‘The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts’ Proverbs 20:27 (ESV)
Sometimes we catch a hint of divine presence when we least expect it. We recall a time when God’s grace was evident, overflowing the limitations of our experience. These moments of encounter offer consolation, but they are primarily a challenge to open the door of the heart more fully to humility and love.
It moves us closer to God, marked by communion with Him, losing the self in a state of oneness with God. We stay in touch with His flame of love within us, whether warmth can be felt or not.
His flame of love grounds us in the truth of who we are, the person God calls us to be, and charges us with the energy to share our love with others. Our question now becomes, “How am I called to integrate my authentic self into the world?”
Contrary to what many think our soul becomes much more occupied than before with everything pertaining to being a servant of God. Our spiritual experience becomes a dual focus. One direction of the focus is inward. The inward journey is my effort I put out in order to “meet” God. The other direction is our outer expression and a willingness to carry God’s torch in humility and love. Something I need to learn too.
Even if I am graced with this inward experience, I cannot hold it or capture it. At some point the experience begins to recede and my normal life resumes. Life cannot be lived inside at the altar. However, life can be lived “from” that altar. And this anticipates the outward pilgrimage.
So, for me I have adopted the phrase “Inward Journey and Outward Pilgrimage” to define my spiritual experience dual focus. A pilgrimage is an outward journey that marks an inward one.
I like the language of pilgrimage for outward focus. Pilgrimage is more specific than a journey or a trip. A pilgrimage typically has a religious intent and, ultimately, religious content. A pilgrimage is purposeful. The destination normally is a religious destination. But this does not mean the course of the pilgrimage is uneventful.
The thing with pilgrimage is that there are both physical and spiritual aspects to it. Books tend to address one or the other, but when a person goes on a pilgrimage that involves travel, the idea is that this physical travel will reflect a spiritual journey. Traveling does more than lead us to the goal of the journey. A journey is itself a process that enables us to grow and develop as we press on to our goal.
If the inward journey is about experience, then the outward pilgrimage is about expression of that inward spiritual experience. The outward pilgrimage is the “outward living from the spiritual centre.” The pilgrimage is not just about destination; it is about day-to-day.
Although I talked first about the inward journey and, then, the outward pilgrimage, they are not sequential. Rather, they are simultaneous. Experience is simultaneously expressed in the pilgrimage. And the spiritual expression fuels more encounters at the amazing inner sanctuary of the soul. Both exist in tension and intentionally. They are the two halves of the spiritual whole person.
Periodically it is well to ask about our spiritual growth and development. We can ask questions from either the journey or pilgrimage perspective. But we do well to remember that one leads to questions about the other. There may be seasons in which one – the journey or the pilgrimage – seems to be more important or in ascendency. But over time the need to be in a healthy balance.
For many of us living “normal” lives in our little world, the outward part might be more often the focus. We are trying to live a good life. We are caring, fair, reasonable people. We want to live a life helping others, avoiding as much sin as possible. But we can be unaware or forgetful how important the inward journey is. If we travel that inward journey road, our outward expression will become easier, deeper and more consistent.
As we live out our dual focus our spiritual experience takes on a divine quality that will forever remain ingrained within our minds as a definitive moment in our lives. Inwardly we experience that moment of the Divine. Outwardly we sense God is in this place, and the place that we are standing is indeed holy ground. In the process of all of this we are transformed and become different people.
The true spiritual life is a dual trip: inward journey and outward pilgrimage.