The Norman Transcript

October 19, 2012

The pilgrimage

By Dr. Wade E. Smith
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Fall Break in Norman can only mean one thing — Oklahoma versus Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

This past weekend my family joined the throngs of Sooner fans on pilgrimage down I-35 for the annual Red River Rivalry. We stopped Friday in Marietta for a “Bevo Burger” and autographs from three OU Heisman trophy winners. We boarded the DART train early Saturday morning and arrived at the fairgrounds with thousands of Crimson or Burnt-Orange clad fans.

The stadium filled and the 50 yard line marked the dividing line between two colors, two schools and two states. Shouts of “Boomer Sooner” and “Texas Fight” echoed back and forth through the stadium. The bands proudly played their state songs, school songs and unveiled their state flags across the playing field. The emotion was at a fever pitch as both teams entered the field with high hopes of defeating their rival. The Sooners’ victory this year was decisive over the Longhorns, making the Fletcher’s corn dog and ride on the Texas Star that much more enjoyable. The pilgrimage to the Red River Rivalry game is a must for every Sooner fan. Have you checked it off your bucket list?

But, there is another pilgrimage that is more exciting and more important than even the OU-UT game. It is a spiritual pilgrimage with present-day and eternal impact. It is the pilgrimage that Noah took when God told him to build an ark and prepare for rain. It is the pilgrimage that Abraham took when God told him to pack his things and move to an unknown “Promised Land” at age 75. It is the pilgrimage that Moses took when God told him to confront Pharaoh and deliver the Children of Israel from their bondage. It is the pilgrimage that Jesus took when God sent His Son to earth to redeem His creation. It is the pilgrimage of trust, faith and belief in a loving God.

Pilgrimage is one of the best ways to understand life as a Christ-follower. Jesus invites all to be on pilgrimage with Him with the words, “Come and Follow Me.” The Christ-pilgrim learns to “walk the extra mile,” to “turn the other cheek,” to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and yes, “to love your enemy.” Jesus commissions His pilgrims to “go” into the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey His teachings. The Apostle Paul describes Christ-pilgrims as the workmanship or “poem” of God, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that they should “walk” in them.

Life is a pilgrimage. Each decision we make shapes our journey and the road down which we travel. How would you describe your pilgrimage? Are you simply “driving down I-35” checking things off your “bucket list” before you run out of gas? Does your pilgrimage look like a 30 car pile-up with little hope of ever making it to the next exit? Or, have you discovered the road to abundant and eternal life? It is the road that passes through Gethsemane and Calvary on its way by the empty tomb? It is the narrow road that promises forgiveness, grace and eternal love? Sadly, only a few choose this road. But, those who do find life and have it more abundantly — now and for eternity. It’s your pilgrimage, which road will you choose?

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