There and Back, Once Again

When I arrived home from the Camino in 2018, I thought it had served its purpose in my life. I was grateful for its impact, the people it allowed me to meet and the clarity it provided. It was a gift for a season and I thought that season had come to an end. I thought I was done walking the Camino.

Six weeks after returning home, I was approached by two organizations who asked me to put together a proposal for leading groups on the Camino. These were unanticipated invitations, but I was open to discovering where they might lead. I wondered if a new season was being birthed.

While preparing these proposals, I reached out to a professor who I had met in Hontanas in 2018. She was leading a group of students from Calvin College on the Camino, something she had done several times before. I spent an afternoon talking with her about what it was like to lead a group on the journey, and the spiritual influence the course had on the students. I was also able to chat with one of the students about his experience and how it was impacting him. It was a wonderful afternoon, and now, given what I was being asked to develop, it seemed like a divine appointment as well. The professor was gracious and generous in sharing with me what she had learned over the years. Her insight was helpful in developing my proposals.

While each proposal was well received, within a couple of months it was apparent that neither opportunity would materialize. I wondered what God was doing in all of this. I was content to let the Camino go when I returned, but now the idea of leading a group to walk it had stirred desire up once again. Was God really allowing this desire to be stirred up, only to have it go unmet? I did not have the answer to that question. All I could do was trust there was some good in all of this, a good I could not see in the moment.

I wrote to the professor to inform her of the outcomes and to thank her for all the support she had given. She shared my disappointment and encouraged me to keep the lines of communication open, as she said “things change”. I appreciated the hint of hope contained in those words, though I could not imagine what would change.

Imagine my surprise, when three months later, she reached out and asked if I would be interested in partnering in leading a group from Calvin College on the Camino in 2020. Of course I was interested. The desire which had been unexpectedly stirred the summer before now had a hope of fulfillment. I was excited about the possibility. Lucky for me, so was my wife. With her support, I accepted the professor’s invitation. I will be walking the Camino once again, but this time with a group of students.

It is wonderful to see that the seeds of desire planted in the unexpected invitations of last summer, which seemed to wither away almost as quickly as they appeared, were not dead. They were only dormant, waiting to be reawakened. Now revived, they have grown into an entirely unexpected opportunity to lead students on a journey that has impacted my own spiritual life in such significant ways.

So why was it necessary to wait? I do not think we can underestimate the importance of the space between the birth of desire and its fulfillment. Our culture has trained us to expect immediate gratification. Often, the result is momentary satisfaction, without any real lasting effect.

But waiting, even waiting with no idea of how we will experience fulfillment, trains us in faith, hope, trust, patience, surrender and perseverance. Much good work, the kind of work that leads to maturity, contentment, joy and peace is taking place in the waiting. It is exactly the kind of work you would expect God to do if He is going to use you to guide others on pilgrimage. After all, you cannot lead anyone where you have not gone yourself.

While it is almost exactly one year from when our group will take its first steps on the Camino, we are beginning to develop the spiritual rhythms and exercises which will help guide them into the deeper places of their hearts and grow their capacity to discern God’s presence and voice. I am excited for what giving themselves to the practice of pilgrimage will mean for the spiritual lives of these students.

In the past, I have walked alone. This will be an entirely different experience for me, walking in the company of others, helping to guide their spiritual journeys on the Camino. I hope you will come along. I have a feeling there will be much life and growth along the way. I would love to share it with you (Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you do not miss any steps along the way).

Buen Camino!

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