The Path is Never the Same!
I have a confession to make! I am taking a break from reviewing books, to write some blogs while I am away, 4 weeks in Spain and Portugal with my lovely husband, Matt.
So let’s get started.
After a few days in Madrid, we have now embarked on another section of the Camino de Santiago, a famous walk in Spain that dates back to the 10th century. The pilgrims, mainly monks in those days, walked from all over Europe to the Cathedral of Santiago De Compostela where the bones of St James are believed to lie. The walk is called the Way of St James because of this. It is now a very popular walk that many people do, not just monks or Catholics, to take time out, to reflect on their lives and its direction, reflect on their faith, or just to take on the challenge of doing a walk that is about 800 kms long. The most traditional way is from a town in France, St Jean Pied-de-Port across northern Spain to Santiago although there are paths through Portugal and southern Spain.
Two years ago we did the final section of the French way, common for those only doing a little bit. We went from Sarria to Santiago over 6 days, and covered 114 kms. It was a wonderful but challenging experience, during which we met some incredible people, not to mention donkeys and dogs. We also found it was a very spiritual and reflective time for both of us. It revealed how community can be formed so quickly, how the most ordinary things reveals some deep truths about life, and how taking time out to challenge oneself is amazingly life giving.
So how do we top that this time!
Well we don’t. This time we are going from Astorga instead, and we are to end 8 days and 140 kms later in Sarria, where we started last time.
Today was the first day. Was it the same, no, the people were different, quite a lot were older than us, and there were fewer of them. In their place were a lot of cyclists, and even some horse riders. The scenery was different, we could see some hills in the distance, and as we headed towards them we entered a forested area. There were less towns, only a few very small villages that were beautiful and very old. In most of the bell towers we saw stork nests, which were enormous. It was quieter, hotter, and more challenging, as we are older and probably not as fit as last time.
And we are different! In the two years since we were here last time, we have lost my mum, who died last year, my uncle who died this year, we have friends with serious illnesses, but we also have had the joy of weddings and birthdays, holidays and time spent together with those we love.
I reflect back two years and my life as a pastor has become more layered and my faith deeper and more multi-dimensional. Part of that change has come from the walk that we did back then. While I have always believed the spirit of God is found in all places and all people, in small and not so small acts of love and kindness it was a revelation how the mediative aspects of walking revealed that spirit to me more profoundly.
I started an ongoing dialogue with quiet time, with Celtic spirituality and with the Taize style of service (an ecumenical service using repetitive music and lots of candles). I even want to build a labyrinth at the church. Not bad for an anatomist!
So I came home a changed person, although I occasionally lose that person when the busyness of life takes hold and doing dominates everything.
But I know that I have grown, and have changed. I understand now there are two sides to the faith coin, and life coin, a doing side and a being side, and both need to be fed.
So the path this time cannot be the same. How can it be?
Because I am not the same!
So as I walked today, and took in my surroundings, and the new people we were greeting, with Hola, and Buen Camino. I relished this fact.
The path is never the same.
It is different, it is new, it is exciting and we are so fortunate to be able to walk another small part of it again.