When I first heard it, I turned to see who was addressing me, but all eyes were on the singer at the front. The voice seemed too articulate to be a thought passing though my mind. And the words…the words seemed so mundane. God’s call to me didn’t come with trumpets and prophecies of glory and fire. But rather, I heard a still small voice say, “The time is not yet.”
For the past year, I had been considering exchanging my dreams of filmmaking for a life of ministry. Leading a drama team and speaking at various local churches stirred a vision in me to cry out and call a slumbering church to renewal. Our pastor consulted me on seminary plans where I could pursue a life in ministry.
Now those plans began to fade as an understated voice let me know that “the time is not yet.” Somehow I realized that this was a call of renunciation. I was being called to let go of my ideas of ministry, to let go of my passion to a build God’s kingdom, to let go of my plan for the days ahead. The voice was calling me to pilgrimage.
The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84). As we begin the 40 days of lent, we remember this call to pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is different than an adventure. J.R.R. Tolkien distinguished an adventure from a journey as a “there and back again tale.” We head out on an adventure, we have an exciting time and we might even risk our lives, but at the end of the adventure we return home. But leaving on a journey means never coming home.
While a pilgrimage may seem like a “here and back again tale,” it is really a journey of renunciation with no hope of looking back. Jesus invited his disciples to pilgrimage and suggested “looking back” was not a luxury afforded to disciples.
During lent, we are reminded that the call of faith is a call of renunciation. In one sense, all of us really are “poor wayfaring pilgrims.” The Lord of glory calls us from the future, inviting us to let go and keep letting go and keep letting go. Abraham was called forth to leave behind the world he knew.
The ancient Celts set forth on pilgrimage as peregrini, searching for their “place of resurrection.” The peregrini were not driven by “wanderlust” but rather of sense of obedience. Leaving the homes they loved, they traveled across the British Isles and the European continent, setting up little communities of faith along the way.
In some sense, we still hear that same call of renunciation. We are called to search for our place of resurrection and establish communities of faith as we go. 22 years ago, I heard a quiet, non-dramatic call, “the time is not yet,” and today I still feel the echoes of that call shaking my body and mind.
As we growing older, the act of renunciation often becomes more difficult. We grow comfortable accumulating stuff. From books and clothes and trinkets to ideas and habits and attitudes. Every so often, the voice comes booming forth, “the time is not yet.”
It’s not time to settle yet. It’s not time to sleep yet. It’s not time to die yet. I wrote that last line because at the end of my kidney illness, I assumed the journey was closing and soon I would leave. But the Father gently said, “the time is not yet.”
Our little Spring of Light community started lent with this reminder. The fire in our beloved “Living Room” gave us the opportunity to step forth as pilgrims once again. We won’t return to that building but will step forward into the next world our Father is preparing.
Whether you observe lent or not, I encourage you to listen and follow the gentle prodding of our Father. No matter how young or old, He continues to gently call us forward into the fullness of His kingdom. As we stop to look at all we’ve accomplished or accumulated, he reminds us, “the time is not yet.”