Expecting God in Sacred Pilgrimages

“Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalms 46:10 (New Revised Standard Version)
     We have difficulty with stillness. Even spiritual pilgrimages tend to be planned in a manner that maximizes every opportunity in a brief period of time. The tireless pursuit of sacred locations can result in missing the sacred One who gives meaning to the locations we gather. Rest is regarded as indolence and relaxation as waste – waste of opportunity and waste of resources. The unfortunate result is the dawn of the season of mental exhaustion that stretches a long shadow as a bitter winter. The result is the same, little evidence of life. Movement from one place to another is marked by unhealthy speed and weariness. And the peril is that we do not realize the intensity when we are in it.
     When we are in the midst of a large city we do not realize how noisy the engine that drives it has been until we withdraw to a place outside of the city. We are not conscious of the roar and haste of life until we turn aside into a place of calm and quiet. The large number of people of the city, the flurry of activity and the roar and haste of life acts upon us like an opiate; draws our whole being, mind and body, into the relentless energy of the city until we are unconscious that we are distracted. This is the mesmeric influence in which some spiritual pilgrims move. The outside activity becomes obtrusive and the inside of things – the things of the heart and soul – become dim. The danger is that we miss the One we seek; we miss God.
     Perhaps that is why God speaks so clearly here, “Be still, and know that I am God!” The garden of our soul must be cared for, as the gardens of our homes, if beauty is to be found. The beauty of God is not found in the haste to gather every sacred place. The beauty of God is found in stillness. It is a beauty that stretches in large and broad fullness, embracing our whole being. It is a beauty that fills the ancient and sacred places with new life.
      The purpose of any spiritual pilgrimage is to connect with the sacred. Yet, unless the movement and gathering and experiencing all that each sacred location has to offer is brought under the discipline of rest, stillness and reflection all that will be found is evidence of spiritual energy that once was. God’s desire is that the eyes not see only what was once present in these locations. God desires that in stillness and quiet meditation we see clearly and strongly the very presence of life in the present moment. With careful planning and considerable haste we may gather a large treasury of sacred places on our spiritual pilgrimage. But here in this text, the Psalmist calls upon the soul to contemplate the manifold glory of God. That requires that we be still.

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