I am amazed at how little writing I have done since returning from the pilgrimage. With the daily writing that I stuck to almost religiously while riding, I thought I would easily keep up the same rhythm. I certainly had enough topics still to reflect on and share. But, if my soul yearned to write during those 74 days on the bike, now the yearning has been for quiet and reflection. There just hasn’t been much to say although I have certainly felt a range of emotions in the month since I returned.
Quite honestly, I just haven’t been able to apply any real meanings to the pilgrimage. People ask me to tell them about the pilgrimage and I can only say, “It is was really amazing and intense, but I am not sure what happened. I can feel that something happened, but I am uncertain about what it is.”
Yesterday I had breakfast with one of my colleagues who is wonderfully astute and intuitive. I love the way she listens and looks for the soulfulness of a comment in a conversation. As we talked she shared something that clearly clicked with me about an emerging picture of what this whole pilgrimage and post-pilgrimage is about. She said that this pilgrimage may be the way “God is asking questions through you.” That resonated.
What I told her is that if I felt like I was the only person who was wrestling with my sense of call and the role of ministers and church in our rapidly evolving communities, then I would just reserve my questions for the therapist’s couch. I would assume that everyone else is satisfied, secure, and at peace and that the healthiest thing to do is work out my angst in the privacy of the counselor’s office. But, I have sensed that I am not alone in my questions and underlying anxiety. I hear it from my colleagues, church members, residents in the community, and the people I met on my pilgrimage. I don’t think I am having my own personal identity crisis. I am convinced that I am just a mirror image of and a reflection of the general identity crisis we are all having in our families, communities, and society in general. The world has changed and we are trying to figure out who we are and what we believe about this new world we live in.
If I am hearing my readers right the real gift that I bring to this isn’t some new insight that solves the world’s ills or provides an easy 7-step process for church renewal. My real gift is simple transparency and emotional honesty. The daily log of my pilgrimage was essentially a window into my soul, my thoughts, and my emotions. It wasn’t always clean and orderly. In fact, sometimes it was rather raw and vulnerable, but it was an honest expression of the anxious wrestling I feel as a minister in this time of seismic transition, ongoing loss, and emerging spiritual forms.
The writing came easily during the pilgrimage. Since my return I have been in a fallow period where I can feel something growing in my gut and for which there just don’t seem to be words yet. At the same time I can feel the writing beginning to call me again. I just requested that our office print all of my blogs off with space between so that I can relive the experience, reflect on what I wrote and experienced, and begin a second stage of this pilgrimage. I am not sure yet what will emerge or what I am going to find. What I do know is that is has something to do with transparency. Reading my daily blog is going to elicit a whole new set of thoughts, emotions, and insights (if I am lucky!).
I like what my colleague said, “God is asking questions through you.” I don’t know if this is actually true (what an ego trip!). What I do know is believing it gives me more confidence that my transparency doesn’t just belong on the therapist’s couch. It belongs in the community where we can all wrestle with the questions together. It is true: I am having an identity crisis. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone. If I am the only one, the men in white coats are already on their way!