Thank God for my Rainbow Camino pals

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I have returned from one of the most profound and challenging experiences of my life which sums up my week on the French Way of the Camino.

I have returned from one of the most profound and challenging experiences of my life which sums up my week on the French Way of the Camino.

In seven days I have never laughed, cried, talked, discussed, shared and listened as much. The exhaustion I felt at the end of the journey reflects not only the physical distance travelled but also the human, personal, emotional, psychological and spiritual paths which had been crossed. Usually I’m ploughing ahead looking for the next sign or village, conscious only of finishing by a certain time. This year I learned a different way. As one pilgrim remarked the Camino has a way of teaching you manners.

On the first day, starting at the foot of the Pyrenees, I had rushed out thinking I was going to storm up the mountain. My walking partner is in his 60s and foolishly I thought I would have no problem keeping up. I soon learned it was ‘the old dog for the long road and the pup for the pad.’

Less than a third of the way up the mountain I was exhausted and felt like giving up. The only way I could continue was by walking with slow deliberate baby steps which seem to come quite naturally to my stride. Once I had learned this lesson everything became manageable again and instead of power walking I remained at the back of the group which we nicknamed ‘The Rainbow Centre’. Thankfully I was welcomed into the group like all the rest of the lost and strays. I can only describe the next few days as the topsy turvy Camino. Like a storm we were confronted by the full range of human emotions. We knew we were going nowhere in a rush so the day on the path or road became the main focus, the journey important rather than the destination. Time was rarely a factor, instead we talked and shared, laughed and complained in equal measure. When we felt lost, someone like a pointer would lead the way, or when feeling exhausted and in need of new batteries there was always someone to pick you up.

This was the key, learning to open up and to trust those who journeyed with you. When we slow down and begin to understand how we’re challenged by the road ahead we start to appreciate the burdens and crosses we have been carrying for so long. These often weigh us down and prevent us from becoming the people God wants us to be. We have to learn to become like little children learning to trust God as a parent. The most difficult challenge is handing over control and allowing God to influence the direction of our lives. The most frightening aspect is letting ourselves become like little infants as God takes us by the hand to walk the road often less travelled. We are all pilgrims along the road of life, at various levels in need of God’s healing. Only when confronted by our weakness and pain can we embrace the need to admit our helplessness and vulnerability? We shouldn’t be afraid of being human for Jesus shared in our humanity so we could share in the path opened up by his divinity.