I devoured Bruce Springsteen's biography over the Christmas break in front of a cozy cabin fire up in the snowy San Bernadino mountains. It was all the more vivid for me because I've had the pleasure of seeing Springsteen and his E-Street Band perform live. I don't know if I've ever witnessed as powerful a performer, and the chemistry he shared with his band was palpable the night I saw them.
It was a surprise then, to read how many times the Boss, as he's affectionately known, and the his band drifted apart and back together during their 40 year stellar career. The truth is that Springsteen lived like a nomad for much of his life, drifting from city to city, house to house and lover to lover. His first real hit, 'Born to Run,' was his epitaph, and his gypsy spirit spilled acid into the band's chemistry.
"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway american dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines...
Cos' baby we were born to run."
It was only after his marriage to his backup singer Patti Scialfa that the Boss managed finally to subject his fierce gypsy spirit to the caravan of community. It wasn't that the wild poet settled into middle-aged pleasantville. He would always be nomadic, but his marriage to Patti gradually exorcized the drifter and fashioned the pilgrim. More rock and less roll.
Bruce and Patti have raised three children. They are still married after two decades, a rare gem in the music industry especially when you play in the same band every night. Multiple platinum albums, sold out world tours, a slew of grammy and humanitarian awards later, and the Boss and his band are as tight as ever.
The thing about pilgrimage is that it's intentional and communal.
It's not just somebody with wanderlust.
Pilgrims are a tribe of travelers on an intentional mission for better or worse.
King David described it in the Psalms, "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they go through the valley of tears they make it a place of springs. They go from strength to strength." Ps 84
Pilgrims don't drift away in a valley of tears. They go through it together trusting God for the strength to make it a place of springs. Pilgrims are not just together for the ride either. They are together because of a common hope.
Springsteen echoes the Psalmists sentiment,
"You'll need a good companion for this part of the ride,
Leave behind your sorrows, lay aside your pride,
Meet me in the land of hope and dreams."
This year, I pray that God would turn our solitude into community
and our wanderlust into pilgrimage.