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Sabbaticalogue Wk. 12 – The Last 80 Kilometers on the Camino

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Camino Update Day 26: 720 kilometers down, 80 to go. Three...more...days! Don’t call me a sap, but I actually get teary-eyed when I think about seeing Santiago’s skyline for the first time this coming Sunday morning. 

Don’t get me wrong. When I make it to Santiago at the completion of my walk across Spain on the Camino, I don’t want to turn right around and do it again. I may never do it again. I feel like I’ve walked enough for a lifetime, let alone a month. I’m spent. I’m done. And I’m ready to come home.

But I still might cry like a baby when I walk into Santiago. I’m actually getting a little moist in the eyes as I write this. The reason I’m pretty sure the tears will flow is that...the journey—the beautiful, enriching, painful, frustrating, tiring, yet transforming, journey—will be over.

And I believe I will be a better person for it. The pain. The challenge of figuring out where to sleep every night. Unisex bathrooms and showers and dormitory sleeping quarters. (Don’t worry, everyone—well, almost everyone—was very modest and respectful.) 

And then there are the newly-formed friendships. It’s hard not to get close to people when you’re with them on the walk and at the hostels. Great conversations about faith, life, and the problems with the world (and America specifically, as many of my European friends are quick to point out). I planted seeds of the hope that comes through the Gospel of Jesus, and I pray others will come along and water them.

Without sounding overly dramatic, my new friends and I have a shared experience of a pilgrimage that can’t fully be appreciated unless you’ve made the journey.

But that’s the nature of life. Too often we want the blessing, but we don’t want to go through what it takes to get there. Now that I’m about 80 kilometers from Santiago, I’m running into more and more “pilgrims” who took a bus to Sarria, Spain and began their walk from there.  When pilgrims complete the Camino, they receive a Compostela, a certificate of completion. The minimum requirement to receive the coveted document is to walk the last 100 (or bike the last 200) kilometers to Santiago. (I didn’t see anything mentioned about riding a motorcycle.)

When I see someone strolling along who hasn’t walked 700 kilometers so far, I don’t get too bent out of shape that they can receive the same Compostela as those of us who’ve walked the whole thing. After all, I remember Jesus’ parable about the workers who came on the job late and got the same pay as those who started early in the morning (Matthew 20:1-16). Such is the beauty of God’s grace, and we should be grateful. I don’t know the stories of those coming late to the party. I don’t know their pain, health issues, or life circumstances.

My friends, though, think otherwise. In grumbling, guttural words, they call these latecomers, “Cheaters.” Maybe, maybe not.

But it did get me to think about how we often want the reward without the pain. In “The Last Arrow,” Erwin McManus writes, “Frankly, over the years, many young men have come and asked me how they can have my life, but what quickly becomes clear is that they want the life without the path. They want my life without the wounds; they want my life without my scars. In fact, they don’t actually want my life; they want the rewards” (70).

Don’t we want heaven? Then we have to go through the pain of earth—not to “earn our stripes,” but simply because one comes before the other. And you can never reverse the order. 

I hope that in three days I will receive my Compostela, not because I’m a great athlete, or better than anybody else, or because I started in St. Jean and not half-way through Spain. I hope to receive the Compostela simply because I walked, and I didn’t...give...up.

Not a bad picture for life, if you think about it. Keep walking in Jesus, one foot in front of the other, faithfully following Him in His grace, in the strength of His Spirit, with other pilgrims. And one day you’ll receive the greatest Compostela ever when you hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21).

And I’d say that should definitely bring some tears to anyone’s eyes. It does to mine.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 11 – Making Every Mile Count

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Today I completed Day 19 of my trek across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. 328 miles down, 172 miles to go. 

Now, more of my journey is behind me than before me. Sounds kind of like my life. 

Thomas Merton once wrote, “The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey.”

If that’s true, I’m doing a lot of acting out. Some days the walk goes well. I sing. I pray. I meditate on Scripture. I reflect on the miles behind me, and I anticipate the miles before me. 

But then there are days, like yesterday. If you’ve ever watched the movie, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” you might remember that Wolverine’s girlfriend had a superpower where she could control people’s minds simply by touching them. Near the end of the movie, she’s lying on the ground near death, and she grabs the ankle of the evil character, Major Stryker. She tells him to walk until he can walk no more, and with a hypnotized look, he turns and takes his first step. He reappears before the film ends with his shoes worn, clothes tattered, and face twisted in pain. 

That was me yesterday. 

And then to top it off, I stayed in a small town that, unbeknownst to me, was planning an all-night festival, and the stage for the live band faced our hostel. They started playing at dusk and were still playing when I left at 5 am. Lesson learned. Pay attention to the culture in which you’re walking.

Just like in life, some days are good and some days you wish you would’ve stayed in bed. The key is—don’t give up. I’ve talked to others on the Camino who’ve said, “I didn’t realize how long and hard this was going to be.” Actually, I’m the one who’s said that...more than once.

In “The Last Arrow,” Erwin McManus writes, “More often than not, the journey to where God wants to take us requires that we travel further than we ever expected....  But if you simply gave up because the journey was longer and harder than you expected, then you have become a settler when you should still be a pioneer. The unfortunate reality is that many of us would choose our comfort rather than our destiny, would choose safety over opportunity, would rather settle for less than sacrifice now.”

You may be having a hard walk right now. If so, then keep acting out your inner journey. Don’t settle. Don’t quit. Don’t give in. For many of us, we have fewer miles ahead of us than behind us, so let’s make every mile count.

 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians6:9, ESV). 

Buen Camino

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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