The Lenten Journey: Pilgrim vs. Tourist

With the season of Lent beginning this week, we are starting a new series called The Lenten Journey. Over the next 40 days we will be providing resources that will encourage and accompany you in the weeks leading up to Easter. May you find greater peace with less this season.

An excerpt from unhurryUp! into Easter: A Lenten Pilgrimage by Paula Gamble-Grant

“Throughout the centuries, people have taken pilgrimages. Though they do so for various reasons, a deep inner compelling – a longing – for something bigger than themselves, drives them to take a step out of their normal routine and setting, to attain the nebulous “more” which beckons their souls. Historically, a pilgrimage has often been a very deliberate journey toward a venerated spiritual site. The point is not so much to arrive at the destination, as it is to be mindful of what the moments along the way reveal to you about God, yourself and your life’s purposes. Though a destination is in mind, it matters not if you make it. The purpose of such a journey is more about discovering, recovering and deepening the things of which hold great value in life. This happens as a pilgrim surrenders to what each day will bring.

Most tourists, on the other hand, will actually calculate every stop of the trip. Whole industries exist to help them map out the best routes, the best places to stay, to eat, to kiss and to find the cheapest ways of seeing it all etc. A tourist’s goals are to see the important places, perhaps join a tour to learn some interesting new tidbits, and to chronicle the trip with photos. Lots and lots of photos. Some tourists actually miss experiencing the trip by trying to capture it for a great memory.

When being a tourist, quite often the joy comes in accomplishing the agenda – seeing all the sites and saying, “Been there, done that.” Unfortunately, with such a mindset, any deviations from the plan (due to weather, illness, lost luggage, bad directions, or a hotel that doesn’t look nearly as good as the pictures in the brochure, etc) are cause for great disappointment – perhaps even declaring the trip a “failure.” Sometimes this attitude of accomplishment leads to an aggressiveness and pushiness – probably the distinguishing factor between a tourist and a pilgrim.

A pilgrim, on the other hand, has no agenda but openness. Though they walk, with intentionality, toward a destination, they do not necessarily know what the day will bring. They merely believe that whatever is given (bad weather, lost luggage, stubbed toes, a glorious sunset, meeting intriguing strangers) is worth receiving. Theirs is a journey of discovery, of trust, of opening up to something new, something more – not just externally, but within. A pilgrimage promotes a willingness to live with mystery in movement toward a destination – a willingness to believe that any re-routing is actually by a providential design. What will happen in the heart cannot be mapped, but a pilgrim trusts that what is given is exactly what is needful.”


  • as you read the description about a pilgrim – do any words or phrases evoke a longing in you?
  • Sit with that longing for a moment today and ask the Lord to grant you the grace to lean into that longing in practical ways in your ordinary life. (E.g Lord, grant me the grace to open to the new OR Lord, grant me the grace to trust your re-routing today.)

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