“We grow and become both by letting go and holding on, leaving and staying, journeying and abiding—whether we are speaking geographically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. A good life and the cultivation of wisdom require a balance of home and pilgrimage.” – Sharon Daloz Parks
I deeply admire Sharon Daloz Parks. She went to Whitworth (although much before my time) and worked in the chapel. The chaplain at that time was Ron Frase who she acknowledges in her books. When I was at Whitworth from 2008 to 2009, Ron and I were very close, spending most Wednesday mornings talking briefly about philosophy, politics, and religion over lattes before I would go upstairs and help Marianne with her computer. Parks went on to Harvard and studied with Kegan and James Fowler, two other important thinkers in my personal and professional life.
In her book, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams, Parks talks about emerging adulthood, what it means to grow and to be. The idea of journey is a commonly used metaphor. But as the quote above describes, the good life is not merely a journey away but also a coming home.
I’m reminded of another classic story of journey and homecoming in the Gospel of Luke. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus tells of a young man who prematurely demands his inheritance from his father, squanders it on extravagant living, and ends up broke and lonely working with pigs. He swallows his pride and decides to return home. Expecting to become his father’s servant, the young man’s father runs to meet him with a loving embrace. The father throws a party for his son and is overcome with joy. My favorite reflection on this parable is Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. Alongside Rembrant’s famous depiction, Nouwen unpacks these core human experiences of pilgrimage and home.
So, now I wonder: Geographically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually – where have I wandered? Where am I going? How long will I stay? Where is home? How long will it take to get there? What will I learn and who will I meet along the way? Who am I? Who will I become? To what end?