Part 1: Travel As A Pivotal Experience

Abram’s call in Genesis 12: 1 is a classic example of travel and change, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” In answering the call to travel, Abram, and the world, were never to be the same again. 

Travel fosters change and can lead to a pivotal experience. Really, even a trip to the grocery store can become a pivotal experience, if one is paying attention Paying attention means to approach each moment with a sense of curiosity and a desire to understand. One can resist the experience (bitterly complaining about the food) or one can embrace the experience and attempt to understand.

I joined a neighborhood gym when I lived in Wittenberg last summer. Yes, the thought of going made me very nervous, but, I learned so much. This was a small gym. By watching, and paying attention, I noticed that the gym ritual was to go through and greet and shake hands with everyone that was in there exercising. I was struck by the graciousness of this ritual and came to a greater sense of relaxation as a result.

Anytime we move outside our own boundaries and explore outside our comfort zone, we can experience pivotal change.  Transition is the movement from one place in life and thinking to another and is the prequel to change. Without successful transition, there is no change.

Pivot SymbolTransitions begin with a restlessness.  There is a sense that things as they currently are really are no longer working, but there is no clear future to move into.  At this point, many people go into a stall and become paralyzed. However, those who embrace the transition begin to grow in ways that are unimaginable.

Travel challenges the current comfort level and creates a time of restlessness. The first time I went to Germany was in 1987, when I traveled during Advent with The Rev. Herbert Brokering to begin preparing for JourneyFest 1990. Everything was new to me, and, we were going behind, what was then called, the Iron Curtain. When we crossed through Check Point Charlie in Berlin, and the gates closed behind us, I began a two week period of restlessness, as I experienced a new language, new money, new food, new people, new customs, and………the list goes on and on.

This period of restlessness while traveling, challenged every aspect of my life. I had never been out of the United States. I had never spoken German outside of my high school classroom. I had never had red cabbage for breakfast (along with blood sausage). I had never stayed in a youth hostel. I was restless and it was exhausting. However, I would never be the same person again. The restlessness stirred up my life in ways that I had not anticipated or even imagined.

This initial trip was during Advent, a season of transition as the Church leads us through the theme of light breaking into the darkness. Advent is a time of hope and promise and anticipation, so traveling in this new setting brought great anticipation and transition.

Germany is amazing in Advent. The market squares were beautiful, the people were wonderful and the atmosphere was festive. The Advent Collects in the Lutheran Church begin, “Stir up our hearts O Lord, and come…” What a fitting prayer for traveling in Advent, as our hearts and minds were stirred up in ways that brought new understanding to life. While we were there, Herb went out and bought wooden spoons for everyone on the trip so that we would have a symbol of the concept of stirring up I cannot see one of these spoons without thinking of that experience. Travel stirs one up in ways that are hard to describe.

The pivotal experiences that I had on that trip impacted my future because I began to see the world differently. My horizons were broadened, my teaching was enriched, my attitudes were shaped and formed in numerous ways. For example, I finally “got” the concept of Sabbath by living with East Germans. The country would almost literally close down at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and not reopen until Monday morning.

The time in between was for relaxation, time with family, and, for those connected with the Church, a time of worship. I came home with a commitment to build Sabbath into my life. This was a powerful learning and change for me.

Travel can bring change, growth and new energy.


1) When you begin a new journey, begin with prayer. Pray, of course, for safety, but also pray that you might be stirred up. Pray that your eyes will be opened and that the Spirit might be heard.

2) Plunge into the experience, even though you may have a bit of fear. My hands learned to speak German long before my mouth did. When people want to communicate, they can, but it does take a plunge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

3) Each day, before going to bed, reflect on the day’s journey. Where did you see God working in the events of the day?

4) Reflect upon the pivotal moments of the day and ask how each has served to bring you transformation.

Travel is a pivotal experience that brings life change.





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