Our formation and the world’s restoration requires followers of Jesus to wear out the tread on our shoes.
Let me explain….
For the first half of my life, my formation occurred almost exclusively within sterile academic environments. A student with insatiable curiosity, I was well adapted to the practice of learning about people, their places, and their pain. Shod with slippers and from a place of comfort, my books, articles, blogs, seminars, conferences, and instructors taught me how to efficiently and accurately (or so I thought) diagnose problems and offer what I imagined were sure to be mutually beneficial solutions.
And then I took a pilgrimage out of the sterility and into the lives of those I had learned so much about. It was there that I discovered how minimizing my formation to learning about was not only nearsighted…it was dangerously inadequate.
In short time, I recognized that learning about had blinded me to my own entrenched theology and ideology and how both were contributors to the unjust systems around me. Learning about had kept me insulated from the traumatized human beings who are caught in the wake of conveniently broken systems and distanced from the Jesus who dwells among them. This narrow learning style had focused my attention on developing solutions rather than building relationships and had reinforced in me an arrogant, hero-mentality.
It was the pilgrimage I took from what was comfortable to what was real that caused me to lament, trade my slippers for hiking shoes, and expand my formation beyond learning about to learning from.
As all formation is, the journey was (and still is) painful, awkward, messy, and so rewarding. It’s in the experiences of intentional displacement that I’ve been most significantly found and formed by our Immigrant God. It’s through the moments of embodied solidarity that I’ve learned the extent to which my quick diagnoses and well-intentioned yet premature solutions have accelerated the pain and disempowerment of those I’ve sought to serve. It’s within the context of uncommon friendships that I’ve recognized the extent to which my freedom and flourishing is intrinsically linked to the freedom and flourishing of others.
In the adventure that is following Jesus, I’ve worn down the tread of multiple pairs of shoes. Along the way, I’m finding myself in places I’d never anticipated, I’m loving and being loved by people I could never have imagined, and I’m spending my life teaching others how to enter the adventure and wear out some tread of their own.
A bit more of my tread will be left on the trail this weekend as I walk a portion of the El Camino del Immigrante. The Camino is a 150 mile pilgrimage from the wall that separates Mexico and the United States in San Diego to the great city of Los Angeles. It’s a walk in which we declare solidarity with the men, women, and children all over the world who are on the move from violence and debilitating poverty toward flourishing. It’s a sojourn through which we simultaneously confront the injustice of our current system and call for the reform of our broken immigration policies.
I walk for those reasons…but I’m not walking it alone. I’m walking with Ava, my eight-year-old daughter.
My prayer over her is that through this pilgrimage, she would continue to become a woman with a passion for dangerous followership, immersive discovery, uncommon friendship, and humble courage. In this moment of her young life, I want her to experience how the practices of intentional displacement and embodied solidarity are the very best expressions of our faith. I long for her to be a globally formed follower of Jesus who understands that her flourishing is connected to the flourishing of children on the move from all over the world.
So, together, Ava and I are lacing up our shoes and laying down some tread along the Camino because…
…we’re committed to the practice of learning from.
…we’re declaring embodied solidarity with our migrant brothers and sisters in our own neighborhood and around the globe who are taking perilous journeys.
…we’re desperate to ever be found and formed by our Immigrant God and activated as instruments of peace into the world He’s making.