Learning to Walk without a Camino

Earlier last weekend, I was driving back the 400 miles from San Diego to the Bay Area… and I realized as I drove through deserts, through mountains, through forests and plains… something about the California landscape began to transform, and for a magical 30 minutes of my 8 hour drive, it felt as if I was back in Spain, back on the 500 mile Camino… but a truck veered into the fast lane, I had to tap on the brakes and my daze was interrupted. Again, I became aware that I was not walking, but in a car; I was not in Spain, but in the drought stricken San Joaquin Valley, and my 400 mile trek was not a 40 day adventure, but that there was but 3 hours left to this journey. Rocked back into reality, I finally came to terms with something that I knew would happen… I’m having a hard time readjusting to life post-camino.

I miss the regularity of the days- Get up, pack, start walking, eat breakfast, walk some more, eat some lunch, walk until you can’t anymore, check into hostel, debate if you will take a shower or nap first, fall asleep while deciding, shower, eat dinner sleep… and repeat. But then again, I miss the spontaneity of the days- Anything could happen any day; there is a sense of “…what’s there really to stop you from stopping and looking?” Instead of regularity, I find monotony; instead of spontaneity, I find myself languishing in purposelessness- waking up, finding it very easy not to leave my room.

I suppose my honest confession is this- ever since returning home, I’ve been feeling lost- I feel lost without the wonder of discovering what’s over the next ridge; I feel overcrowded and suffocated without the warmth of the pilgrim community at each stop; I feel lonely without the hours of solitude where God would patiently coax me out of my bitter shell…

But this morning, as I whined about this to myself, I realized God was still there, and heard it (I had that guilty feeling you get from talking shit about someone and suddenly realizing they are in the room)… and was willing to speak if I would just listen to Him- “I’m still here, I’m still waiting for you… what you have left behind in Spain is not inaccessible here. I’m waiting for you; are you ready to keep walking?”

…on the Camino, you stop for a lot of reasons- for food, for injury, because you want to stick with a walking buddy (especially if she is a… uh… an intriguing person. ha.)- but there always comes a point, where you realize you’ve paid for an expensive ticket to get to Europe, and you only have so many days to get to your goal- Santiago. You have to get up at some point and just keep going, no matter how pretty the city is, no matter how much your feet hurt like hell, no matter how cool the person is that you found at this stop- you have to keep walking. And yeah, it sucks on the first few kilometers out the door, especially if you have healing blisters on your feet… but you remember- My goal is Santiago.

And so, I hear His voice to get up… Ultreia!– Keep your head up, press on!

With my personality, I have a propensity to whine and moan before doing a big thing… I procrastinate out of anxiety- which is ironic because the anxiety gets expressed as apathy and lethargy. Before I run, I have to work through my anxiety for about 30 minutes before I actually get my shoes on and head out the door- I feel that kind of inertia and paralysis at this point. Even after being convicted of it this morning, I spent this whole day running away by not moving… disengaging with the conviction to re-engage and just watch TV…

Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. 

He invites me to be washed of the shame of being a minister and disengaged… He frees me of the pressure to manufacture a revolutionarily radical spirituality for others to see, He gives me grace for falling short so quickly, making Him relentlessly pursue me and find me over and over again… but He won’t do it alone. Healing, freedom, forgiveness, new life… these come from walking with Him, not from sitting back passively. And I am trying to remember- my camino is not over. In order to see His glory at work in my life, I have to take the risk of getting up first, taking my mat and walking… so here I go.

Santiago is not my stopping point; my destination is heaven, and I have to keep walking. The Camino is not over… Ultreia!

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