Finding God on the Camino

Man walking the camino

Walking the Camino, I learned that in order to progress, I must renew our commitment to Christ daily and then be committed to doing this over and over again.

You learn a lot when you get up day after day and walk. It’s something that most of us take for granted. From the days when we take our first steps, till we grow older and find the task more difficult, we just don’t think a lot about walking.

During my hike on the Camino, I usually woke up early without any kind of alarm. Some people preferred to get up and get going long before the sun rose. This didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t like getting dressed, sorting through my stuff, and packing my sleeping bag while holding the flashlight in my mouth. Nope. Give me another hour in bed and then I will get up and begin walking.

Walking each day taught me many things. One of the blessings of the Camino is that you have the time to let God teach you about simple, beautiful things.

The Right Path

One of the things I had quickly learned on the Camino was that the surface that you walk on makes all the difference in the world. In the past, I had never really paid much attention to the surface under my feet. However, when you are walking seven or eight hours a day, you don’t take anything for granted, especially when it comes to your feet.

The walk this particular day was just over 17 miles, which was not terribly long. For about 13 miles, I walked on a soft dirt trail. Near the end of this section, my feet were beginning to be pretty sore, but they were about to get much worse. The path changed from a luxurious dirt path to evil concrete.

It appears that the people of Logroño, our stopping place for the day, wanted to give a gift to the pilgrims, and they created a “beautiful concrete path” in order to welcome pilgrims into their lovely town. While I appreciated the gesture, I would have preferred trees to shade me from the hot sun. After walking 13 miles, finishing the last four on hard concrete was miserable.

When I prayed at the end of the day, I was reminded that Jesus said there is a path that might look great, but it ultimately leads to death. The other path is more rugged, but it leads to life. We can’t just choose the path that looks the easiest.

Slow but Steady

One morning, as I was climbing over an old stone fence, I noticed a snail sitting on one of the rocks. Given that I had a lot of time on my feet, I found myself thinking about the snail. Everyone has heard the expression “a snail’s pace.” A snail is not going to break any speed records. But if it keeps moving forward, it will eventually get where it wants to go. And so was my life on the Camino. And so is the spiritual life.

A pilgrim is seen making the journey from southern France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The shot was taken during filming of the 2018 PBS documentary “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago.” (CNS photo/courtesy

This particular day was a short one, only about 13 miles. When I thought of how little I had walked, it seemed like a waste of time. It did occur to me, however, that 13 miles is a lot of ground. And what was ultimately most important was that I progressed forward. I did not quit. I kept moving ahead, even at what seemed like a snail’s pace.

The spiritual life is just that. In order to progress, we must renew our commitment to Christ daily and then be committed to doing this over and over again.

I Have to Win

I admit that there were times when going at a snail’s pace was not easy for me. Maybe this is because I am competitive. Competition can produce great character in a person. But taken too far, it can be a bad thing. On the Camino and in the spiritual life, it can be a real problem.

One particular morning, we began walking at around 7:30. My body felt good, and I was walking at a fairly quick clip. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a couple of pilgrims took the inside of a sharp curve and blew right past me. I hadn’t even seen them coming. I actually got frustrated that I had been passed. I decided that I needed to walk faster and take the lead once again. There was no way that I was going to get passed. It was not long before I was forced to accept defeat. Those other people had won.

Why did it bother me? I was on a pilgrimage, not in a race. This was not a competition. Had I made it one? Perhaps deep inside of me, a part of me that I was embarrassed about, I had made it into a competition. I felt God telling me that it did not matter if I finished first: it wasn’t about winning. All that mattered was that I was walking and that I would finish.

Another day on the Camino. Another day closer to God.

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