
Reflections exploring our deeper motivations
For many, the word “journey” invokes thoughts of travel and adventure. A change of scenery, physical movement from one place to another, the pursuit of a destination – these are all aspects of a journey. However, the concept of a journey must not be limited to a purely physical dimension.
one of the best allegorical examples of life as a journey was written by
John Bunyan in the late 1600’s. In The Pilgrim’s Progress,
the story is told of a man named Christian who is on a journey from the
City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Clothed in rags and carrying
a heavy burden on his back, Christian ventures out onto the roads of the
world. As he travels on his life-long journey, he is influenced by the people
and places he encounters along the way.
As alluded to in Bunyan’s book, the journey through life clearly
involves a spiritual component. This is often referred to as one’s
spiritual pilgrimage, which author David Kinsey describes as “…a
person’s journey from the world of the profane, or ordinary, to the
world of the sacred.” Just as in a physical journey, one’s spiritual
pilgrimage is marked by changes in landscape and specific encounters along
the way. It is a journey designed by God to take us out of the ordinary
and into a life of purpose and meaning.
To journey is not only to travel, it is to experience life. There is always something sacred waiting to be discovered, lessons yet to be learned, and unknown paths that remain to be charted. In living the journey, there is life brought to the journey. In Spanish, this concept has become the theme for our trip…“Viva El Viaje!”
“Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 NRSV
Having just graduated from college, we find ourselves at a point of transition.
Along with our fellow graduates, we are asking difficult questions about
the road ahead and our place in this world full of opportunity. What is
our calling? Where can we find fulfillment and joy? How can my gifts best
be utilized in a world of need? Standing at these crossroads, the options
appear to be endless; each path ahead begs for exploration.
This desire to journey also has its roots in something much deeper. There
is a degree of restlessness in our spirits…a hunger for more, a searching,
a yearning for that which we do not know. In dreaming, we are reminded of
the capacity we have to change our lives. To dream involves taking a step
out of the familiar and into the world of faith, challenge, and discovery.
the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus Christ called his disciples to
live in this way. For the first disciples, Simon and Andrew, the familiar
was their occupation…the boats, nets, fish, and water. In choosing
to follow Jesus, they left the familiar and chose to embrace the unknown.
They stepped out in faith into a world of uncertainty and new horizons,
and in doing so were richly rewarded. The familiar breeds a lifestyle of
apathy and stagnation; the unfamiliar, a life of renewed faith and growth.
Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery lies not
in discovering new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” A personal
transformation of some sort is inevitable on a journey such as this. Perhaps
it will involve a renewed appreciation for cultural diversity. Or a deeper
understanding of God and his movement in the world. Maybe a humbling look
at our own personal motivations and fears. Possibly even a new realization
or sense of call regarding our future. It is through transformation that
we discover ourselves.
It is important to remember, however, that personal discovery is not an
end in itself. In order to be of any value, our learning must have a transforming
effect on our thoughts and actions. As we embark on this journey, we do
not go only for personal growth and discovery. We also go to give, to share,
to listen. While an intensely personal experience, a journey is also a public
endeavor. An individual on a journey opens themselves and their experience
to those they meet along the way, in addition to those following the journey
from home. Being in this position of open encounter is a responsibility
that we accept with humility. On this journey, we pray that just as we receive,
we may also give.
writers have described travel as a search for beauty. In Traveler’s
Joy, Juliette De Bairacli Levy writes “…I believe that
this endless search for beauty in surroundings, in people, and in one’s
personal life, is the headstone of travel.” On this journey, we expect
to find many different forms of beauty in the world around us. Maybe it
will be experienced through watching a sunset across the mountains of Chile,
or seen in the warm smile of a young Palestinian child, or perhaps in the
joy of worshipping with believers in Bangladesh. Author Alain de Botton,
in The Art of Travel, reflects that “a dominant impulse on
encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give
it weight in one’s life.” Of course, the nature of beauty is
such that it cannot be possessed. As we experience beauty on this trip,
the most we can hope to do is to be conscious of it, understand why it moves
us, and then try to share it with others.
In summary, although this is a pilgrimage of exploration and discovery, we can never expect to understand all that we experience on the journey. Yet we will continue on in faith, believing in God and his plan for our lives. In the insightful words of Alain de Botton, “When divine wisdom eludes human understanding, the righteous, made aware of their limitations by the spectacle of sublime nature, must continue to trust in God’s plans for the universe.”
“He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts…” Mark 6:7-8 NRSV
local bookstores are full of travelogues and travel guides, each dispensing
pages of advice about how and where to travel. Much of the information is
indeed quite relevant and important to understand for those preparing for
a trip. However, for this journey we envision something very different from
what is commonly encouraged in such books. Being a pilgrimage of faith and
discovery, we find ourselves being drawn to explore the method of travel
that Jesus commanded of his disciples. It is a calling of simplicity, faith,
challenge, and ministry. Could this approach still be relevant to us today?
Such a journey is certain to bring with it a high degree of sacrifice and adventure. In a wonderful quote from Theophile Gautier in Wanderings in Spain, he describes this aspect of the journey:
“The pleasure of traveling consists in the obstacles, the fatigue, and even the danger. What charm can any one find in an excursion, when he is always sure of reaching his destination, of having horses ready and waiting for him, a soft bed, an excellent supper, and all the ease and comfort which he can enjoy in his own home! One of the great misfortunes of modern life is the want of any sudden surprise, and the absence of all adventures. Everything is so well arranged, so admirably combined, so plainly labeled, that chance is an utter impossibility…”
How boring our journey would quickly become without surprises and unforeseen
challenges along the way. Spontaneity and flexibility are essential; faith
an absolute necessity. Part of the difficulty in maintaining this mindset
is the reality that we live in a near-constant state of concern about what
will happen next. And so we create routines, make ourselves comfortable,
and pursue a lifestyle that makes us feel secure, thus minimizing the risk
of the unknown. On our journey, both body and mind must be kept in check,
else they do not allow our faith to grow and therefore prevent us from experiencing
true contentment and fulfillment.
Personal sacrifice is an inescapable aspect of the journey. In traveling,
we give up the luxuries of home… a soft bed, warm showers, delicious
meals. Our material possessions are limited to the carefully selected items
on our back. Friends and family soon become miles away, and we are no longer
afforded the privilege of everyday contact. It is at this point of separation
from all that is familiar that we truly begin to see the world around us.
Through desperation and brokenness we experience beauty and growth.
Joseph Dispenza, in The Way of the Traveler, writes that “At
the center of every journey are people…they are reflections of who
you are.” As the crowning jewel of creation, people not only provide
us with glimpses of ourselves, but also of God. Being mindful of this, the
people we encounter along the journey should be our focus and primary concern.
Through building relationships, giving to those in need, and serving the
people around us, we are able to spread the love of Christ. And as we give,
we in turn learn more about ourselves, our fellow citizens of the world,
and experience the joy of human diversity.
of the biggest temptations for any traveler is to concentrate heavily on
their destination. Unfortunately, in setting their sights too far into the
future, they fail to experience the present. In doing so, they miss the
true reward. What better way to illustrate this concept than through the
example of nomads traversing the desert. Spending their lives traveling
from place to place, they have learned the art of being present every step
of the way. For nomads, home is the journey. As we travel, we must be reminded
that the journey does not take us to a destination, the journey is our destination.
A key to experiencing fulfillment in the journey is learning the art of
reflection. In The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau explains that
“there is no such thing as a neutral act, an empty thought, an aimless
day. Travels become sacred by the depths of their contemplations.”
Our journey will undoubtedly be full of the mundane. However, even in the
mundane there are lessons to be learned and details worth examining. It
is often in the ordinary that true beauty is observed. According to John
Ruskin, “There is always more in the world than men could see, walked
they ever so slowly; they will see it no better for going fast…glory
is not at all in going, but in being.”
Thoughtful preparation is essential for a trip such as this. Many hours have been spent discussing and deliberating over our route, timetable, and other logistical details. But careful attention has also been given into shaping how we will experience this journey. In the end, it is the how and why that deserve greater attention than the where and when. As Douglas Adams simply and eloquently stated, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
“Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Psalm 84:5 NRSV
Some of our biggest questions regarding this trip actually have very little
to do with the countries we will visit or the people and places we may encounter
along the way. Rather, they have to do with ourselves and how this journey
will change us. What will the transition back into American society be like?
Will we struggle to find meaning in our everyday lives after such an intense
experience? How will our relationships with friends and family have changed?
Will this quench our desire to travel or merely add fuel to the fire?
at this stage of the journey we have no way of answering these questions.
It is only over time that the “threads” of the journey begin
to develop. Many lessons will be learned and experiences gained over the
coming year. Out of these several themes will gradually emerge…some
during the course of the trip, others not for months or years after our
return. As common themes begin to emerge, truths will be illuminated and
questions gradually answered.
Upon our return, the challenge will be to use the insights received during
our travels to view everyday life as a pilgrimage. In other words, our journey
around the world is a mere replica of the larger journey which is life.
It is through remembering this simple concept that we can learn to integrate
the trip with our broader life experience. In Pilgrim’s Road,
Bettina Selby reflects, “The journey was not something outside time
and reality, but an opportunity to look at the same realities from a different
angle and in a different context.”
In traveling, one must learn to develop a certain frame of mind for the trip. We plan to share our experiences as we journey around the world. Xavier de Maistre wrote a book about his experiences journeying around his bedroom. Regardless of the context or location, the mind-set remains the same. Receptivity, humility, flexibility, curiosity, and a host of other attributes are important for a successful traveler. In describing these traits, Alain de Botton writes that “the pleasure we derive from a journey may be dependent more on the mind-set we travel with than on the destination we travel to.” Using this insight, what new pleasures or discoveries might we find if we apply a traveling mind-set to our everyday life? Once again, our lives are a journey…maybe it’s time we started walking.
will the road ahead lead? What discoveries are to be made along the way?
How will the journey transform and shape us? There are many lessons to be
learned, people to be met, challenges to be faced, and experiences to be
had. We invite you to join us on this journey. As often as possible throughout
the coming year, we plan to keep our website updated with journal entries
and photos. There will also be space given for you to post your thoughts,
suggestions, reflections, or simply to say “hello.” We would
love to hear from you.
This is not simply Dave and Eric’s adventure. We are all on this journey together. As we step out in faith to pursue our dreams, we encourage you to do the same. There is much more to life than the comforts we often surround ourselves with. Perhaps God is nudging you to step into the unknown, to take a leap of faith. Maybe you sense a call to sacrifice something that keeps you from pursuing your own dreams. Or possibly you have a simple desire to view everyday life with a higher degree of expectation and significance. This is a journey of discovery and challenge. It is a journey of faith. It is the journey of life.
Centuries ago, Lao Tzu said, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Now it is our turn to begin the journey. Will you join us? Let’s live the journey together! Viva El Viaje!