Pilgrim: a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.
In the summer of 2015, my husband and I traveled a thousand miles by car in Norway. We started in Bergen and zipped around the fjords, mountains, and through tunnels to end up in Trondheim. While traveling, we stayed in several AirBnBs. The last one was a modern farmhouse 50 miles from Trondheim. We were curious about two extremely weathered buildings on the property and found they were reserved for pilgrims who had walked almost 400 miles on the St. Olav Ways pilgrim trail route from Oslo to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
We conversed with one German pilgrim who confirmed that several wooden churches we had seen on our car trip were part of her journey. Ancient Christian pilgrim routes like St. Olav Ways have recently become more traveled – not just by Christians, but by those looking for some kind of spiritual experience.
Formal pilgrim walking journeys to sacred places are part of ancient European Christian history, but also include well traveled paths to shrines throughout the world. Some examples are the Temple in Jerusalem, the Kaaba in Mecca, Kumano Kodō in Japan, Machu Picchu in the Andes, Mount Kailash in Tibet, or Haridwar along the Ganges. Pilgrimage seems hardwired into human experience.
I’d like to think the following pilgrimage is one Christians should emulate:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1 ESV)
In amazing obedience to God, Abram became a pilgrim from Haran to Shechem and eventually the Negev – walking over 600 miles. Here’s another part of that pilgrimage:
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17 ESV)
The pilgrimage directions given to the prophet Micah and by Peter are not only about who to walk with but what to do and what to abstain from on the way:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (I Peter 2:11 ESV)
And, the writer of Hebrews penned a poignant reminder about the sacred destiny of Christian pilgrims:
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14 ESV)
Meditate on one of these verses as you go on a walk sometime in the next few days. Ask God to infuse that walk with his presence and give you a new perspective. Ask him to give you a way to make it a sacred journey. Here are perspectives from Arthur Blessitt and Ann Sieben who each have spent substantial years walking thousands of miles through many countries as Christian pilgrims.