Exploring the difference between taking a vacation and making a pilgrimage.

By Denise Bossert

One of my favorite Bible stories comes from the book of Ruth. It is the prototype for all faith travel. It captures the mysterious dynamic of the life-changing pilgrimage experience.

When one stands in Bethlehem and looks out over Shepherds’ Field, the stories rise to the surface and people of faith cannot help but stand in awe, remembering.

Standing there, you remember the angels who sang to shepherds in that field, announcing the Messiah’s arrival, but you also remember the things of the Old Testament: the fall of Jericho and Rahab who helped save God’s people. You think of her son Boaz and Bethlehem where he lived. Your mind goes to Naomi who left Bethlehem and traveled to Moab (Jordan) with her husband during a time of famine and settled there until her husband and both sons died. But mostly, you think of Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law. Ruth provides us with a glimpse into the mystery of pilgrimage, what it is, how it changes us, the gifts it yields.

After Naomi lost her husband and sons, she returned to Bethlehem along with Ruth.

Ruth’s words to Naomi become the mantra of every pilgrim. Ruth looks over her shoulder at what she is leaving behind, and then she locks her eyes on Naomi and says, “Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”