Micro-pilgrimage leverages physical movement for the purpose of connecting to and/or getting closer to God. Ordinarily, pilgrimage describes a significant journey of weeks or maybe even months. A micro-pilgrimage is a much shorter journey over the course of a day, maybe a few hours, or maybe just an hour.
In 2 Kings 19, when Elijah has fled to the desert, he essentially comes to the end of himself. He’s exhausted, scared, hurt, anxious, disappointed, disillusioned, depressed, and convinced that there is no path forward but his own death. We often skip right to the end of this passage in which Elijah gets direction for what’s ahead. However, we miss the very practical, very physical path Elijah takes to get there. Elijah not only eats and sleeps but he goes for a very very very long walk. You might call Elijah’s walk (or hike or climb as I’m almost certain there were mountains involved) a pilgrimage. Elijah dedicates a significant amount of time – 40 days and 40 nights – to his pilgrimage, which may not always be feasible in our lives. Hence, micro-pilgrimage. In micro-pilgrimage, we integrate a run, walk, or hike into our day or week.
One additional tidbit worth noting is the connection between Elijah’s very long walk and his ability to discern the voice of the Lord. Studies have shown that heightened physical movement lowers our stress level, boosts our mood, and reduces anxiety and depression. If just 30 minutes of exercise a day can do that, imagine what 40 days of walking can do. One could argue that Elijah’s very long walk ultimately opened his mind and heart to discerning God’s still, small voice.
Step 1 | Prepare: Either the morning of or the evening before, prepare yourself to listen for the voice of God. Sleep well. Eat well.
Step 1a | Psalm: Read a psalm. Twice. Notice the word or phrase that stands out to you. This is the word or phrase you’ll hold during your run/hike. Don’t overthink the Psalm; read in order (Psalm 1-150) as you run/hike or utilize the lectionary to read the Psalm for the day. A few options include: Psalm 8, Psalm 19, Psalm 23, Psalm 28, Psalm 30, Psalm 37, Psalm 39, Psalm 46, Psalm 51, Psalm 62, Psalm 63, Psalm 92, Psalm 100, Psalm 121, Psalm 130, Psalm 139, Psalm 144, Psalm 147.
Step 1b | Question: Discern a question to hold as you run or hike. This could be a question that naturally arises within you or one of these options…
- What is God inviting me to surrender?
- Where is God inviting me to persevere?
- What is God inviting me to see?
- What/who is right in front of me that I keep missing?
- What do I need to confess?
- What do I need to forgive?
- What do I need to give myself permission to grieve?
- What pain point do I need to trust God with?
- What is the source of my greatest fear or anxiety right now?
- Where do I need to grow in humility?
- What am I grateful for?
Step 2 | Path: Choose a delightful path or trail. This could be something familiar or a new and exciting trail.
Step 3 | Prayer: Offer the run, walk, or hike along with the word, phrase, or question back to God.
Step 4 | Presence: Run, walk, or hike at a comfortable pace. Instead of trying to think or mouth words to God, allow your mind to simply focus on the word/phrase or question as you go. It’s okay to be quiet. It’s okay to not over-spiritualize the experience. It’s okay to simply take in what you see and/or be present to what’s happening around you and in you. There’s no need to force anything so much as simply hold the word or question God has given you.