f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Pilgrim’s Progress

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, July 09, 2004

Pilgrim’s Progress

From Greg Wolfe’s essay, “Strange Pilgrims” in Image:
“The pilgrim may spend her life on the road, striving toward a goal that is never fully reached in this life, but she sees it ahead of her. And while the pilgrim’s personal experience is central, a pilgrimage is never undertaken in solitude. Pilgrims travel in groups; their shared memory and end form a bond of friendship that tests and unfolds the meaning of the journey. One false alternative to pilgrimage is the arrogant belief that one has arrived. But the other is wandering alone.”
Wolfe’s reference is both for those artists mentioned in The Life You Save... and also for those who’ve partnered and walked with Image for the last 15 years, but I think the statement is one that sums up very nicely the discussions being had in our context as well. In fact, there’s a lot of ways in which our discussion in a by-product of what Image is doing, has done, and will do.

What I’d like to spend a moment on right now is thinking through this “middle ground” that the idea of the pilgrim seems to inhabit. It resonates with me in a lot of ways mainly because I’ve been turned off recently by the absolutism I’ve seen so often in the church that prescribes one, and only one, way of thinking. We switched churches because I grew weary of being given answer after answer and never feeling invited to be part of the search for solution.

Wolfe’s notion of the pilgrim enchants because it enlarges the power and scope of the gospel and the life of faith. So often I think we hear “narrow gate” and turn it instead into a “narrow tunnel” once we become Christians, allowing ourselves only the slenderest of passages to creep our way to God. The vision of the pilgrimage keeps the gate a gate. On one side is the “freedom” of a life outside of God. On the other side is the freedom of a life in Jesus. I don’t claim there are many paths…but what about after the narrow way? How many paths exist within him?

At the same time, our need and reliance on each other is tantamount as well.

We are on our way. We are not yet there, but we are on our way. And this is what I have discovered. And this is what you have discovered. And soon, too soon, we will be there. But for now, we are on our way.

Happy Friday to you all.