The Courage to Return


The Courage to Be

By Andrea Lingle

You have met with something numinous, you have wandered along ancient footpaths, and you have looked out at the stars knowing that you spin through gloriously flung galaxies.

You have been a pilgrim.

And just like that, that which you have waited for is over. All the planning has come to fruition, for better or for worse. The final morning, the final prayer, the final walk, and you find yourself on a ferry with tears streaming down your face, wondering how you will ever go back to the mundane, the irritating, the real?

It takes incredible courage to go back. To be you once again. Pilgrimage can be an incredible moment of deep encounter followed by profound uncertainty. What if nothing changes? What if I just go back to where I came from and who I was?

What if it was all a magical dream?


What if that what you found so easily there—there, in that special place—is shimmering here too. What if what you have found is the courage to be who you are where you are.

As the train rumbles back along the track, the song of the track reminds us that while being away was a moment of transfiguration, to stop there would be to strip the experience of its meaning. The point is not to go up on the mountain with Jesus to meet with the glory of God. The point it to go and return—bringing both the glory and the God back to the dustiness of life.

To return is to insist that the glory, the magic, the numinous belongs among sticky doorknobs and unsorted mail. To be you: who you are, where you are, when you are is a an act of courage. It takes courage to go and experience and it takes courage to return, relinquishing fullness of the encounter to that which spoke it all into being.

“The affirmation of one's essential being in spite of desires and anxieties creates is the happiness of a soul which is 'lifted above every circumstance.' Joy accompanies the self-affirmation of our essential being in spite of the inhibitions coming from the accidental elements in us.” Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, p 15.

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • The contemplative stance invites us to release the outcome of our striving. Sit in a posture of release for three to five minutes of silence, focusing on the breath and the phrase, "I am here, Here I am."