BY THE REV. ANNABELLE PEAKE MARKEY
This is the second in a series of posts.
Call me a downer, but I really love Lent! It’s partially because I love this contemplative time of reflection and the rich hymnody. But maybe it’s also because I identify deeply as a pilgrim or seeker.
I have always been passionately curious and have wondered what mysteries await on foreign shores or in distant lands. Fantasy stories and folk tales have captured my imagination and inspired my dreams for as long as I can remember.
With that in mind, the words of J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem make sense to me…
“Not all those who wander are lost…”
It’s in wandering, traveling, and exploring that I feel alive. But this pilgrim lifestyle doesn’t just emerge when we cross physical boundaries. It also has to do with the internal journey we make throughout our lives. It’s in asking questions, seeking, knocking (Luke 11:9-10) that I’ve been uncovering and discovering who God has created me to be.
I was not raised with any faith background and so coming to faith in Christ was a journey – a tale of being sought by him and of seeking to learn more about him. It is a story that is full of ups and downs, faith and doubt, joy and sorrow, dreams and fears.
As I continue to mature in faith, I continue to be reminded that this journey never ends. We are always wandering, perhaps seeking God, but more often in search of something we cannot quite put our finger on. It’s in that journeying, searching, and wrestling that we find out what our heart most longs for. In the words of St. Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
For a more contemporary image, think about Moana’s journey in the Disney movie Moana. In making a literal, physical journey she also finds herself on an interior journey, discovering who she is:
Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island
I'm the girl who loves the sea
It calls me…
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I've learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn't out there at all, it's inside me
It's like the tide; always falling and rising…
- “I am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)”
We may feel discontent or uneasy in our searching and wandering, but we are never lost. For as much as we may be seeking, God is always seeking us out and drawing us to Godself through the Holy Spirit.
It is in that confidence that we enter into Lent, journeying with Christ through the wildernesses and the landscapes of our lives, all the way to the cross. The invitation of Lent is to an inward journey, exploring where Christ is beckoning us to let go, to sacrifice, to grow in grace, compassion, and generosity, and to find hope and freedom in our true identity as people of the cross and resurrection.
This journey does not require a passport or tickets, or even a rental car. In fact, it bids us to lay down our baggage in order to travel light as we follow Jesus. We may not know where this inner pilgrimage will take us, what truths we may have to face about ourselves, or what we may learn. That may frighten us to the point where we wish to skip the journey and simply give up chocolate for forty days instead. But what if we were to take the risk and step out in faith? What if we echoed Martin Luther’s words?: “I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.”
Before I go anywhere on a trip, there is a sense of anticipation. What might I discover? Who might I meet? How might I be changed by this experience? And there’s always a quiet prayer: “may I be open to the presence of God in this new place, among new people, encountering what is different, foreign, and yet, somehow, familiar.” As we enter into the Lenten journey, may we enter with that same kind of holy anticipation, knowing that the place we stand is also holy ground (Exodus 3:5, Acts 7:33).
I leave you with this prayer attributed to another famous traveler St. Brendan the Voyager:
Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.
—The Prayer of St. Brendan
Blessings on your journey!
Annabelle has been serving as one of the pastors at Community Lutheran Church since October 2013. She graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with concentrations in ecumenism, Biblical Studies, and Christian-Jewish dialogue. She is passionate about tacos, travel, learning languages, singing, dogs, hiking, and crafting. Annabelle is married to wonderful Jeff and has an awesome dog named Hasper.