People have asked me what I learned from walking the Camino. There’s much there, and much yet I’ll discover, but one thing that has come more frequently to the surface than anything else is this: I’m poor at trusting God and God is excessive with patience toward me.
So I was journaling while on the bus back to Santiago, about how little in me had changed, kind of complaining to God about my still familiar broken places, and the sense of sadness at the time in Spain ending. I find that I tend to complain, to stomp my feet, more than I’d care to admit and, there on that bus, God spoke back–
“Look for my hand today, Child. Look today.”
God’s Hand: that day, I received this text from my daughter Gabri. She wrote: “I totally understand how the loss of routine is unsettling. It can be really hard to sink into so much free time, especially when all of your energy, physically and emotionally and mentally, has been so consumed up until now. I think that’s something we both struggle with. Also, how hard that your time in Spain is coming to a close. I hope that you can really sink into the parts of alone time that feel the most uncomfortable while you’re in Ireland and get through all of the uneasiness to the deep, soul-refreshing rest that you need. It’s such a good reminder to stay with your feet – even when they aren’t walking. 👍 I’m praying for you, dad! Thanks for telling me how you really are! I love you so much!! 😘😘 ”
It is wonderful to have such wise daughters willing to reach out to their dad!!! 🤓I read her words of encouragement and saw clearly how God had spoken through her.
God’s Hand: As I entered my dorm room, in Santiago later that day, the first person to meet was a German who had been biking Europe for two months and just finished the Camino. His name was Joshua. The first Joshua I had met on this journey and reminded me of his biblical counterpart. God’s word to that Joshua echoed in my heart, “Be strong and courageous!” My other rommmate was Benjamin! What a combo!
God’s Hand: I’d come back on Wednesday to connect with friends who were to finish that day, and tried to arrange dinner with them, but connections didn’t work for multiple reasons, so I went to my favorite restaurant in the old city and ate there on my own. I sat there realizing I was not lonely, but enjoyed being there. And realized that this will be a new stage in my reality. Learning to truly be ok with me. The waiters knew me there, were incredibly solicitous, and it was a joyful evening.
God’s Hand: Even though I had eaten alone, as I walked home I passed these two pilgrims, staring at the map of old town, looking like I had been numerous times: lost.
I asked: “Could in help you find something?”
“Oh my gosh!” One of them exclaimed, “You speak English! Yes, we are trying to find our hotel.” They were Aussies, Marg and Arlene, both retired, in their 60s, joyful eyes, laughter in their countenances, excepting the slight frustration at feeling lost. They had just arrived that day in Santiago, so I congratulated them on completing their Camino’s. They’d also hiked the del Norte, so we shared a common experience.
One thing I could do by then was navigate the old city. I had spent lots of time lost there!! So I took delight in chatting with them as I walked them to their hotel. Thankfully I had just passed it earlier that day in my walk back from the bus station, and had an idea where it was located.
The gift of this time with these pilgrims was immense. We knew the same journey, had similar stories, and laughed our way to their place.
God’s Hand: I was up early the next morning and was sitting in the basement lounge, reading and praying when this woman, Noriega from Lithuania, sat down and we began to share about our Camino experiences. She’d walked the 600+km journey from Lisbon. She introduced me to her favorite movie “Peaceful Warrior” and pulled up her favorite scene on YouTube and showed it to me, where the main character discovers: “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.” Such a good reminder.
God’s Hand: I had plenty of time before my flight at five that evening and had to check out of my hostel at 9 am, so had my last té con leche caliente, and then went to the Pilgrim Museum. The man who took my 1.20€ entrance fee ($1.50 – and in my mind hardly worth charging), told me:
“Take those stairs to the lockers downstairs, and if you’d like, you can start your tour in the room just across from the lockers, with our new display of ancient Russian Orthodox Icons.”
Two of our children and their families are Antiochian Orthodox, so I am familiar with the deep, prayerful liturgy and practice surrounding iconography. But I didn’t expect God.
I walked into that room, which may look sterile in the photos, but it was filled with the saints. Those icons perhaps thousands of years old, had been prayed through, and greeted, and included in liturgy and the prayerful presence was there. For those unfamiliar with icons- the icon is a window to that very person, that saint, and you are greeting that old friend as the icon is kissed and bowed before. As you might ask a friend in life to pray for this or that, so too the saint depicted by the icon is asked for intercessory prayer. I find the Orthodox have such a robust appreciation for and practice of the great cloud of witnesses.
As I entered this God-filled room, tears came to my eyes, and I made my way around this room greeting the saints, asking for their intercession, praying to God and being blessed by the richness of faith there. After I finished visiting the museum, I returned to that room and spent more time in prayer, basking in the presence.
God’s Hand: I thought I would go check for this certain artisan whose work I appreciated. She always set up behind the cathedral and had the most unique bead work I had seen. I walked up the steps and as I reached the top saw she wasn’t there yet. Just as I turned however
I saw these pilgrims just arriving and they looked really familiar.
“Marg?” I asked. She looked at me and shouted and began to cry, “Brian? Mick,” she poked her husband, who was about to walk by me, “Look! It’s Brian!”
We hugged, cried, laughed and hugged more. They had not been scheduled until the next day. They’d pressed ahead arriving at the exact moment when I had tipped those stairs. It was God indeed that they had come just then.
“Look for my hand.” Perhaps the new yellow arrows of this life have been there all along. Perhaps the lesson is simply to follow them. “Look for my hand.”