At the beginning of August God invited me on a pilgrimage. A journey of saying goodbye to some things and moving towards other things.
It started when the Spirit invited me to stay off of social media for a whole month.
I love social media. Instagram in particular has brought many amazing friendships into my life and strengthened friendships that are distanced by space. It has provided inspiration and opportunities. But God kept calling. Tugging at my heart, “This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but you need to set it down and walk away from it for awhile.”
So I committed to one month away.
And it was harder than I’d like to admit.
Here’s the thing though, what God was really calling me to wasn’t just giving up social media for a time. What he was asking me to give up was fragmentation.
My focus is so often scattered between many things. My attention is held for only small square instances. My heart is fractured, scattered, constantly jumping from one little thing to another. I consume in short fragments. I create in short fragments. And I think that will not effect the ability of my heart to focus on God and seek first His kingdom. But, the truth is it does.
For one month I committed to pilgrimage, to leaving the fragmented consumption of social media (and my life in general) and moving towards something different. I went for long walks. I sat in meditation for long periods of time. I read long form books. I wrote until the whole of a thought had been worked out. I picked up a paint brush and worked on the same painting for a whole month.
During the month God kept giving me an image: The still center of a turning wheel. Inviting me into that still center with him.
Something happened during that month. It was hard. There was lots of shedding and letting go, and lots of tears. But, slowly something began to shift in my heart and in my life. There was peace, an assurance of God’s presence, and most significantly an assurance of God’s deep LOVE.
Here’s the thing about pilgrimages though, eventually the pilgrim has to go home. They have to enter back into the life they had left. Those who go on pilgrimage are not exiles, they are not slaves, they are not expats or foreigners who leave their country for a new one. Pilgrimages, these holy journeys of renew and growth, end with the traveler returning home new.
They return back to the same place and find that they are different.
The place is still the same, but they have changed. And perhaps that is the hardest part of pilgrimages. Returning home and trying to hold onto the change they have found, the holy shifts they have undergone, while still re-entering the work God has given them and the places at the table He has set for them.
Now I find myself on a new journey, the journey of not just being with God at the center of a still wheel, but being with God in the center of a turning wheel.
The saints of old (and even Jesus himself) would often pull away, draw away for focused time with God. But, for most of us God does not call us to stay there, he calls us back into work and life, families and responsibilities. He invites us into quiet, focused, un-fractured times away with him, so that we can learn what it is to be with him in the mist of our fractured and busy lives.
And so my invitation now, the question I sit with now, becomes how to steal away with God in daily life. How do I stay centered and whole in the midst of activity and movement, and the noise of social media and modern community? How do I hold peace and long focus in the midst of a life that may remain fractured and unfocused?
I’m not sure I fully have an answer yet, just a prayer.
Lord, as the world presses in and demands my attention in all different directions may your Spirit pull stronger.
Invite me, call me, pull me away with you often.
Lord, hide me in the center, hide me in your peace.
Remind me often of your never changing presence, the same in the quiet of stillness and in the noise of work.
You are never changing, always with me, always extending your peace and love with open arms.
May I receive.
In the ever present name of Jesus, Amen.
Bethany Stedman is a woman learning to trust. She is married to a loving husband who happens to have an aggressive cancer. She is mother to a daughter with cerebral palsy and an active little boy who keeps her on her toes and on her knees. She is a woman who is learning early how to bow to a God who is sovereign and good. She blogs about life with God and all of the ups and downs that entails at www.bethstedman.com.