A Song in its Own Time: Pilgrim House
Looking back over the last few years and celebrating the milestone of opening up Pilgrim House, we think about this quote:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Laozi)
Beautiful, right? You’ve all probably been there, where you’ve had a huge task to accomplish, a long hike to cover, or a business/ website/ ministry to start, and you’ve had to just take the first step. The quote is so motivational and inspiring! Just do it!
The problem is, of course, that you still have to take those other 1,999,999 steps! Blaaggh!
A few days before Pilgrim House opened, our sweet Wheaton College interns asked us how how it felt to be finally at that point. In answering them, we realized we actually weren’t surprised we were about to open. Our team had been intimately acquainted with every single step we’d taken to get there, and while we were definitely excited, we were also exhausted and thinking, “It’s about time!” In fact, we wished we could have opened sooner. Sometimes I still thought, “Lord, why did it take so long?”
Recently, the words of Treebeard* have been encouraging: “But there, my friends, songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.”
The last part of his quote hopefully doesn’t apply to us so we’ll focus on the first part. I’m encouraged because looking back, I see that the Pilgrim House song has been sung this entire time. In other words, if we were to sing a song about Pilgrim House, it would go all the way back to the beginning, not just the first day Pilgrim House actually opened. Some of the fruit came when we opened, but I’ve realized that the journey has made the song. The song has come from the journey.
Maybe it’s always like that – you don’t just talk about a couple the day they get married, but you talk about their whole relationship and story. Or you don’t just talk about when a church had its first public service, but you talk about the very first small group of people that met together.
The story for Nate and me started 19 years ago, when Nate took his first backpacking trip to Europe with Wheaton College. A year later, he went again, and I was on his team that year. Our teammates will have different stories of how God, over time, planted things in their lives that eventually brought them here to Spain. Our team is a convergence point of different journeys, yet in this moment we get to work together on Pilgrim House.
Our friends, Jim and Sharon P., finished the Camino in June and gave our Wheaton interns an impromptu orientation session before the Wheaties headed out on the Camino. One thing they said was that when they crested a hill, they always looked back to see how far they’d come. It was a moment to celebrate their accomplishment, instead of continuing to trudge along, head down, ready to drop.
So in this moment we look back and remember how the Lord brought things together to allow us to open up. If He hadn’t done it in the ways that He had, Pilgrim House wouldn’t be as strong as we believe it is now: from how the team formed, to how we got our location, to plowing through all of the paperwork, to the waiting, to planning all of the details, God has done some miraculous things (and I don’t say that lightly). It’s been deeply faith-building to watch this song get sung. One wonderful thing is that even the hard times of waiting will be only a verse or two in the entire Pilgrim House song, and even opening up will just be a small part. There’s still so much of the song to come as, God willing, Pilgrim House keeps going and bears more fruit in its time.
* Treebeard is an Ent, a talking tree-like character in The Lord of the Rings. His motto is, “Do not be hasty.”
Speaking of Lord of the Rings, Boromir said it best in the first movie: “One does not simply walk into Mordor.” The closer we got to opening Pilgrim House, the punchier our team got from the stress of an enormous to-do list, and we made up our own quote: “One does not simply walk into Santiago and start Pilgrim House.”
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