Why I Said “Yes” to this Pilgrimage

It is hard to walk in the dark. If you’ve ever gone camping and had to use the restroom in the middle of the night, you know the challenge of walking over uncertain terrain to find the facilities. That’s when you’re glad you remembered to pack a flashlight.

The truth is, we’ve all been walking in the dark for the past two years. We’ve had to traverse terrain we previously had no familiarity with. And between watching the news about increases in COVID-19 cases, the spread of the virus, new lockdowns, separation from community, and so on, we’ve felt like we have set up our tents deep in the wilderness, and no one has brought a flashlight.

These last few years have been the most challenging of my life. Perhaps you can relate. Most of my life I have generally felt like I understood the direction I was heading, and had a clear sense of community, calling, and trust in divine leading.

In many ways the pandemic disrupted all of that. As a pastor, suddenly I was engaging my community through a screen. As a parent, I was worried about the health and safety of my children, whether they were in school in person or online. And as a person of faith, I wondered where God was in all of this disruption.

And the pandemic is only one challenging aspect of the past few years. In addition to the disruption to our sense of community and elevated fears of disease for ourselves and our loved ones, we’ve also endured deteriorating political discourse and economic instability.

It’s enough to make you want to zip open the tent fly and scream out: “God, where are you? Why did you bring us on this camping trip to begin with? Can we go home now?”

We long to go home to the world before the pandemic. Or before the current political mess.

But that home no longer exists.

We are experiencing a communal ‘dark night of the soul.’ And so what better moment than right now to tap into the ancient wisdom of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, who articulated so well what the darkness can teach us? Indeed, as much as we experience pain and struggle in any dark night experience, Gerald May reminds us that “the dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely.”

If you, like, me, are still coming out on the other side of all these things, and are still seeking to awaken to the lessons and wisdom of this season, then I hope you’ll consider traveling with our small band of pilgrims to the ancient streets of Avila, Spain. There we’ll walk the ramparts and roads that shaped Teresa and John, and uncover the spiritual secrets that reside in the interior castle of our lives. And together, we just might discover that the wisdom we gained in the dark night is exactly what we need to live in this new world.

November 11, 2022 by Bryan Berghoef
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