A Pilgrimage or Migration?

“Maybe what fills us (our loved ones, our work, our hobbies) migrates much like the geese. Maybe we’re like the Canadian geese and return each year to the same ponds with the same friends. But maybe we’re like the snow geese and continue to extend our limits. Maybe we’re a hybrid of the two. Maybe, like migrators in the spring, we chase the frost lines in our souls and wait for a summer day.” — Arla Poindexter

Sometimes, I write poetry. Writing carries me into my truth. I actually wrote a poem about writing poetry once:

I name thee…

Song of my soul. I name thee bearer
Of truth, my truth, my words
Narrating my life, telling my story,
Guaranteeing my version is heard.

Only here, only now, only in this vessel,
From words will my dreams create

My reality of hope, healing, happiness, will
Yearnings for more begin endings.

Song of my soul, you seek memories
Of tomorrow, multiply yesterdays,
Unexpectedly seduce me with kisses.
Lingering joy.

(December 31, 2007)

Perhaps the elusive memory of that poem — one I’d nearly forgotten — drew me to Arla’s words over and over. Chase the frost lines in our souls … wait for a summer day. Or maybe it was the poetry of the words themselves. Chase the frost lines in our souls … wait for a summer day. But I suspect they resonated because God was using Arla to touch my life with her insight yet again.

I have been feeling old. Very old. Lay down in a coffin and bury me old. For days and weeks, I have been feeling like garbage, worthless, disposable. I have been remembering the resilience of youth, when every obstacle, every adversity, was just temporary. I believed — deep down, under the stormy surface — I would overcome and, eventually, find myself in a less vulnerable, more stable place.

That did not happen. And now, at an age when my contemporaries are enjoying retirement, I am starting yet another job, hoping to get through the six-month probationary period, so I can work at least five years to get vested in the retirement system and maybe beyond that so that my Social Security benefits will be higher — if Social Security still exists in seven or eight years. I am tired by the end of the workday on Wednesday and exhausted by Friday.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve spent my whole life chasing the frost lines in my soul without ever finding summer. I was chitchatting with God about this on my way to work this week. That’s our morning routine. I drive for an hour, talking to God, and he throws in his two cents now and then — usually as a feeling or thought or impression, something clearly not coming from the same place as my monologue.

This week, a Scripture verse popped into my head during one of these chats: “Take nothing with you for the trip, no walking stick, no beggar’s bag, no food, no money, not even an extra shirt” (Luke 9:3, GNT). Since then, I’ve been mulling over my life in terms of being sent. What if my life was never intended to be about the destination, but about the journey?

That’s not original, but it’s also not the prevailing message of our culture. And, I suspect it’s not a part of our genetic code. We want to be connected to others, we want to love and be loved, and create stability and community. We want to belong and be valued. We want roots and security and happiness. Our forefathers believed so strongly in our “unalienable right” to pursue happiness, they wrote it into the Declaration of Independence. For most of us, independence is achieved through financial security, which is the prevailing message of our culture.

But what if God wrote something different in my DNA? What if I have been sent? Not necessarily sent to do great things, but to simply do good things? What if my role in life is simply to journey with others for a short time, lightening their burdens and helping them to get their second wind? If that’s the case, maybe I’m not so much disposable as available. And maybe, just maybe, instead of measuring all the ways my life failed to meet my hope and dreams, I should consider what I have gained from the path trod and what I still have to offer.

Abraham’s wife Sarah and Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth both were fruitful late in life, when they were past the age when anything was expected of them. That could very well be true for me, too, and the journey may well have been a pilgrimage to that holy place. At least, that’s what I am thinking this morning.





One thought on “A Pilgrimage or Migration?

  1. As I read Mary’s poem, I am drawn to the word “hope”. Instantly, I reminded of my friend Katie’s (also Mary’s daughter) screensaver when I first met Katie: “hope brings new beginnings.”

    What is hope? I hope for so many things! I hope I get some inspiration for a blog comment; I hope for world peace. I hope my friends and family are well; but I also hope I get a nap tomorrow. Has the English language really summed our belief in a better future into a 4 letter word?

    Mostly, I picture hope like the sun poking through the fog. But after years of living in South Dakota, I’ve learned that’s not always how the fog leaves. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it rains for days. Sometimes, it gets too cold for the humidity to stay in the air. Sometimes the wind blows the clouds away. Othertimes, the fog leaves overnight.

    Hope can be like that too. Maybe we walk through the muck and the mire, until the day we look up and its not foggy anymore. Maybe that’s why Jesus asked us to “take nothing with us.” Maybe we’d slip on the slimy ground and push our own walking stick through a vital organ. Maybe He knew that our extra shirt would just get soaked along with what we were already wearing. But maybe the lesson is to look for “hope”. Maybe we’re supposed to hone our independent skills. But, then again, maybe Jesus wanted us to build our interdependence on each other.

    Two or more travelers are safer together than they are alone. Mary talks about walking with others and encouraging them on her way. Mary has certainly done this for me many times. When I first moved to central SD, Mary was one of the first professionals I met. She became a mentor to me, helping me get training and encouraging me to practice my skills. After our professional lives diverged, Mary still mentors me and encourages my personal growth and my skills growth. Had Mary not invested her time and energy into walking with me on my path, I would be stuck in a ditch somewhere. I wish I could say I returned the favor, but that’s grossly inaccurate.

    We aren’t all traveling to the same place. One person’s destination is another’s starting point. One person’s jog is another’s crawl. We don’t have to understand anyone’s path (even our own!) but we do have to respect the journeys. The next time I start to judge someone’s pace or direction, I hope I remember to be like Mary and walk along side.

    Liked by 1 person

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