Pilgrim Steps

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  • Practicing the presence of God

  • A Family Advent Activity

  • Journey into our Community

When I first began attending AL anon, I heard a phrase that really confused me, and pissed me off at the same time. It is the phrase “You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.” “I AM NOT!!!” I screamed in my head. My life was NOT going the way I wanted it to go! People around me had disappointed me. I had disappointed myself. I was angry and blaming and afraid. How could this possibly be where I was supposed to be? Didn’t God expect better things of me? How did God let this sadness happen to me?

The next time I attended a meeting, an “old timer” explained the deep understanding behind this phrase. “It’s not that God wants you to stay where you are for one second longer than you need to, but you cannot move forward until you accept where you are, and prayerfully look around for what God wants you to learn from your current location. Then you will be ready to move on.” “Oh,” I said, “that is not going to be easy.”

One night, hours after the sun had set, there was a group of smelly, dirty shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem watching over their smelly, dirty, and not very smart sheep.

Maybe some of the men had lain down on their blanket to catch a few ZZZs. Others may have been complaining about their lot in life, or simply discussing the weather. Or even worrying about the dangers that seemed to lurk in the dark night just beyond the light of the fire. WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN… “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them.” The Bible tells us they were TERRIFIED! “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.’” Talk about being in the RIGHT PLACE! These shepherds were just going about their ordinary (not so great) lives when they were: 1) scared out of their minds, 2) shown the very glory of God. But have you noticed…

This seems to be exactly how God often works.

We find ourselves in places we would rather not be. We complain. We get mad. We become afraid. And then we are invited to look up and see God at work. Their vision of Almighty God, right there with them on that Holy Night, changed everything for those bleary-eyed shepherds.

All of a sudden, they were wide awake and wanted to be part of what God was doing. “When the angel had left them, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” You may not think you are in a good place. You may not want to be in your present situation, but the phrase is true, “You are exactly where you’re supposed to be” so that you can look up and see God working His miracles all around you.

I can think of so many times in my life when I thought an event was very bad news, but the turn of events shifted things to make way for the most wonderful blessing, something much more important, much better. So, the trick is, when I encounter what I am sure is a disaster, to recognize it as God’s Way for me, and that something better this way comes. Or, at least be open to the idea and be on the lookout for such blessings.

This is the faith that is somewhat easier to experience as a pilgrim. Being a stranger, having only to walk and to pray and seek God in others; these things allow me to accept that I am walking God’s Way, not my own. This is the essential part of being a pilgrim… that I strive to be mindful of at home.

CKPC Member and Camino Pilgrim Julia Carpenter

This Week's Scripture: Luke 2:8-20

Listen with your imagination to the story of the Shepherds.

Follow the link to participate in this week’s “Pilgrim Steps”: