May 22, 2018 - Believe it or not, it is hard to keep track of time and place as you walk the Camino. I had to ask someone if today was Sunday, and when I think back to an event that happened a day or two ago, I often have to pull up the app that has my itinerary in it so I can remember where I was. Some of the faces stay consistent, but the days and places can start to blur together, and I am only on day 12.
One place, or should I say path, which has been very clear in my mind was the section I knew I would be walking today. In part, because it is the first real hill you come to in this section of the Camino, and you don't forget a strenuous day like this one promises to be. But mostly, It is very clear to me because it is the section where I allowed myself to open fully to the loss and grief I was feeling in the season of life in which I walked my last Camino. I remember crying and at times sobbing out loud, hoping the five Italian men I was keeping pace with each morning were not close. Even if they had been, I could no longer hold back the tears.
One of the reasons, I chose to walk the same route this year is because I was more concerned about my internal journey than I was in seeing new places. I wanted the consistency of the same path to help me see how much I have grown in theses past four years, so you can imagine I was vary curious about how this section would land on my heart.
When I started the climb, I felt no sadness, so I gave myself to thinking about my last experience on what I called the mountain of mourning. Rather than feeling what I felt then, what began to well up in me was thankfulness. I am thankful for where the last four years have taken my wife and I. After a long period of waiting, my wife found herself being invited, in a rather unusual way, into a job which gives her great satisfaction as she helps create programs which help people live well through the end stages of life. She also creates spaces for the bereaved, helping them move forward after a significant loss. In the process she, at times, works alongside people she served with in the past, and has been able to meet the needs of people who made up our former community. All these things are beautiful gifts that would not have been possible had we not experienced our own loss. I could not help but give thanks for each and every one of these things I then turned to my own calling. When I think about the people I meet with and serve alongside, I feel as if I have been given a lavish gift. Some coworkers are new, but there has also been the wonderful surprise of continuing to work with two people I labored alongside of in my former employ. For someone who sees significance in stability, this is an unexpected, and generous gift. I thought of all the students and leaders I meet with. I allowed their faces to cross my mind. I remembered their stories, their dreams, and their places of influence. I was thankful for privilege to walk alongside each one, helping them to discern God's voice and their hearts response to Him. I would have never been able to spend my days in such sacred spaces if I had not lost what I once could not imagine living without. I then remember the ways in which we have had our needs met over these past four years. It has caused us to learn dependence like we never knew before, but more importantly it has taught us that there is One who is trustworthy. I expressed gratitude for the security this has given to us.
I also thought about all the people I will be returning to after this journey, my wife, children, friends, coworkers, the people I walk alongside of in everyday life. All of them dear to me, people to whom I have opened wide my heart. When I return from this journey, I am not returning to loss, but abundance. For that I am grateful beyond belief.
I felt like I had just begun down the road of gratitude as I was nearing the top.
It was then that a woman from Austria caught up to me. Apparently, she had been trying to catch up for some time. She asked if she could walk with me for a while. I said sure, though I hated to set my thoughts of gratitude aside We both tend to leave early and often see one another at the beginning of the day. On one of the first few days of the Camino, she shared with me what she hoped to get out of her journey. Now that we were walking together, I asked her what she was learning in relationship to the questions she was asking. What amazed me was what she shared, spoke directly to me. They were words that helped me to see how I have grown over the past four years. It was as if she was sent as a mirror to me. Needless to say the gratitude continued.
We ended up walking rest of the way to Ages together. My feet were ready to be done for the day, but I felt light, lavished upon, and thankful.
Would you expect anything else after having just climbed, what has now become, the Mountain of Gratitude?