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It's Not a Process, It's a Pilgrimage

The journey of life transformation is simply that – a journey. As I’ve worked with people to help them understand what spiritual fitness is, why they need it, and how to develop it, it’s important not to think of it as a process. Process isn’t the best way to illustrate the journey of building spiritual fitness and here’s why. When people think about processes, they think of organized systems that move a person or product from one point to another. Spiritual fitness isn’t organized so much as it’s organic. True transformation has to start with your inner self. It can often be motivated by outside circumstances in our lives, but ultimately it must come from within. That’s why it’s organic. It’s also why there’s no algorithm for transformation.

Let’s take church as an example. It’s not uncommon for churches to have their own transformation programs. Some denominations have classes you must attend, while others use community groups and Bible reading plans. The en vogue church term is “spiritual formation,” but if you’re old school, it’s discipleship or maybe you’re so old school it’s sanctification. Regardless of the term, churches implement these programs because they want to see their members grow in their faith and experience God in a deeper and more rewarding way. Here’s their challenge – every human being is coming to the journey of spiritual life from a different starting point. That’s a lot of starting points. So just because you get confirmed or you complete all six of your Growth Track classes, there’s no guarantee that your spiritual life is going to be any different. And that’s because I believe it’s not a process, it’s a pilgrimage.

In his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau defines pilgrimage as “a transformative journey to a sacred center full of hardships, darkness, and peril.” In other words, it’s the experience of the journey that leads to transformation. If you want transformation, you need to seek transforming experiences. And the ones that I’ve seen work best are the experiences you consistently integrate into your daily lives. Because believe it or not, you’re not going to see your own transformation. It’s the people around you who will see it. The way you’ve stopped yelling at every driver on the road. The peace with which you received the difficult diagnosis. The love that you reflect to other people who may not even deserve it. This is the transformation we were wired for when God created humanity. And the pilgrimage to discover who you are as the Spirit of God reshapes and refines you through hardships, darkness, and peril is totally worth it! See for yourself as you read about the Apostle Paul and his pilgrimage. I pray that we would experience freedom from the belief that spiritual transformation is a process. I pray that the grace we both receive and give on this pilgrimage to discover our purpose would truly transform us from the inside out.

Questions for Reflection:

What have been some of the most transformative experiences in your spiritual life?

Why do you think it's easier to see someone else's transformation and not your own?

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