It is Finished...

May 27, 2018 - Four years ago, when I walked the Camino, it was in a season of transition. It had been a year since I left the only community I had known as an adult. It was the community that held our family. I met my wife there. We were married there. Our children were born and raised there. It was the place where I exercised my vocation and calling. The people who made up that community were my people. I loved them, and was one of them. I never imagined being separated from them. Needless to say, it was hard to leave. And yet, in that season of transition, I was being called to detach from them. Honestly, I struggled to know how.

The Camino became a gift that taught me how to let go. The love remained for the place and it's people, but I was able to release them and be open, even expectant, for what was next.

The reality is, such strong attachments are usually broken in stages. If you, or someone you have known, has ever broken an addiction, you probably have noticed how the destructive behavior is often, for a season, replaced by another far less so. The man who struggles with drug addiction may become very addicted to exercise for a season as he grows his capacity to be free. In such cases, the intermediary stage is a gift.

The Camino was an exercise that helped me detach from something I needed to let go. In the process, I became very attached to it.

Over the past four years, my friends and family have joked about how long it will take in a conversation before I bring up the Camino. It was funny, because it was true. It was evidence of just how attached I had become to The Way.

When I decided to walk the Camino this time I had two intentions. One was to allow the journey to mirror how I had grown since I last walked. The other was to hold the question, what would it be to walk the Camino with the intention of detaching from it?

That may seem like an odd intention to hold or question to ask, but as a follower of Christ, I believe the more I can detach from things like the Camino as my source of well-being and life, the more fully I will be able to attach to His life, which brings freedom, peace, joy and love in abundance.

As I have walked the Camino this time around, when I would come to a place that was significant to me, I would think to myself, I am honoring what it has meant, it was a necessary attachment for a season. Passing through these places, I have also been saying goodbye, detaching from them if you will. As I did this, I felt peace.

Along the way there have been unexpected meetings, significant conversations, beauty, and the delight of simply walking in silence, having space for your thoughts, intentions, and prayers. It has been life giving. There has been a sense of sacredness about it.

Three days ago I felt good. My body had adjusted to the rhythm and pace of the Camino. Then, after a particularly long day, the tendons in my left foot began to tighten and hurt, but not enough to keep me from walking, so I kept going. As I walked, I must have favored it so much that I threw my gait out of whack. Later in the day, after arriving and giving a few hours of rest to my foot, I got up to walk to the church in the tiny village I was in. I struggled to walk the few yards down the road. My hip was hurting, and I knew if it was like this in the morning, I would not be able to walk the next day.

Laying in bed that night, I prayed it would be better in the morning. I sought to let go of the "what ifs", and simply let my mind be attached to Christ, rather than the outcome of the circumstances. As I lay there, I held both the desire to continuing to walk, but also the knowledge I did not need to. The next morning it was not any better.

In the morning, as people were getting ready to walk, I was climbing into a taxi for the next town. In that short 17 minute drive, which would have taken about 5 hours to walk, I decided to fly home.

I felt a bit like Forest Gump, who after his mom dies and Jenny leaves, deals with his loss by running across America, until one day, in the middle of a beautiful desert, he stops, turns to the people who have been running with him and says, I want to go home now. My desert was Sahagun, Spain.

I needed to come back and walk the Camino so I could honor it and detach from it. I knew what it would take to get my body to the end, but I also knew it was not necessary, because I had already been given what I had come to the Camino to receive. It mirrored to me, in some very significant ways, how I have grown, and my heart had already become detached from it. In some ways, the hip was and invitation to give permission to what was already in my heart.

I had been toying with the idea of not walking the final 4.8 k into Santiago as a physical manifestation of my internal detachment. In the taxi, I thought if 4.8 kilometers, why not 400. I walked nearly half way, 230 miles. Having received what I had come for, I was content with that. So, I hopped on a train to Barcelona, and I will fly home tomorrow.

My wife. Tammie, has often said to me over the last four years, when I start talking about the Camino, "There is a Camino right here." I have known she is right. But I have been too attached to the Camino itself to fully embrace the one she has been talking about. One of the things I am most greatful for is the anticipation I have about how releasing this Camino will create space for my heart to more fully embrace the Camino at home.

The only regret I would have had from this journey stems from a conversation I was having with a professor and one of her students. We were sitting at a table a few days ago and the student was sharing part of the spiritual struggles and questions he brought to the Camino. I felt prompted to share something, but waited to be sure. We were interrupted and and I seemingly lost the opportunity. I felt like I was supposed to have shared it. I regretted that I had not.

While sitting in the coffee shop in the train station, making arrangements to get home, the professor walks in. I told her of my plans and she gave me some great information I would need when I arrived in Barcelona. I then walked out into the main station and there sat the student. I asked how he was doing, and then brought up the conversation we had a few days earlier and then shared what I had been prompted to share then. He told me a bit more about what he had been processing, and then I headed for my train.

It was such a gift to see him again, share what I did, and to leave the Camino without having to wonder if I should have spoken up. If I had not been sitting in the train station, I would have never seen him again. It is a wonder how God weaves things together on the Camino.

Like my former community, I am no longer attached to the Camino in the same way as I was, but I still love it for what it has meant to me and how it has been used to grow me. A friend who also left my former community often says, it will always be home, after all we grew up there, but we no longer live there. The Camino now has the same feeling.

If you ever feel the call to walk the Camino, I encourage you to go. You will meet people from around the world, you will discover your own heart, if you open yourself you will also discover the heart of God, and you will grow. I not only encourage you to go, I will help you any way I can. And I will rejoice with you for what it gives birth to in your life. It is a beautiful journey, one well worth taking.

But for me, I have walked this path to the end of it, even if the end of it came at a Camino and a half.

Buen Camino


P.S. Several years ago I read that research has shown that it take 9.5 years before a couple experiences the oneness scriptures speak about. I don't know if there has been research on married life after that, but one of the things the Camino has mirrored to me this time around is that after 31 years of marriage, and after traveling the last five years of life with my wife, the oneness that has grown between Tammie and I has become so strong that I don't think I want to be apart from her this long ever again. All the best things that take place on the Camino, take place in the relationship we share. Indeed, with her, there is a Camino right at home.

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