Getting Ready to Go
By Larry Duggins

Preparing for a pilgrimage is much like planning for an interruption of your daily routine. Who will cover my stuff at work? Who will watch the kids and make them practice piano and brush their teeth? Who will feed the dog and will they add just the right amount of broth to the kibble? Who will load the dishwasher and will they do it right?

Any time you prepare to be away for ten days or two weeks, it is a stark reminder of how you spend your days and how much of your day is spent in “busy work.” Preparing for pilgrimage is even more intense as you are often completely out of touch when on pilgrimage—no internet, no phone, no security blankets. That realization often causes people to reconsider whether it is even possible to go on pilgrimage—cold feet are directly correlated with the prospect of no screens!

Preparation then typically shifts to imagining all of the things one might need in order to survive on pilgrimage. I have been on pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland, over ten times, so at this point I am pretty certain that I will not need a fire-starter or a space blanket, but you would be amazed at the things that people bring along. Faced with the unfamiliar, imagination can run wild—I had better bring twenty pairs of socks in case it is cold and rainy and the washer does not work. Preparation stimulates reflection and uncertainty stimulates apprehension.

All of this is deeply tied to pilgrimage as a contemplative activity. The first step in living contemplatively is simply showing up—presenting oneself for an encounter. In daily life, we are often too busy or too occupied to show up, and we miss many opportunities to experience God because of it.

My friend Wendi was heading out to the car the other day on a mission to get something important done. As she walked down the sidewalk she saw someone sitting on the sidewalk under the shade of our awning. Wendi smiled as she walked past, and, as she walked on, she listened to the little voice in her heart saying, “That person needs to talk.” Wendi chose to show up—she turned around, sat down, and was present for that person—and she was still sitting there when I walked by ninety minutes later.

Wendi chose to show up.

She became the ears and heart of God for that person. She allowed her schedule to be interrupted in order to show up.

And that is a lesson preparing to go on pilgrimage can help us with. As we prepare to go, we review our schedules and find others who can step in to help us. We realize that there is very little that we do that only we can do. We find that the way we fill our time may have unexpected flexibility, which can lead us to the ability to welcome interruptions in our schedule—the interruptions that give us the opportunity to show up.

Preparation also allows us to assess what we really need, which is almost always less than we think we need. The process of culling away things we do not really need also frees us to welcome interruptions because getting stuff demands our economic resources and taking care of stuff demands our time and energy.

Preparation for pilgrimage allows us to encounter interruption and to shift our prioritization of time and activities and resources to welcome it.

Welcoming interruption allows us to show up, and showing up reminds us of the presence of God.

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • Make a list of what you did today—everything from emptying the dishwasher to driving home from work. Now, ask yourself, how did I show up today? Celebrate that.
  • Ask, “What can I do to prepare space in my life to continue showing up?”

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