Guest Author: David Srygley
I Admit It; I’m a Trekkie!
This confession is two-fold. First, I am, in fact, a huge fan of the original series of Star Trek. As a teenager I modeled my life after Spock. Much to my siblings’ and friends’ annoyance, I even mastered the Vulcan nerve pinch, though no one ever actually passed out. Being much older now, I find that I should have focused more on the Mind Meld, especially now that I’m married.
The second confession is that I love mountain trekking. Not the tactical climbing (I’m a big coward), but the summiting of a 14,440-foot mountain peak. I love the hiking, the camp cooking, and the time with God in his creation. Trekking can help you define your relationship with God and his creation in ways that just can’t be done at sea level.
Okay, that’s not true. You can experience God anywhere. But trekking does remind me a lot of the pilgrimages of the mystics and other practitioners of spiritual disciplines, both within Christianity and without, who sought God in specific, holy places. A pilgrimage requires planning, preparation, and a purpose. You have to set your mind on the spiritual goal of the pilgrimage, prepare yourself spiritually, and set aside the time to plan the trip. Sounds just like trekking. You don’t climb to 14,440 feet without a little planning, a lot of preparation, and a specific purpose in mind. But that begs the question, can making a “spiritual” trek help us in our walk with God? I believe it can.
First, I should share my view of spiritual disciplines since I think a spiritual trek falls into that category. I view spiritual disciplines as a means of learning to engage the world on “kingdom” terms. Disciplines should help us assess all thing spiritually as spiritual beings (1 Cor 2:15). A spiritual discipline is any practice that helps a Christian reintegrate her faith into her daily walk.
However, a pilgrimage is often viewed as the journey to a holy place and, as such, tends to separate us from our “daily walk.” In this way, trek and pilgrimages are similar. When I climb to 14,440 feet, I’m not exactly taking out the trash or driving to work. But do we have to separate ourselves from our daily routine to find this “holy place” in which we can encounter God? Clearly not. When Moses encountered God in the burning bush on Mt. Horeb, what was he doing? He was commuting to work! He was walking a bunch of sheep to better pastureland (Gen 3). Yet, he encountered God. We must realize that any “place” can be as holy as that little piece of land on Mount Horeb where Moses encountered the burning bush. It was holy because God was there.
Since anywhere can be a “holy place” if we encounter God there, then we can take a trek anywhere over any length of time. This is the secret to a trek. It is a journey to encounter God. This point is critical in understanding a trek in the context of spiritual disciplines and spiritual disciplines as means of engaging the world. The old song, “Anywhere With Jesus,” has long alluded to this point. It doesn’t matter where you go; if you meet God as a result of your trek, you’ve succeeded!
An example will help. Perhaps I decide to spend the weekend helping at a homeless shelter and do so as part of a seven day trek, or pilgrimage. Day One I set aside to fast. Day Two I set out to read Scripture on serving others. Day Three I read Scripture about sacrifice. On Day Four, I go to the homeless shelter and do a pray walk around the facility and through the neighborhood. I meditate while there, asking God to give me understanding of the needs of the people. On Day Five, I might eat simple meals and abstain from luxuries, like TV, internet, etc. to help me begin clearing my mind of worldly noises and contextualize the needs of those I will serve. On Days Six and Seven, I serve at the homeless shelter, looking to be Christ to all I encounter–and to encounter Christ myself in the lives of others.
This, to me, is a spiritual trek or pilgrimage. I’ve made a spiritual journey to a place to encounter God. All along the way I’ve practiced a number of disciplines in preparation for engaging the world on “kingdom” terms. In fact, I would say that a trek or pilgrimage isn’t a spiritual discipline but is an intentional plan for incorporating several into a regular journey through life–regardless of the immediate destination and with a view to greater one!
Live long and prosper,
David Srygley is the pulpit minister at the Arlington Heights Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. He has served as a minister for over 20 years, including short-term mission work in Canada and Lithuania. Dr. Srygley also serves as the Provost for NationsUniverstiy®, an online university associated with the churches of Christ, and teaches a course on biblical spirituality. He recently wrote From Cloisters to Cubicles, a book offering a fresh perspective on spirituality and spiritual disciplines. He is married to Dianna, and they have three children.
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