Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Pilgrim

Written by: on September 21, 2020

I’ve failed.

My conversation with the Seeker replays over and over again in my mind.  Their parting words cut to my core: “Until others can grasp what you say, knowledge is useless.  Knowledge may be powerful, but if it is not properly wielded it is simply useless strokes on a page.”  Fury rises in my heart and soul.

How dare they question my authority?

How dare they question my life’s work?

How dare they question who I am?

People have followed me and come to me precisely because of my authority, of my life’s work, and of my identity.[1]  I AM THE EXPERT.  In a fit of rage, I sweep the books off of my table, sending them flying across the room.

I am the Expert.

 I am the Expert.

I am the Expert.

I am the Expert.

 Slowly, my anger dissipates, leaving me empty.  What will the others think?  The Seeker is right: If others cannot grasp my my knowledge, what good is it?  I look around at my life’s work, at the vast collection of knowledge and wisdom that surrounds me.  Have I been betrayed by my own understanding?

A knock at the door snaps me out of my spiral.  I stare at the door blankly.  Knock knock. “Go away!” I bark.  “Leave me be!”

The knocking continues.  I cover my ears, trying to block it out, but the knocking pierces through my ears and into my heart.  I cast an angry glance at the door before storming over to it and jerking it open, the rusty hinges squealing louder than ever.

Before me stands a gray cloaked figure, the hood pulled low over their face.  “Who are you?” I demand.  “Have you come to mock me as well?”

The figure shakes its head.  “I have heard that the Experts of this city are welcoming to the Pilgrim, are they not?”

I snort.  “You’ve lost your way, traveler.  There is nothing here for you any longer.”

The figure pauses.  “Perhaps.  Or perhaps it is you who has lost your way.”

My nostrils flare as the words strike me.  “What did you say?” I ask, my voice cold and flat.

“Once you were like me, Expert: A simple Pilgrim on a journey to answer the questions you sought answers for.  The pursuit of knowledge and wisdom is not found in locking oneself away from the world, but rather in the ever constant journey of discovery.”

“My journey ended long ago,” I reply.  “I’ve learned all there is to know.”

The Pilgrim shakes their head.  “Not all, only that which you deemed worthy of knowing.  Tell me, you have absorbed so much knowledge over your life.  But have you questioned it?  Or have you taken it for what it claims to be?”

I pause.  “Have I questioned it…?”

“A great teacher once said, ‘Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.  Do not believe in traditions just because they have been handed down for many generations.’[2]  You have consumed, but have you digested?”


“Expert, your Pilgrim’s journey has not ended.  You have found identity in the power and titles of your station.  While your certainty is to be commended, you have lost your way in the comfort of your knowledge.”

I gaze around at the tower of my making.  The exquisite beauty of it stirs my heart and calls for me to resume my place in my armchair and to banish this fool.

“Expert, leave this place.  This tower of your own making has poisoned and crippled you.  It has stunted your sense of adventure and wonder, for there is a world far greater than that which you can create.  Expert, if you will, join me once again along the Pilgrim’s Path.”

Could they be right?  Has my creation harmed me rather than helping me?

 The Tower calls to me, telling me to ignore the Pilgrim.  You’ve worked so hard; why throw it away?  You’ve earned this.

As I stare at the Pilgrim, the sense of discontentment rises in my heart, growing ever stronger as I look around at my domain.

Is this truly what I have been Seeking?  Or is there something more?

 “Journey with me, Expert.  It can begin with one step.”


The Mysterious Traveler #mystery #mysterious #spooky #cloak #traveler # hooded #hoodedcape #darkness #darkart #paranormal #crows #ni… | Dark fantasy,  Fantasy, Dark


[1] Steven D’Souza & Diana Renner, Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity (London: LID Publishing Ltd, 2014), 72.

[2] Buddha, quoted in Steve D’Souza and Diana Renner’s Not Knowing (London: LID Publishing Ltd, 2014), 77.

Image taken from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/781444972819777152/

About the Author

Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

11 responses to “The Pilgrim”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    For the past few months, I have been fascinated with the concept of pilgrimage. I gave a sermon on it last month and continue to unpack what it means to live on pilgrimage, to be a pilgrim in this specific land I inhabit as well as the larger world.

    I just watched a video regarding Progressive Christianity and how it is “Another Gospel.” As I listened to the speaker’s words, I noticed that regardless of which end of the Christian spectrum we land upon, your words ring true- “you have lost your way in the comfort of your knowledge.” The women in the video both were certain that Progressive Christians are heretics, destined to burn in hell. The one being interviewed does apologetics, and claimed to research church history for her upcoming book. She noted how dangerous this new age Christianity is, as its filled with mysticism and dominated by experiences with God as opposed to being rooted “in God’s Word.” Makes me wonder if she even studied the mystics of the early church, the desert father and mothers that were sought out for their wisdom from God gained through their experiences with God? I didn’t agree or disagree with the content shared, but I do I think we cling so tightly to our comfortable paradigms that we miss the nuances that lie within and without.

    To be a Pilgrim is to take a journey, discover, and be transformed along the way through surprising and holy experiences with God. Many pilgrims say it is more about the journey than the destination. One of my favorite poets, TRH Blue, concludes her poem Holy Ground with “Maps don’t lead to holy ground.” It takes courage to step off the map’s edges, or out of the tower, or out from behind our “But clearly God’s Word says…” What is the Expert most afraid of? What does he think will happen when he steps out the front door of his tower? What will he find? What will he lose?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      The idea of pilgrimage has been on my heart lately as well (would love to see some of your sources; still planning to look at the link you posted in the Facebook group when I get a minute).

      I think the idea of transformation itself is one that’s terrifying. With transformation comes a honing or loss of something that we’ve held as valuable to ourselves. The journey isn’t one to be romanticized; it’s painful at times, but it’s also filled with joy as growth occurs. When the blinders are taken off and we take those first steps, we may not like what we see. In the end, however, I believe that it’s worth it.

  2. Greg Reich says:

    It is fun to see how your creative side it showing itself. The concept of pilgrimage is an interesting one. By definition it implies a destination in mind. A pilgrimage is more than seeing the sights and looking for hidden treasure. It entails a form of sacred soul searching looking for answers. Not all answers have the same value and not all answers can be categorized cleanly into ones belief system. There seems to be a level of give and take with every pilgrimage experience. What are things worth giving up and what things worth taking? Do all experiences and knowledge have equal value? What becomes the foundation basis for choosing between the good and bad parts of the pilgrimage experience? All pilgrimages lead somewhere spiritual but not all pilgrimages lead to the God of the bible. I have found the need at times to access what I am experiencing and learning on my current pilgrimage. So far I think there has a been a maturing of my spiritual convictions, a solidify of my view of the value of scripture and deeper need for the grace of God. I have taken one some new ideas, rejected others and left a few behind. How would you accessed your current pilgrimage?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Greg, when I pick a word or theme for the pilgrimage that God has had me on, I would say it’s “Identity.” Coming to an understanding of the Self and what that matters not just to me, but to God. Perhaps this is an eternal pilgrimage because we’re always discovering new things about what it means to be us.

      However, as I reflect on that, I can see the various Waypoints along the path. I can see where I stopped and “built my tower” on the “Good Church Boy” identity. I can see the tower I built and the pride I took in being an INFJ (the statistic that it’s less than 1% of the population that constantly pops up made me feel special). I can see the point of being from Kentucky and the point of being learning about purpose in Hong Kong contrasted.

      But I can also see the ruins. I can see where past identities no longer have ivory towers or have collapsed in on themselves. I can see where I got comfortable and how some of those identities needed to be eliminated to truly grow.

      Pilgrimage may have a destination in mind, but sometimes when you think you’ve arrived you’ve only discovered there’s still more to go.

  3. John McLarty says:

    What’s the benefit to being the expert these days? A former reality TV-star-turned-politician- proudly and frequently boasts of his expertise on all subjects, disregarding those who have spent their lives perfecting their various professions. Anyone with an internet connection and an opinion can become an instant “expert.” Your post reveals more and more that wisdom is not in the accumulation of all knowledge, but in the willingness to stay on the journey.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      It’s both fascinating and terrifying that in this age of skepticism, no one seems to care if you’re an expert. Truth has become so relative for people and every figure of authority is questioned for what they say (even when they have physical evidence, it still seems people aren’t satisfied).

      I see so many of the people I grew up with posting on social media about how this is better than that or that is better than this because blah blah blah. I can’t help but wonder where they get their information from. The problem with self-made instant “experts” is whether or not they have the ability to discern what’s true and what’s not. At the same time, that’s also part of the process. But when we don’t engage the other side, we’ve built a tower and refuse to continue along that journey of discovery.

  4. Jer Swigart says:

    The wise sages that have invested into me have heeded the invitation of the Pilgrim in this story. Rather than erecting edificies in celebration of their brilliance, they seem to embrace each new learning as a portal into more learning…more discovery…more adventure…more relatioship. It seems that their focus, perhaps even their passion, is not a destination to arrive at, but a journey to be present to.

    Dylan, what do you think will awaken the experts back into the wonder of the pilgrimage?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I think one thing that could wake them is a renewal of desire. This could be realized in several ways – seeing others continue along the path, realizing that their knowledge or expertise is incomplete, the excitement of someone new beginning the journey…

      Though any of those could be wishful thinking. I don’t think they would necessarily have to hit rock bottom to begin the journey anew, but I think pilgrimage starts with a discontentment with where one is at the time. It’s a journey that’s paradoxically willing and unwilling as one wrestles with oneself along the way.

  5. Shawn Cramer says:

    Story is powerful as it hightenes the experience of a single word. For me in this piece, the word is “digest.” You nuance, highlight, and expound the meaning of a primal and biological function to something of richness, something profound, and something that invites action. Great job risking in this prose.

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    I loved the closed door.

    And, then the opening of the Expert to the heart of the pilgrim. Knowledge and communication. It seems the Expert has regressed. Ah, I see it now. The Tower, like a building? And, he has his little office there and a desk to do all his thinking at? Not in the game and a tad pouty about it? Struggling to keep the status of The Expert while keeping safe, out of harms way, un-reaching, unreachable, anxious…

    I wonder. What are the ages of the characters? What do they look like? What are they wearing?

    So many questions, bro! You have me dreaming here and, pressing in.

  7. Chris Pollock says:

    “sweeping the books off the table…”
    Love the action of that. Done-ness. The answers aren’t there!

    ‘Have I been betrayed by my own understanding?”
    That is one funky thought. Aren’t we all at times? I don’t know. I sense this is a question that arises within, one of sweet evaluation in consideration of the possibility that one has been duped by themselves, one’s own understanding?


    Money, willingness to walk the road according to its arrows, ability to adhere to structures…

    …is this what makes one a doctor of something or other?
    …or, could it be that there is a depth of care inspiring to greater depths? (the humility of a seeker, challenging structures?)

    Here’s to the question and to the odd ‘sweep’.
    Thanks Dylan.
    Extra thoughts, eh.

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