“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
It never was about arriving in Santiago for me. I wanted to go on pilgrimage. I wanted to exercise my faith. It was always more about the journey than it ever was about the arrival. Don’t get me wrong, as I walked into the plaza in front of the Cathedral, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was elated and exhausted both physically and spiritually. Upon a pilgrims arrival to the Catheral, it is a tradition to climb up behind Santiago and give him a big hug, so I did just that. It was a special moment at the end of my journey. But I am not confused. I know that walking 500 miles and receiving a compostela earns me absolutely nothing. Jesus paid it all. What I have in my shepherd is everything to me. Nothing in this life will ever compare…
“Faith is not clinging to a shrine but the endless, tameless, pilgrimage of hearts.” Abraham Joshua Hershel
There were many pilgrims who walked into Santiago and were dissapointed to see the old Cathedral covered in scaffolding and in the midst of reconstruction. Several people have asked me if I was dissapointed. I wasn’t. It was precisely what I had been learning and seeing all along The Camino. I saw it in the many of the old churches that I had visited, prayed, and worshipped in on my journey. God’s church is in desperate need of reconstruction. His children are in need of restoration. I saw it in the beautiful golden cathedrals. I saw it in his beautiful wandering people. I see it in my own mirror every single morning. The most amazing thing was, I couldn’t always feel Him in the churches along the way, but I always, always, could find Him there out on the road, walking, and talking to His people. He was there at the dinner table one night sitting across from me with a young soldier from Ireland, who just the night before told me he wouldn’t believe in a God who allowed children to suffer from cancer and the atrocities of war. He leaned over to me the next evening and in a whisper asked me if I really believed he was worthy of redemption after all the horrible things he had done. I told him that “Jesus believes you are and He has already done it.” He then proceeeded to pull a St. Jude’s medal from underneath his shirt and told me he was a lost cause and then he cried when I told him he was wrong. He was there in the pouring down rain, on a muddy road to Santa Domingo, with a girl from Denmark who asked me why I was walking. After I told her, she told me that religion was just something they “do back home and not someone to believe in.” I told her that I thought that was sad. She agreed with me. So many people, so many stories… He was there with the old Spanish abuelas who would take me by the arm and lead me to my hostel when I would arrive in town, lost and tired from walking all day. He was there when I was alone on the mountain tops and he was there on the long, hot, meseta. If you listen hard enough the rocks really do cry out. He was there listening and answering my prayers every single morning. I would pray for just enough strength for one more day. There is no way that I walked those 500 miles by myself…
The question I was asked most by people was, “If God is so good, why doesn’t he do something about war, famine, poverty, hate, illnesses and broken relationships? It is the age old question isn’t it? I do not know if we can truly understand the answer on this side of heaven. But this is what I trust and believe in because I trust and believe in Jesus. He did. He created us, and then He sent his only son, flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood, to restore us to himself, so that we could stare love right in the face and accept that love and choose to share it with others. Love is always a choice. God let’s us make that choice. He is not some great puppetmaster in the sky making us dance for him. He let’s us choose to dance for him and with him. He nevers forces us to do anything. The kind of love that he offers to us is not a love any of us can truly understand. We are told by Jesus that we must love others more than ourselves. It is a crazy, radical, upside down kind of love that we have a hard time accepting for ourselves, much less give away to others, especially our enemies and that is exactly what Jesus Christ calls us to do. He tells us if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn and offer them the other. He says that if someone steals your coat, offer them the shirt off of your back. He reminds us it is easy to love those who love you back and almost impossible to love your enemies, unless you look at them through the eyes of a Savior. He tells us the first will be last and the last will be first, that the rich will be poor and that the poor are already rich. He tells us we are blessed when we mourn, and that the meek will inherit the earth. He tells us that we are to give mercy and grace to everyone, because that same mercy and grace was given to us for free. It cost us nothing. It cost Jesus everything. God doesn’t need us. He wants us. He is calling us back to himself. He wants to restore us. I looked up the definition of restoration and this was the first one that I found:
- The action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.
The church ceases to be the church when it becomes a museum. After walking into Burgos one afternoon, I passed a pilgrim named James on my way to visit the cathedral. He asked me where I was going. When I told him I was going to see the church, he replied, “that isn’t a church, it’s a museum. They want money to get in.” Sadly, he was right. God doesn’t need another museum. God doesn’t want live in the golden cathedrals and be placed on an altar to be admired from a distance. He wants to live on the altar of our hearts. He wants to reside inside of our souls. We are his design, his workmanship, we are his beautiful temples and it is here that he desires to be. He wants us to be a living sacrifices. I know, it is alot to take in. We live in a world that tells us to be the exact opposite of who God created us to be. If it feels good, do it. If you want it, buy it. Get the bigger house, buy the new car, make more money because more is better. We live in a prison of our own making. God doesn’t want prisoners. He wants His people to come home. He wants to restore us to the people he designed us to be. He wants the church to be filled with his people of one mind, one heart, one soul. The church is just a building until it is filled with God’s people, singing out as one. One church, one mind, one faith, one God.
Jesus was a pilgrim, he was a great walker…
” After his sweat-stained, fly swatting, foot cracked trail life in the dust and the grit of the Near East, the hiking God made his way through the hills of Jerusalem. The roads would have been busy; it was peak pilgrimage season. It was a journey home. He had been born just a few miles away in Bethlehem, and the temple was the house of the old tribal deity he called father. Betrayed by a fellow traveler, his journey seemed to end. But things are not always as they seem. Indeed, in the weird kingdom that Jesus spoke of, things are never as they seem. Three days later there was a great beginning.”
“The Sacred Journey” Charles Foster
What we are doing on the way home matters. And so the journey continues…