Somebody please explain to me why anybody would be tempted to skip a beatiful hike through the the Spanish mountains, surrounded by views like these:
For me, it came down to resistance.
Resistance: it’s become a popular term among Catholics, but it’s roots reach all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity.
Perhaps St. Paul put it best, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom 7:15)
I often face resistance in my own life: resisting evil, yes — but even more so, I resist doing the good. Maybe it’s because I have a lot on my plate, or maybe it’s because I like comfort more than I’m willing to admit — whatever it is, I often find myself battling resistance.
Which brings me to the day we planned to walk the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim path leading to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.
There is a beautiful little leg of the Northern route that goes right through San Sebastián. I had done my research and found a very detailed plan for walking this portion of the Camino, with beautiful scenery and pleasant stops along the way.
It looked amazing and I was really looking forward to it. Then the day finally came to walk the Camino, and resistance began to set in.
To be honest, I was still working through a number of fears because of the terrorist attack in Barcelona. I was also worried about completing the 14km hike up and down difficult terrain with 6 kids.
And then there was the resistance from the kids. A few of my kids, who shall remain nameless, were complaining about leaving precious beach time for a long walk through the hills of Spain. They couldn’t see the “fun” of it.
Besides, it was hot and muggy and my 5 year old said she “couldn’t walk another step” — after only two blocks! We were not off to a good start.
I had my own doubts, too. Why were we attempting this crazy hike? What good would this do? Ah, the second guessing: it’s one of my battles in life.
Despite my own doubts, I threw our 4 year old on my back and began to follow the directions to the beginning of the route.
There we were: hot, sweaty, full of complaints — and lost! We couldn’t find that darn stairwell up the mountain. We were a despondent crew. It took everything in me to not turn to John and say, “Well we tried, now let’s go home.”
Thank goodness for John, because he wouldn’t give up — it’s one of his finest attributes — as well as one of the things that sometimes drives me crazy about him.
Clearly God paired me up with the right guy! This second-guesser needed somebody with a firm resolution, and John was just the man for the job.
First lesson in fighting resistance: Starting is the hardest part.
By some miracle, we finally managed to find the steps. Up we hiked, up a long series of steps. Oh boy, did we feel the burn!
We were rewarded with lovely views over San Sebastian. We could see the statue of Jesus overlooking the city. I gave a glance in His direction, asking him to bless this crazy camino of ours.
At this point, the sun was out and it was hot. We were quickly going through our water and we had a long way to go, but then something beautiful happened: the clouds began to gather and a breeze started to cool us down.
Things were beginning to look up! That is, until we found ourselves on the wrong path — again — only 15 minutes into our hike. 🙁
The good news was that the views from our detour were amazing! Fortunately, that was the last time we got lost on our hike.
Second Lesson: Sometimes those “wrong turns” can lead us to beautiful places. Remember to look for the hidden blessings that God might have in mind for you.
Once we got the hang of it, we really started enjoying our hike. Our 5 year old decided to walk, and there was no more complaining. With every turn, there was another amazing view.
To be honest, we needed this hike. We had been stuck in cities and crowds — and we needed to be out in the quiet of God’s creation.
I love cities, but the mind can’t rest in the city. There’s so many distractions and they tend to fragment the mind until a person can’t think straight.
Being out in nature, in God’s beauty, it restores the soul in ways that a city just can’t. With each step away from the city, we began to find more peace rising up in our souls.
We began to get into the rhythm of a pilgrim: a little conversation, followed by quiet and contemplation, followed by a profound sense of peace.
As I walked along these paths, I felt like God had created these views just for me. It’s like He knew I would be weary and I would need these views to be reminded of His love for me.
Yes, He had created these views for me — and any other weary pilgrim walking this same path throughout the centuries.
Why would He do that? Because He loves us and He never tires of reminding us of that love.
I once heard it said that nature is the “fifth gospel”. I believe it. God made us to live in Paradise — not to be hidden away in the dark cubicles of our life — and even now, He’s preparing a beautiful place for us. It’s nice to be reminded of that.
Third Lesson: When you’re feeling weary, go into the quiet of nature, and let God speak to you there.
Part of the beauty of the Camino is the pilgrims you meet along the way. We spent a good bit of time talking with a family who had fled the horrors of Barcelona. We greeted everybody that passed us with at least a “Buen Camino” and a smile as we kept moving forward on our own little way.
At one point, we passed a young, pregnant woman who was all alone. She looked at my family and I looked at hers, and we smiled at each other, as if we were both saying, “Keep going. Don’t give up on this crazy life”.
The path itself was difficult at times, but it was made easier by many people throughout the centuries who had cut paths, set stones, and made sure the path was clearly marked so others didn’t lose their way.
4th Lesson: We can’t do it alone.
Perhaps this is the most important lesson. We can’t do it alone. We need people to help us, to encourage us and to remind us to just “stay the course” when we want to bail.
In fact, we often don’t realize how much we rely on others — those who have gone before us and those we are walking right next to us in this life. The truth is, I’m stronger because of the people around me. I’m a better person because of the people around me.
Family life has a way of making our shortcomings glaringly obvious, but the good news is that it also allows us a chance to overcome them.
Family is a gift. It is the place where saints are made. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We need each other.
And if you don’t have a family to speak of, well then, welcome to the Catholic Church!
5th Lesson: Use your momentum.
An interesting thing happens when you push through the hard stuff of life. All of a sudden, you might find yourself picking up momentum. You might actually find that you’re enjoying yourself.
When you hit those moments in your life, those moments of energy and enthusiasm, don’t forget to thank God for them and use this momentum to push yourself further along your path.
6th Lesson: Don’t forget to celebrate your little victories.
After we made it to the end of our trek, we came upon the cutest little town, the Pasajes de San Juan. It felt a bit like an Alpine village — it was hard to believe we were in Spain.
We had benefited from a cool mist towards the end, and as soon as our camino ended, the sun came out again. It was just perfect!
We found a lovely little restaurant and ate a delicious meal to celebrate our Camino. I highly recommend the restaurant Ziaboga.
And then, go to the water and look for the crabs and fish. The kids loved watching them move around.
Just think what beauty we would we have missed out on, had we given into the resistance we were fighting that day?
All that fun, all that beauty, all those moments that reminded us how very blessed we are to be a part of our family would never have happened. What a shame that would have been!
Looking forward to one day returning to Spain and finishing the Camino as a family. Until then, enjoying the further adventures of this crazy, Catholic life. It’s never boring. Always a new adventure around the bend.
Linking up with Kelly.