Jasmine’s 33rd birthday was the next day. We were laughing and talking about the joys (and pains) of getting one year older, and she told me with excitement about her plans to celebrate with her daughter. But her excitement quickly faded as she began telling me about her upcoming court date. She had gotten into a car accident and was given a minor traffic violation that would mean she would have to appear in court.
For most of us this would be a nuisance, something we might liken to a speeding ticket. But for my friend it is much more. Though she has lived in Colorado for many years, Jasmine is not documented.
In the days before our conversation, she had been watching videos showing undercover ICE officers outside Denver court rooms grabbing undocumented people as they exited the court. Most of the instances she had heard about were not murder trials, but similar situations to hers. “One person was in court to get a protection order against her ex-husband. Now nobody is protecting her”, she told me. It became clear, as she talked, that a simple “I’m sure everything will work out” wasn’t genuine, and quite possibly not even true.
Jasmine has made arrangements for her daughter to be legally placed into the care of a couple we both knew, just in case she would be taken after her court appearance. She is in a desperate place, but speaks so beautifully about hope—a hope not easily attained through the layers of anger, fear, and sorrow.
Something about Jasmine’s story made me think about pilgrimage. Early Celtic Christian monks were known for being somewhat “out there”. Many of them have come to be known as Peregrini, a person who is on a pilgrimage without a destination—an inner pilgrimage. They would leave the land, family, and life they had come to know and love in faithfulness to God, who they believed was calling them away. This journey was often marked with sorrow, pain, and deep spiritual transformation. This seems to get closer to Jasmine than the image I often have of a person embarking on a pilgrimage—to walk the Camino, journey into the Holy Land, or visit a place of personal sacred significance. But still, something doesn’t quite fit.
As I talked to Jasmine I began to sense a third form of pilgrimage not captured by those who embark on a journey toward a destination or those who willingly leave without a destination in mind. This third form of pilgrimage is captured beautifully in the Christian narrative which inspires the season of Lent. The biblical account of Jesus moving into the wilderness for 40 days and nights is slightly (though profoundly) different between Matthew and Mark’s Gospels. In Matthew’s account, Jesus is gently led into the wilderness. In Mark’s he is forcefully driven.
That’s the nuance I felt as I talked with Jasmine. She was not on a pilgrimage where she knew a destination, nor was she on a pilgrimage that was her choosing to embark on. Instead she now finds herself on a tumultuous journey through the wilderness—a journey she would never have chosen.
That’s the nuance I felt as I talked with Jasmine...
she now finds herself on a tumultuous journey through the
wilderness — a journey she would never have chosen.
This is a part of the human journey. None of us will escape life without a forced wilderness experience or two. Still the invitation to pilgrimage is deeply seeded within our experience. We are invited to practice a deep awareness of our journey, to see ourselves as we truly are. We are invited to recognize and participate in the transformation we are experiencing while on the journey—regardless of how we got here. We are invited to see the presence of God in all of it. The voice of God expresses a deep and energizing Love for Jesus before both the gentle leading and the forceful exile.
Jasmine seems to have come to see her journey as something like a pilgrimage. She is not shy about telling you that she has severe anxiety about what might happen. She is not afraid to tell you that she is angry about the instability her daughter must now endure. The image of Jesus being driven into the wilderness with force feels all too true to Jasmine’s experience. Still, she believes that she is not on this journey alone—that God is ahead of her, behind her, beside her, within her.
For Soul Tending
Have you ever found yourself forcefully driven into a journey through the wilderness? In what ways are you invited to treat this journey with the intention of a pilgrimage?