Wayfaring Strangers and Weary Pilgrims

Confession: Even with my strong Southern heritage, I’m not a what one would call a Dolly Parton fan, though I do heart her character in Steel Magnolias. However, I’ve found her lyrics to Travelin’ Thru (written in 2005 for the soundtrack of Transamerica) to be very helpful and comforting to families and patients who feel lost, or feel they’ve fallen and had to get back up one too many times.

There are plenty of quotations about journeys and traveling like, “not all who wander are lost,” and “life’s a journey not a destination,” etc. And, they are not inaccurate. Yet, I’ve found Dolly’s words to be comforting to folks in various situations because they have a bit more depth to them, and acknowledge that being lost isn’t always pretty, pain is real, and the road to healing may have a lot of pot holes. My favorite lyric to share with families, especially when the stress of an illness is taking its toll on relationships is, “Redemption comes in many forms with many kinds of pain, oh sweet Jesus if you’re listening, keep me ever close to you, as I’m stumblin’, tumblin’, wonderin’, as I’m travelin’ thru.”

Well I can’t tell you where I’m going, I’m not sure of where I’ve been
But I know I must keep travelin’ till my road comes to an end
I’m out here on my journey, trying to make the most of it
I’m a puzzle, I must figure out where all my pieces fit
Like a poor wayfaring stranger that they speak about in song
I’m just a weary pilgrim trying to find what feels like home
Where that is no one can tell me, am I doomed to ever roam
I’m just travelin’, travelin’, travelin’, I’m just travelin’ on

Questions I have many, answers but a few
But we’re here to learn, the spirit burns, to know the greater truth
We’ve all been crucified and they nailed Jesus to the tree
And when I’m born again, you’re gonna see a change in me

God made me for a reason and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain
Oh sweet Jesus if you’re listening, keep me ever close to you
As I’m stumblin’, tumblin’, wonderin’, as I’m travelin’ thru

Oh sometimes the road is rugged, and it’s hard to travel on
But holdin’ to each other, we don’t have to walk alone
When everything is broken, we can mend it if we try
We can make a world of difference, if we want to we can fly

Goodbye little children, goodnight you handsome men
Farewell to all you ladies and to all who knew me when
And I hope I’ll see you down the road, you meant more than I knew
As I was travelin’, travelin’, travelin’, travelin’, travelin’ thru

I’m just travelin’, travelin’, travelin’, I’m just travelin’
Drifting like a floating boat and roaming like the wind
Oh give me some direction lord, let me lean on you
As I’m travelin’, travelin’, travelin’, thru

Like the poor wayfaring stranger that they speak about in song
I’m just a weary pilgrim trying to find my own way home
Oh sweet Jesus if you’re out there, keep me ever close to you
As I’m travelin’, travelin’, travelin’, as I’m travelin’ thru
~Dolly Parton

Whether you’re a wayfaring stranger, a weary pilgrim, or a well-rested tourist,

Whether you’re on a dirt road, gravel road, interstate, or draw bridge,

Whether you’ve just created a new home or have big dreams of home,

Whether you’re in one of the levels of hell or you’re 3 exits up the road to restoration and redemption,

Whether you’re stumblin’, tumblin’, or wonderin,’

Wherever you may find yourself this day, know that you are not alone.

And, know that it is indeed stubborn not to use your GPS, phone a friend, pull over, or ask for direction(s). (While you may not know me, trust me when I say that I can speak to what’s stubborn and what’s not with a plethora of authority, not as a chaplain, but as a Type A only child).

Grace and peace, y’all.

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