My mum sent me a picture this week out of her local paper. It was of me, sitting cross-legged in my Girls Brigade Uniform. Before I moved to the village of Saintfield (so called because St Patrick was supposed to have slept there on his way to Saul, Streull & Downpatrick), I had been in the Brownies. But I joined the GB when I was six & left when I was 14, and loved my time there, through all the parades, displays, competitions and services.
Each year we would have a special service, marching to the church along with the Boys Brigade. And we would often song the old song “To Be A Pilgrim.”
I read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress many years ago but I believe that key theme of carrying burdens that we don’t need to carry still has great truth. Anything that we choose to still carry from our past is too heavy, as is anything we do that is done out of duty with a heavy heart or resentment, or anything we do because of a belief that no longer fits us.
If you are on a spiritual journey, you will carry them until your eyes are opened to a different way of living or doing things. Then you are forever changed. These moments of change are sometimes unnoticed, arriving without fanfares – or sometimes, they can make you instantly laugh out loud!
Our willingness to grow, learn, change and continue towards peace, happiness and joy are what the journey is all about. THIS is what makes us all pilgrims of some sort – even when at times, we might not know where we are headed.
Poet Mark Nepo writes this:
“To journey without being changed
is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon.
To journey and be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim. ………
I, as you, consider myself to be a pilgrim of the deepest kind, journeying beyond any one creed or tradition, into the compelling, recurring space in which we know the moment and are changed by it. Mysteriously, as elusive as it is, this moment – where the eye is what it sees, where the heart is what it feels – this moment shows us that what is real is sacred.”