I’ve never traveled across the mysterious wall of China, walked through the ancient streets of Poland, or even pilgrimaged to the home of my Celtic forefathers in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I have not seen the land some call holy because it is ground that Jesus walked upon, or spent a silent retreat among the Orthodox monks in St. Anthony’s monastery, or even toured the stunning cathedrals of Europe. And I may never do any of these things.
Just because I’ve never traveled to these and other exotic places doesn’t mean that somehow my life has been incomplete. There is more mystery and wonder in the person at my side than all the wonders of this world combined. The question is, “Will I ever truly face that person and behold the wonder?” Or will I rush past them on my way to the next exciting destination, or the next big event, or the next educational degree?
Will I ever pause long enough to lift my wondering eyes in gratitude and praise for the glory that surrounds me, or will I simply continue striving to find the next place or thing or experience that will somehow make my life complete?
By soaking in the poetry and other writings of my Celtic fathers, I’ve come to see the value of place. As Bobi Jones says, “Come, breezes breath, that I may praise the places I have loved so dearly, a nook here and there…” I could learn more about the glory and wonder of my Creator by contemplating the little dogwood in my front yard than by traveling around the world.
The Celts were not against pilgrimage. In fact, they encouraged it! But they pointed out that you cannot go to Rome to find Jesus if you don’t bring him with you. And this is the fundamental mystery with which we strive.
We strive and struggle and search for things and experiences that will give our lives significance. But traveling the world or earning multiple degrees will not make the half-hearted man whole. I wonder how often our lack, our emptiness, or our longing for significance fuels our ministries, our studies, our pilgrimages, and even our relationships?
Jesus tells his friends, “Abide in me, rest in me, dwell in me.” He did not tell them to achieve this and that, build this and that, accomplish this and that and soon you’ll feel like your life means something. He reversed it: rest first; abide first. Realize that significance comes from outside yourself, from the unending lovingkindness of the Creator. His superabundant love gives us value and significance.
As I come to realize that place I am standing is holy, then I pause from my fruitless pursuit for importance. In this rest rooted in God’s grace, my actions are no longer motivated by taking (taking love, taking power, taking significance) but on giving. I can act in love—both when all eyes are upon and when no one notices me.
This frees me to be completely present in the moment—whether I’m mowing the lawn or exploring the Russian countryside.