Stage 24: Villafranca del Bierzo to O’Cebreiro
Official: 27.7km // iPhone Step Count: 30.5km
When I was a senior in high school, in my Spirituality course, I was lead through a meditation that introduced me to my “shadow” side. In the exercise, we listed adjectives that described our “shadow self.” In the center of the page, I wrote the word “lost.” The reality and truth of that word has continued to describe the essence of my being.
While I may seem levelheaded and under control, the truth is I’m merely play-acting. It may appear I know what I’m doing and saying, but that’s simply because years worth of charisma has allowed me to manipulate people to think I have my life in good working order.
Lost. The word still bares a weight that I’ll never fully be able to topple.
Lost. It stops me in my tracks and reveals a profound quality of my superficial character.
Lost. I do not know the road ahead of me and I cannot be certain where it will end.
For centuries, endless swarms of pilgrims have weaved through Spain and rarely does anyone get lost. Just when confusion may strike and confidence wanes positioned just where it’s needed, a golden arrow lingers in the distance painted precisely where it’s needed.
The obvious nature of this metaphor cannot be overstated.
Just when we needed guidance the most something appears to help us along the way.
Whenever we have felt hopeless and alone, a note from a friend helps to carry us along.
Whenever we fell sad and depressed, a perfectly timed joke brightens and transforms our day.
Whenever we have felt hopeless, a community comes together to being new hope.
In my own life, I have felt “lost” more often than I have been “found.”
When my grandparents died, I remember feeling depressed and saddened by the loss of joy in my life.
When my dad died, I remember feeling abandoned from the opportunity to make amends.
When I was juggling college decisions, I remember struggling with indecision.
When I made mistakes, I remember feeling isolated from others.
When I felt like I knew everything, I remember feeling the weight of my stupidity on my shoulders.
In each of those moments, I could have used a golden arrow. I would have appreciated some direction. I would have liked some guidance in my struggles.
In the dense forest of my mind, I failed to see the obviously arrow paint precisely before my eyes.
The friends who laughed with me to distract me from my sadness. They were my golden arrows.
The teacher who listened to me as I worked through my indecisions. They were my golden arrows.
The family who brought food when I didn’t have the strength to make it myself. They were my golden arrows.
Through the cities and wilderness of the Camino, golden arrows dot the landscape to guide each pilgrim along their way.
Through the cities and wilderness of our life, golden arrows dot our life to guide each person along their way.
In both instances, it can be difficult to notice their significance. Some are concealed next to a trash cans. Some are nested behind a bush. Some are drawn in fading paint.
When have you felt lost and needed a guiding arrow?
Where are the arrows painted in your life?
Who have been your golden arrows?
People are rarely lucky, like us pilgrims, to have arrows so clearly painted through our lives. But if the Camino de Santiago, can teach anything, it is to pause, if only for a moment, catch your breath, and look at what you are seeing.
To close, I will include my favorite prayer, written by Thomas Merton, that has been a golden arrow through many of my lost moments.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.