A journey of the body inevitably becomes a journey of the soul and spirit. We see this played out in the Lord of the Rings trilogy so well. It really is a dangerous business, stepping out your front door, for you cannot know what may lay in wait for you.
My journey began a mere two weeks ago, and already it has become more than I ever could have imagined. I met a portion of my team in the Big Apple, adventuring the city. We ate good food and saw pretty things. All the while, I had begun to feel ill and was struggling to keep up though I was determined to do so. We soon found ourselves on a plane heading to Spain to begin the training portion of this adventure and by the time we landed, I had discovered that I had a terrible case of strep throat. This was not going to limit me, so I pushed through with the help of my teammates who came much more prepared for this sort of situation than I. There I was, wandering the streets of Barcelona with a heart full of hope and a body unwilling to cooperate. It was a beautiful time of relying on the Father for the energy to keep going and on my teammates, who were all so wonderful through it all. Thankfully, I had been on antibiotics long enough that when the time came a few days later to start our trek on the Camino de Santiago, I was nearly strep-free.
The night before we began our long walk on the Camino, we stayed at a monastery that took in pilgrims. We ate family style with all staying there and after the meal, we took a 500 year old tunnel to the chapel where we communed in prayer, each in our native languages. Because so many from all over the world come to take the pilgrimage on the Camino, there were at least four languages spoken at prayer that night. It was beautiful.
Our journey on the Camino began early the next morning, and we all set out with our own ideas of what this pilgrimage would be. I thought it would be mostly in the wilderness in tents and very little civilization. It was actually a lot of wilderness and then passing through small villages until we stopped in one to sleep in a hostel for the night.(Shows how much I researched what the Camino was before we left.) That first day, we walked for about 20 miles, passing through villages and visiting beautiful churches all along the journey. As we neared the end, my feet were screaming, begging me to stop, to sit down and never get up again. It was a long day, but one filled with lively conversation and the beauty of the landscape.
The next day, I did not begin with as much vigor. My entire body ached from the long journey of the day before and I struggled with every step as we walked mile after mile. My prayers to the Father were less, hmmm, shall we say, pleasant, than the previous day’s. They were more like this: “God, I need Your grace to put one foot in front of the other today. Honestly, that’s all I need. Just grace to walk.” The third day was much the same and, while the previous two days I had been able to stay near the front of the group, by day three, I was dead last with one other teammate.
To begin the day, we often started in silent meditation. My meditation was often simply, “Abba, I belong to You.” Over and over and over. Days two and three were shorter days, about 13 miles each (I think). As we began the fourth day, my feet were beginning to understand this was not going to end anytime soon and were becoming a little more cooperative, though my knees were becoming weary. Our fourth day was the longest, about 23 miles, so I knew I needed to draw on strength not my own if I was going to make it. My meditation for the day included the joy of the Lord being my strength, and indeed, it was. After our time in silent meditation, I found myself with Lisa, talking about life and the difficulties that come. Then came Josh and with him, laughter. As we trudged through ankle-deep mud and worked our way up slippery hills and rain coated our bodies with water, we laughed. By the time we reached our destination, I had a joy in my heart I didn’t know I could have in such difficult circumstances.
The fifth and last day finally arrived, a short 15 mile walk that promised true rest at its end. The time I had in silent meditation with Jesus was beautiful that day. I had a rhythm to my walk and a final destination in sight. Jesus and I talked about a great many things and He reminded me, once again, of His undying faithfulness. We once again found ourselves in deep mud and I began to get whiney. “I just want this to be over and now I’m in ankle deep mud again?!?!” These were my thoughts and I was so tempted to just sit down and cry, but I was not alone. My friends were with me, trudging through the mud right there with me and so we encouraged one another as best we could. Sometimes we whined together for a moment and then we reminded each other that we were almost there.
Eventually we made it to Burgos and so much gratefulness met my heart after I climbed six flights of stairs with my 50lb pack to just set it all down, to lie down and know I had made it. I had done something I never thought I could and did so with a relatively good attitude! I knew it was God’s grace in it all. He strengthened my weak knees and surrounded me with others to encourage and be encouraged by. The journey forced me to push past my flesh and operate out of my spirit if I was going to finish well. It was a death and a rebirthing. It was a time to really meditate on the Lord and His goodness when it wasn’t easy to do so. The Camino didn’t change me, but it introduced me to a version of myself I had rarely met before.