Pilgrims and Witnesses: Walking a Holy Journey Together

To all my pilgrim and witness friends—this is for you. ❤️

For the sake of a better understanding, I want to start by defining what pilgrims and witnesses are.

A PILGRIM is one who journeys, especially long distances, to a holy place for a religious or spiritual purpose; one who embarks on a quest for something conceived of as sacred; a traveler of literal travels or of spiritual and healing journeys. 

A WITNESS is a close observer; one who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced; one who furnishes evidence or serves as a sign; one who is to be present at or have personal knowledge of; one who can testify to.

I’ll jump right in by saying our deepest moments of pain usually hold our truest inner knowing. Often, the words that come out in the middle of the ache are the most telling and important. While it is difficult to experience this, real healing calls for it because we must give voice to the truth of our story.

This doesn't happen casually. Instead, we must get into the messy trenches of reality with intention. Then and only then can we see what we need to see, hear what we need to hear, feel what we need to feel, and proceed how we need to proceed.

To look "it" in the eyes, be it pain, grief, trauma, illness, injustice, disappointment, apathy, brokenness, sadness, anger, fear, deception, betrayal, or whatever the "it" might be, to put our hands on the matter and begin the hard yet rewarding work of uncovering the truth, is to acknowledge both it's existence and impact. And the moment we do this is the moment real change starts to happen.

This type of God-designed healing process is not easy; it takes courage and determination to walk this way. And while we can't always see what it's producing while we're in it, it is a worthy and necessary process that serves a higher purpose, the purpose of Him and His Kingdom. 

To be the one who walks this path is to be a pilgrim—it is an invitation to discovery and awakening on deeper levels. God uses pilgrims to blaze new trails for certain things, and your life experiences often speak to this, although you probably won't have a full understanding of it beforehand. And not just anyone can accompany you on this journey; they must be handpicked by the Father, so they are.

To be the one who accompanies the pilgrim is to be a witness—it also invites deeper discovery and awakening. God always has a witness for everything He does, and you bear witness to what is taking place in this journey. You are as vital to this process as the pilgrim, just differently. Your life experiences are key to this too. You hold a special place in this process for the pilgrim. God views it as a place of honor, a place of servanthood.

The work of the pilgrim and the witness is a joint, pure, and living work that holds eternal significance. Both are led by the Spirit of God, both are important, and both will forever be changed as a result of this sacred journey.

Usually, the pilgrim later becomes the witness for someone else. In fact, pilgrims make the best witnesses. 

Conversely, the witness may take a pilgrim's journey of their own later on if they haven't already, and because they've experienced it firsthand, they will know the value of having an honest-to-goodness witness by their side.

For some, it is an interchanging journey of pilgrim and witness. In other words, sometimes you're both. There are moments within the process where the witness becomes the pilgrim for a time, and the pilgrim their witness. There may even be an ebbing and flowing of this throughout the entirety of the journey. It requires confidence in the leadership of the Holy Spirit and trust in each other, which usually isn't hard because there are mutual love and honor among the three.

Perhaps it seems a paradox to switch from pilgrim to witness and vice versa, but there's an even more significant discovery to be found within this. And it is entirely necessary to be flexible and focused while on this journey.

While our stories might look uniquely different in detail, we can see parts of ourselves in each other more than we might realize.

Keep in mind, we’re not broken open just for the sake of exposing blood, guts, tears, muck, and cracks. Rather, it’s to ultimately uncover and shine the light on what is needed for real healing and transformation to take place.

Only He can do certain things for us. Still, have you noticed God often reaches out His hand of love, hope, truth, and grace through His people? His true kindness and compassion coursing through our veins make the difference.

It is Jesus, the hope of glory in us, with us, and through us, that makes this possible. We need Him and we need each other. He designed it this way.

Sometimes, however, the very thing we long for most is also the thing we most fear; that is to be seen and known. It is a vulnerable place to be, yet we were created for it. We were created to know and be known by God and each other. We were created for genuine relationships; it's one of His greatest gifts.

Therefore, the healing journey of the pilgrim and the witness is also a journey of knowing each other and Him in deeper ways—seeing how His image and likeness are uniquely revealed and expressed throughout the process and one another. There is often a prophetic element interlaced within this work, too, meaning the map of your journey may serve as a blueprint for others down the road. 

Sidenote: Other people will be impacted by your hard work through this process. Your healing journey always holds something valuable for someone else at a later time, and perhaps it will be life-changing for them as well. 

As you travel this way, you will discover how much God values the process; value it as well. And value one another. In so doing, you are really expressing your value for Him and His ways. 

Don't be afraid to embrace His process, pilgrim.

Don't be afraid to accompany His process, witness.

Remember, you need Him and you need each other. And when you come through to the other side of this, you'll better understand why He's chosen to do it the way He has (or you will for those who haven't yet begun this holy journey).

The Lord holds each of you in His great love. So trust Him and follow His lead; you're right where He wants you.

I bless you all.

A fellow pilgrim and witness,

Michelle Holderman
Copyright ©️ 2019

(Updated 2023)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not [always] depend on your own understanding [of things]. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“The Lord directs the steps of the righteous. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand and sustains them.” Psalm 37:23-24

1 comment

  1. This was a blessing for me, thank you! I am a pilgrim and God has sent a witness, although I can see how those roles will switch as we both journey thru our wilderness. I feel as though I am at the point of finally breaking through, it has been a 6 1/2 year journey, most of it was spent alone with God. I only poured out in His Presence. It was needed and necessary due to me needing to press into Him and only Him for my healing. And I would not take anything for the journey now. :) Praying God blesses you and your ministry in the most abundant and surprising ways.