Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (–Acts 9:3-6; NRSVCE)
EXPECT A CHANGE …
Few of us (fortunately) have ever had an encounter with God like the one Saul had on his way to Damascus. Nevertheless, there is a lesson in Saul’s encounter that applies to all of us:
When you encounter God, expect some changes in your life.
COMMON CIRCUMSTANCES …
Let’s look at some of the circumstances most common to a person who encounters God:
- Passion — a time in life when the person feels pressed to make a decision or to move in a new direction.
- Past — a willingness to leave the past behind and experience a new, unknown future.
- Present — an understanding that “now” is the time. A sense of immediacy. It’s now or never!
- Pilgrimage — a road or travel experience is common. On a mission outside the normalcy of daily routines.
ENCOUNTERS AND PILGRIMAGES …
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but it does address some of the more common elements. The point to be made is:
Encounters with God go hand-in-hand with pilgrimages.
The reasons people go on pilgrimage today are not unlike the circumstances many Bible characters experienced in their own lives. Let’s take a closer look at “pilgrimage.”
THE NATURE OF PILGRIMAGE …
There are several definitions of “pilgrimage,” but here’s our favorite:
An intentional attempt to encounter God,
requiring a step outside of the normalcy of everyday life
and a willingness to take a step in faith towards God.
- Intentional — the pilgrim almost always wants to draw close to God even to the point of struggling with God at times (Gn 32:24-32).
- Retreat — s/he steps back from the routines of daily life. In a sense, s/he begins to look for “victory in retreat” (Lk 10:38-42).
- Faith — s/he steps toward the spiritual or supernatural in faith (Mt 14:29).
IN SUMMARY …
While encounters with God are not always dramatic, they do almost always have life-changing results. If you think you’re ready for a life-changing experience, pray about going on a pilgrimage. Chances are, God has been preparing you, and you’re probably ready!