“A pilgrimage requires us to ask for help, to develop an ability to recognize when it is being offered, and the humor, humility and open hands to receive it. ”
They say few people can chew bubblegum and walk at the same time. I would one-up that with the claim that reading and walking at the same time is also a challenge. My brother was attempting this in Cuba, and ended up tripping over a parking lot chain. He fell on the pavement and shattered his wrist so badly that he needed extensive reconstructive surgery.
The irony of his accident was that it happened in Cuba while reading a book about Cuba. Though I am no expert, I would suggest that If he really wanted to see Cuba, he should have forgot the book and looked up to see where he was going.
Seeing can be hard work. I can vouch for this because I am an artist. I have sat for hours in front of a subject, puzzling over exactly what it is before me. I have to look very carefully, otherwise it is easy to regard things in a very facile way. I think the Biblical word for it is BEHOLD. I like that word. It means to look at something and to really pay attention.
About a decade ago, I walked a portion of the Camino with my wife. For those who are unfamiliar, the full name is The Camino de Santiago. If you start from St. John’s in France, it is a five hundred mile walk that is premised to take forty days to complete. No matter where you start in Europe, the various routes all end up at a Cathedral in Spain, which commemorates the life and ministry of Saint James the Apostle.
The Camino is a pilgrimage that is well known all over Europe. Its telltale markers are easy to spot, and easy to read. You just have to follow the yellow arrow. The most curious thing about the Camino is that while its roots are religious, people walk it for all kinds of reasons. Their deepest prayers takes shape in letters and pictures of pinned to trees and fences all along the pathway. They are trying to make sense of the world, and so walking is a catch-all answer when you don’t know what else to do. Walking is in some ways, an act of absolution, an exercise in faith that requires leaving something behind in order to find something new just like Abraham the Father of Faith did, when he left Ur for parts unknown.
The Camino, is also called The Way of Saint James. In short, The Way. If you were in any place in Europe through which the Camino runs, the unifying thing is the markers placed for all to see, bright yellow arrows that point the way. Of course there are other ways to go, but chances are that if you are wandering through and looking lost, you are really looking for The Way. Someone will soon spot you out and point to one of the yellow markers. “Don’t you know The Way? Look here. The arrow says to go in that direction.”
One of the most intersting expressions in Scripture, is “Lift up your eyes”. It appears again and again in various narratives and always has to do with God’s leading. The Bible is like that, a record of such received wisdom, otherwise known as revelation. Scripture makes things that are hard to see, plain. God instructed Habakkuk as follows: “Write a vision, and make it plain upon a tablet so that (even) a runner can read it.” Habakkuk 2:3
Allowing yourself to be led, can be a rare quality of the heart. For those willing, the help is there. We are promised, for those who want to know the way. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it,” Isaiah 30:21
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