The Camino de Santiago is a beautiful and bountiful pilgrimage across Spain. As with any spiritual journey, you learn more of who you are in the form of reflection: a reverberation of the light the Father generates in all his glory.
I walked the Camino Francés (520 miles from St. Jean, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain) in 2016 and now find myself back at the beginning of the same demanding, yet rewarding trek. However, even though I have walked the Camino once before, the horizon terrifies me.
The Camino brings to light things that have been hidden away.
Very honestly, my dear sisters, I am afraid of what I will find. I don’t want to be exposed. I don’t want to discover my weakness and sin - I am scared that it will confirm my fear of unworthiness.
I struggle with shame. I have this fear of disconnection from our Lord and from human love. It is the idea that who I am disqualifies me from the opportunity to love and be loved. This shame communicates to me that I will never be capable of satisfying my greatest longing.
As I write this down I recognize how irrational it sounds, but fear's tempting voice manifests in more disguised questions: Why do I struggle to connect with those around me? How could God love me in all my weakness and sin? What did the boy find lacking in me that made him decide I was no longer worth pursuing? Will I ever get it all right?
In my day-to-day life, I can usually put off this weight, busying myself as a means of distraction; however, the Camino simplifies life to the extreme. It eliminates distractions and leaves you with one goal each day: walk between 13 and 19 miles to the next town. As I prepared for the Camino, I trembled at the idea of not having the ability to employ this coping mechanism.
I’d like to say my prayer became, “Lord, heal the parts of my heart and soul I don’t want to face,” but this was far from the case. I let myself drown in the noise of my fears, anxieties and doubt, stiff-arming all of the Father’s attempts to just hold me.
These first few days of the Camino, it’s as if I have collapsed at the foot of the cross.
Yesterday as we were walking, I felt the shadows encroaching. The more I tried to avoid my wounds, the more the pain surged. Our Lord so gently called to me, “Look into my eyes.” My face remained stoic, as the tears cascaded and my chest tightened. “Please, Lord. No, I promise you don’t want this mess.” I didn’t feel worthy to hold his glance. He beckoned me once more, “Look into my eyes. Let my love heal you. Let me simply hold you in your hurt.” I fell cradle into his embrace.
I had grown in awareness of my sin and weakness, but lost sight of my growing awareness of God’s holiness. As I looked up to the cross, I remembered his sovereignty. I saw an invitation to perfect love.
“You are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you… Fear not, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:4-5, NABRE).
Those words: I love you. My heart trembles as I witness the Father fight for me to hear his promise. He is infatuated with me. He is infatuated with you. His only desire is to compassionately flood every vessel of our bodies until we rest in the comfort of his providence.
Our Abba asks us to do nothing, but accept his invitation to burn through every fear with the fire of his love and mercy. As much as I would like to teach myself how to be his (how to belong to the Father), the reality is that I can only be. There is no black and white lesson or calculated move. I can only receive and to do so I must settle into all that He made me to be as his creation, both in weakness and in glory.
How I wish this response of acceptance was simple and lasting. With a busy mind, the doubt and fear campaign for my attention. I have a daily, or rather momentary, need to receive the Father’s love.
In each step of the Camino, He invites me to a deeper surrender as a means of understanding his everlasting love. I deny discouragement remembering that He does not tire of calling my name, leading me by the hand toward his refuge and almighty kingdom. My albergue.
Because of this need for returning to light, I understand God is gesturing me into a season of building endurance. I would like to know his love with the deepest understanding and confidence, but in my humanness I simply do not. The Lord respects and honors my free will instead by giving me opportunities to practice trust in his perpetual covenant. My “yes” bears eternal fruit and welcomes a peace no mortal words suffice to describe.
Our Papa says to us, “I do not tire of rescuing you. I will go after you over and over and over again. I will be there whenever you need me. Trust in me. I am with you. All will be well.”
I struggle with shame but struggle does not presume defeat. It means I am striving in the face of adversity. It means I am a courageous and trying daughter. Most often, the one thing that keeps me from connection is my fear that I’m not worthy of connection. So, here I am to hand over that fear to a Lord whose love heals all.
Do not give up the fight, my dear sisters. As you walk your own Camino, pause to remember the Lord’s presence. He meets you in the struggle. He smiles at the sight of your simple desire to glorify his name. His plan is one that calls you to further rely on him - to completely lean against his sturdy love. Allow him to fill your weakness. You are worthy of love. Go light up this world with the gifts and grace that only you can give.