Buen, buen camino

I have a confession: I have spiritual amnesia. It’s a selective forgetting, an involuntary loss of graces and lessons and gems from God. It often comes on swiftly and unexpectedly in such a way that I don’t even notice until much later, such as weeks into a new job, when I’ve taken on an precedented schedule and new worries and pressures and my old tendency to control. Sigh. But as I’ve said before, the biggest grace of my transformative Camino was this: I can live like I did for those two weeks—with radical abandonment, constant gratitude, an ever-present awareness of God and His providence—all the time. At my desk, doing laundry, paying bills, running errands, waking up to a pressing to do list in my mind. Oh, and at my grandfather’s sorrowful and joyful funeral, and when the ache of homesickness sets in in the aftermath. And as I prepare to say goodbye to one of my roommates in a few short months and look for someone to fill her spot. In the midst of loss, and uncertainty, and discomfort.

It’s easier said than done, of course. And it’s also easy to get swept up in the daily grind, to set myself on autopilot, to aim to just get by rather than thrive. But that’s when I return to my handy Moleskine notebook, with its soft leather cover and elastic enclosure and bookmark ribbon that marks my place in the pages where I’ve poured out my heart and soul since April 3. I thumb through the entries from June 5-20 and beyond, where I captured moments of bliss, intimate encounters with God, foretastes of heaven. I kept lists of what Jesus taught me, and new dreams for my future, and new friends I made (organized by country of origin, all 13 of them), and ideas for blog posts, and many, many lists of gratitude. On June 21, my first day back, I wrote, Oh Jesus, the pain is sweet. But hard. Help.

The pain—of nostalgia, of wishing I were back there, of having entered a new season of life that I have yet to become comfortable with—remains. Perhaps with a little less sweetness and a little more difficulty. And while my self-diagnosed spiritual amnesia has taken hold furtively, giving me little chance to notice until I find myself knee-deep in worldly concerns that not long before I was seemingly immune to, I do have hope that there are ways to counteract it. Revisiting my journal helps, of course. As does starting each day in prayer. As does the novena of surrender to the will of God that I so providentially stumbled upon just days ago. But still, it’s hard.

There’s a tradition among pilgrims of greeting each other with a Buen Camino! as they pass along the road. I found it delightful. We all said it, no matter our language or current emotional and physical state, earnestly, with a smile. And locals would greet us that way, too. While it became routine, it never lost its joy for me. It was a chance to connect with a stranger, perhaps one I’d become fast friends with or would never see again. It was a reminder that we were in this journey together. It brought to mind the bigger picture, my hopes and longings in the grand scheme of things, as I checked the map and took swigs of water and put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve been thinking again of that simple phrase, one that touched me deeply. My Camino isn’t over; in fact, it has just begun. I felt as if I lived a whole lifetime in those two divine weeks, so leaving really was like beginning again. Truly, the Camino is a model for our lives. We are all pilgrims on the way, moving at various speeds, suffering from wide-ranging pains, entering each other’s lives with joy. Those encounters with fellow pilgrims were always a balm to me then, as they are to me now. The key now is to open my heart anew to my companions in the journey, to ask them to tend to my wounds, to rest awhile with me. And ultimately, to turn to the One who is the author of the journey, who is holding me together at each step and just waiting for me to welcome Him in.

Try as I might to deny it, I am here to say that I am weak, limited, in need. And while I may be suffering from spiritual amnesia, I know there is a cure. Not only can I return to that treasury of graces I received in those two blessed weeks, but I can look ahead to the unforeseen gifts that are to come. Buen, buen Camino, indeed.





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