For four Sundays I have been sharing out of my experience walking the Camino de Santiago de la Compostela. That is the journey which birthed this blog. I have already written about the days of that journey here, extensively, both in posting day-by-day reflections on the journey and in the ongoing posts birthed by that life-changing journey.
But what I hadn’t done is preach about it. And I have a congregation who has been patiently waiting to hear me speak about my experience.
I think that in some ways I thought to have written might have sufficed. And also, I think that I believed that there was nothing really to “share.” Like when my wonderful daughter grace joined me on the Camino for 10 days, she had said, “Dad, tell me everything, I want all the details, the moment-by-moment experience…” and I had begun to speak, but then realized that the journey thus far had seemed very ordinary, routine, uneventful, with no brilliant story illuminating it. To speak about “I got up at 7, ate, took the bus, and started in Irun,” seemed like a minimizing of it. It was this strange feeling of both; it was too ordinary to describe and too profound to minimize by placing into spoken word. So at that point, I said, “I can’t do that, but I will be happy to describe the parts that come to mind. So, if you wouldn’t mind, could you tell me first about yourself?” And she had obliged. We’d traveled for 10 days and she got to experience the Camino and hear many of my stories as I recalled them.
My Camino, that journey of some 32 days on the Way, had changed the trajectory of my life, adjusted my thinking and shifted my days. And since I had returned I had not spoken about it. So, when planning my preaching schedule for this year, I planned in 5 weeks to speak about the Camino. And thus I began to share on April 15th, the first lesson I had encountered “Stay with your Feet.” That phrase had come from Grace before I departed and was the best gift I could have been given.
As I have spoken, it has brought up all kinds of emotions, as I have encountered all the feelings of how ordinary the days were and yet how phenomenally I had been shaped by those ordinary days. I have encountered the feelings of shame as well, that accompanied the walk, connected to not doing it well enough, etc. And I have had the joy of seeing shame released as I have shared it with the congregation. And something else has occurred as well — people have connected. I had woman connected to our congregation come up to me at another retreat and say, “Brian, those phrases have been keeping me in check. ‘Stay with your Feet,’ I tell myself, and ‘What’s in your pack?’ as I encounter trials. It has helped so much.”
As of the second day on the Camino, walking by myself, trudging up and around those huge mountains that lined the coast of Northern Spain, I had lamented to God, “Who am I if I don’t speak?” and God had responded, the joyful clarity, “MINE.” Over the past weeks, I have shared this experience and reminded them of it, for it was crucial in all that I learned on that journey, and it underlined a very basic lesson: “I am enough.” That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. Like the horse in the George Orwell novel Animal Farm, my motto I think has been “I’ll try harder.”
God wanted me to move into me resting in the value of being– who I am already in Him. Clearly true, but I find the heart is the slowest member of the body to believe. Jesus had declared to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus (another Camino of sorts found in Luke 24:13-35), “How slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken…” Slow of heart to believe. What God had shown to me on the journey: I didn’t have to speak for God to speak through me.
And then, after speaking about this for four weeks about my value when not talking, not long after church yesterday, my voice left totally. Gone. Only a whisper. I’ve been left in silence.
This week I had already planned a prayer retreat from Tuesday through Thursday, which I guess will also be a silent retreat for me! And then am going to hang with our kids at a campout on my days off at the end of the week for two nights. I went swimming this morning and greeted people with smiles and gestures.
I find it a fine bit of humor that I get to walk in silence these days as I have been talking and talking about what I learned about value by not speaking on the Camino!
Today I phoned someone to check in on something and having sat in silence totally forgot that when I open my mouth I cannot speak until they said “Hello,” and I tried to respond! That proved a challenge on the phone. We made it through the brief, oh so brief, conversation, which was rather one-sided!
While working on this I received this phone call from my good friend for life, Ken Mosesian (check out Mosesian Strategies). We first met at age 2 so he is totally my longest friend. He called in response to an email I had sent him regarding his recent blog. He was surprised that I couldn’t talk, but with my great raspy encouragement, he shared with me the most amazing story on his heart. It was a powerful experience with Jesus meeting him in an answered prayer which surprised and staggered him, even though it had been his request. This experience underlined for me the reality of how much we have just in being who we are. It underlined the gift of receiving the gift offered not striving to gain something.
So today I’m silent. I’m dwelling in all that I already have in this relationship with the Beautiful One who flung all the stars and planets into place. I am sharing with you, but in a house that’s silent. I went outside and noticed that the flowers and plants and our little garden all silently grow. They perhaps produce sounds I cannot hear, but to my ear, they are quiet while shouting of the glory of God in their colors and joy.
And as I head to the beach for retreat, I’m entering the opportunity to dwell, to be, to rest which has long been an assignment God has laid upon my heart.
I’m hoping you friends can take some time to rest and be as well. Certainly, those are crucial elements in this life that is so filled with noise.