A number of us recently returned from the inaugural Tau Retreats. They were held in the wilderness off the coast of Panama. One week was for laity and one for clergy. Overall they went really well and I learned a lot from my first formal attempts to guide people on transformative journeys toward shalom, using wilderness as a primary power for change. I can't wait to tell you more about these retreats in the weeks to come, and to share details of our next planned retreats both domestic and foreign.
For now, I simply want to share the Introduction to the bespoke pamphlet I wrote for our guests on pilgrimage with us: Shalom Steps. Writing new spiritual-journey guides that interact with each retreat's unique environment and culture is a gift I intend to keep offering. For now I also intend to keep them proprietary to each retreat. I only made 15 copies and don't intend to make more of this version. But you can sneak a peek below. Enjoy and be well.
Life is best lived as a pilgrimage, a journey toward a sacred destination in which every step is significant, every moment and experience integral to our transformation. Pilgrimage transforms us, which is its key difference from mere travel or vacation. On pilgrimage our attraction to the promises waiting at our destination helps us to open up to all that might happen on the way, to allow ourselves to be remade by the unique particularities of the paths that guide us.
The sacred destination we choose matters. Are we seeking the ancient shrines of Mammon or Ares, of Security or Individual Liberation? The genius and power of any sacred destination is that inevitably their paths shape us into their image as we travel. They prepare us to be the kinds of persons who will be welcomed upon our arrival and fit in with all the other pilgrims and citizens of that place. Set your heart on Money or War and as soon as you set foot outside your door you will begin the slow transformation into a greedy or vengeful person. This process is simply built into the laws of the universe, the rules of the road. So we must choose our destination carefully, and choose it again each day lest we wander aimlessly into the camp of any number of enemies to our best and deepest nature.
We were made from and for the God who is shalom and so life is best lived as a pilgrimage toward shalom, an intentional journey in which every moment and experience are integral, because every step of this journey – even the most painful – is significant and welcomed as the means of our transformation. The journey, with God and his companions as our guides, can make us a people prepared for shalom.
But what is shalom? Cornelius Plantinga writes that shalom is “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means uni- versal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
We were made by the God who is in his nature shalom: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in perfect eternal embrace, interplay, and exchange, three and yet perfectly One, who made all things out of the overflow of Trinitarian love and generativity. The God who is shalom made the cosmos, this planet, you, and all people and creatures to dwell with delight in him, in his shalom, in the kingdom of God here on earth, a treasured place and existence. This is your true source, your original goodness, your image in the mirror, your deepest self; it is your origin and your destination; it is the home you’ve wandered away from and for which you long to return.
A return to shalom will implicate and involve every atom of the universe, every cell of your body, every thought of your heart, all relationships human and beyond, and even the vast wildernesses around us and within us that we find to be dark and mysterious. Be of good cheer, though. The Father stands on his porch looking for you, his Christ has come to show you the way to life, and his Spirit has been given to you as a compass and guide. He has promised to bring you home. Jesus’ first words to his disciples after his resurrection were, “Shalom be to you,” and, “Shalom I leave with you; My shalom I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”
But there are no shortcuts to shalom. The word “travel” is from the word “travail,” which means “a painful or laborious effort.” What follows in this field guide are the fruits of my own efforts at mapping the road, some of the steps that have guided me a bit closer to shalom. There are seven of them, one for each day of this week and every week when you return. They are structured in order, both chronologically and existentially. That is, they are also a process or a movement; the map of a journey from prodigal pig-sty to our Father’s home, and then perhaps back out again when we are sent as his emissaries to bring more prodigals home with us. These steps are arranged linearly but also as a chiasm, a mirroring pattern and pilgrimage with “Return” at its center:
Paul promised “The shalom which lies beyond the borders of our understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He also wrote, “May the Lord of shalom Himself give you shalom at all times and in every way.”
Shalom is the mystery of the Christ made manifest. When we all finally arrive home together there will be full shalom, for Christ will then be fully revealed. In us and to us and to the cosmos. May you journey well and find the peace of Christ. May you come home. And may these seven steps toward shalom help you along the way.