Since the early 2000s, Dr. James Thobaben has walked historic pilgrimage routes, such as Camino Primitivo, El Santuario de Chimayó, and most recently, Crough Patrick in Ireland and to Bad Wilsnack in Germany, but he has been on a pilgrimage his whole life. From his college days until now, Dr. Thobaben has been seeking to know more of God through the spiritual disciplines of scripture reading, prayer, fasting, and yes, walking pilgrimages.
Dr. Thobaben began his personal pilgrimage as a pre-med, biology major. Intellectually, he knew that Christianity made as much sense as any religion, but it wasn’t personal until one evening in the science building hallway. Here, like the Apostle Paul, he encountered God through intense light and sound, yet neither blinding nor deafening – more an utterly overwhelming awareness of the Person of God.
“I came to the conclusion that I had erroneously separated the idea of God as a caring God and God as Lord of the individual,” he said. “[In that moment,] those two merged.”
Pilgrimages, whether literal or in your spiritual life, aren’t quests for self-definition or discovery.
“The point of every pilgrimage, finally, is to arrive,” he noted.
Pilgrimages model Hebrews 12:1-2, which encourages us to get rid of the things that hold us back, live in a community of believers, fix our eyes on Jesus, and keep pressing toward the goal of Heaven.
“It’s supposed to be that way with your life, mine, too,” he said. “You’re supposed to be getting somewhere. You’re supposed to be able to look at where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going, and you should be able to discern that you are more Christ-like today than you were yesterday and that you will be more Christ-like tomorrow than you are today.”