How to Grow from Spiritual Pilgrimages
- Monday, June 11, 2012
Editor's note: This article is a report on the practical applications of Dr. James Emery White's new book, A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying Through the Christian Life (IVP Books, 2012).
All of life is a journey, and at any point in time you’re either moving closer to God or farther away from Him. Taking a spiritual pilgrimage – visiting a site that has played in an important role in Christian history – can propel you closer to God as you learn the lessons of His work in that place and incorporate them into your own life.
Here’s what you can learn from visiting some of the world’s many spiritual pilgrimage sites:
Learn how to be converted. When you visit the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, England, you learn the history of how famous Christian authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien converted to Christianity after spiritual discussions there. God intends for you to be converted just as they were: completely. As you grow to understand who Jesus is, devote yourself to Him completely so you can love Him with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Make experiencing God your top priority, invite God to work in your life, ask questions and listen for God’s responses as you pursue Him, and develop a strong character centered on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).
Learn how to be spiritual. When you visit Iona Abbey in Iona, Scotland, you enter what is called a “thin place” in Celtic spirituality: a place that is so spiritual that the boundary between the physical and spiritual dimensions becomes thin enough for them to merge into each other in ways that are powerful enough to change people’s lives. Take an honest inventory of your relationship with God and ask yourself how close it really is and how much time and energy you’re actually devoting to cultivate it. Invite God to break into every part of your life with His truth. Begin regularly practicing spiritual disciplines that will help you develop more intimacy with God, such as daily prayer and Bible reading.
Learn how to be led by God. When you visit St. Catherine’s Monastery in Mt. Sinai, Egypt, you experience the place where God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, getting Moses’ attention in a powerful way and then giving Moses important guidance. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located in the middle of a desert – a desolate physical place that is symbolic of the desolate times when you feel as if your spirit is broken and needs refreshing through a new encounter with God. Spend time regularly in solitude and silence so you can focus without distractions on really listening to what God may want to say to you. Keep in mind that God’s guidance comes through His Holy Spirit speaking to you day by day and even moment to moment, not through a one-time plan that looks far into the future. Follow where God leads you – step by step – as He guides you through the Bible, the godly counsel of other faithful people, and prayer. Record God’s messages and obey them by taking action whenever he calls you to do so.
Learn how to participate in community. When you visit The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, you learn the tragic history of how badly people can mistreat each other if they’re not committed to following God’s principles of how to live in community with each other. Decide to treat other people gracefully because God is constantly giving you grace. Be committed to your relationships and do your best to work through conflicts as long as others are willing to go through the process with you. Rely on God’s power to help you forgive people who have hurt you.
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