Tourist or Pilgrim?

Heath Davis, our pastor of Spiritual Formation, wrote this insightful article:

The Tourist
Growing up in a beach community in Delaware there were locals, and then there were the tourists. During the safe summer months when the sun was shining, the beaches were pristine and the waves manageable, the tourist saturated the seashore, like ants at a picnic.

Tourists are always associated by crowds, prime real estate and main attractions. The tourist carefully selects the times and seasons of his arrival through the grid of comfort and convenience. During November when the nor'easters stir up an angry Atlantic, the beaches are always bare and no tourist can be spotted. (To the local, November is one of the best times to comb the beach and visit the pounding surf.)

By definition the tourist avoids the tough, the painful and the messy.
Growing up I despised the tourist. I always wanted to buy that infamous bumper sticker in Delaware that read, "You've seen the beach. Now leave!" The tourist didn't truly know or love the land or the landscape. They simply consumed what they wanted and jumped ship when weather was less than ideal.

Now, that I'm older, I recognize my own tourist tendencies. In my ongoing discipleship, I want God on my terms. His terrain looks good during the mild seasons of blue skies and sunshine. But when trouble hits and the clouds start forming, I'm the first to look for a new place to set up camp. I want formation in Christ my way, at my pace and never at my own expense.

The Pilgrim
The metaphor that more accurately describes the life of discipleship is the pilgrim. The pilgrim above all else is committed to the final destination and gets there no matter how difficult the trek or what it costs. She keeps her eyes on that path which is most straight and direct to her destination and gives little thought to how narrow or difficult the way. The pilgrim does not waver or jump ship during the difficult times, realizing the reward that awaits her at the end.

Jesus was the ultimate pilgrim. He lived one stride at a time, constantly orienting his life in the direction of his destination. He was presented tourist traps along the way, yet recognized that quick-fix solutions and seductive escapes only impeded his progress on the journey.

Yes, Jesus is the true pilgrim. And he has been calling his followers to follow his footsteps ever since. The writer of Hebrews said it best: "Do you see what this means-all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running--and never quit! No extra fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in." (Hebrews 12:1-2, The Message).

Ultimately, we will become one of two kinds of people in the spiritual life: The Tourist or the Pilgrim. Like any journey setting out on the path with the right expectations and proper preparation is half the battle.

Are we producing tourists or pilgrims in our churches?


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