“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”
~Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk
The inward journey. No one can run with you. There is no crowd to cheer you on. There is no one there to pat you on the back, to dab your brow or to offer a cool drink of water. No one is there keeping time or setting the pace. There is no finish line in sight, no pre-measured distance to run. It is not a relay race and consequently, there is no one to pass the baton to. Instead, we must run this race alone and in our own strength. The distance that we travel is ours alone to decide. Christ stands at the end of the road, reminding us that He has traveled this path and that He is waiting for us. There are no immediate and physical rewards for this race. And much of the territory that you cover, putting hurt, bitterness, rejection and anger behind you, you won’t desire to share with others. So, why continue?
We continue this journey because of who we are on our way to being. This pilgrimage is to the new self found only in Jesus Christ. Some of us only have a hope, a promise. Others have received a vision, a glimpse of a freedom that we need to receive, a truth that we must embody, a relationship that we need to possess. Our model is Jesus Christ and we have received a message. And it is this word that cheers us on, that dabs our brow, that refreshes us.
But, if we allow the road to become the goal, if we become satisfied with movement alone, then we become nothing more than nomads. We take a trip to Africa or to a urban area and expect it to change us. But, a change in physical location will not bring about inward change. The place is no substitute for the process. Yes, the children of Israel wandered but God was bringing about a change and no step though repeated, no place though revisited was without purpose.
Secondly, if we let the appearance of change become our goal, if we would rather look like we love and accept all cultural groups, then we are mere chameleons. Changing according the environment is an exterior change. When we change our clothing and speech because we are about to enter a different environment or we become associated with people and involved in causes of social justice because it makes us feel good about ourselves not because we feel that it is the right thing to do will only benefit us externally.
In order to progress in this journey of new life in Jesus Christ, we must change, not becoming what is expected or wanted, but becoming the person that we need to be, that we have to be. And if we know the way, if we know how we are going to look in the end, if we know how the people around us are supposed to look then we are not pilgrims but tour guides. So, which one are you?