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Camino de Santiago, Part 3

(part of an ongoing series from Pastor Carl about activities during his sabbatical)

This week I am picking up with where I left off a few weeks ago sharing about my time on the Camino de Santiago. In my previous two posts I shared an overview of what the Camino is and why I chose to walk and then about some of the logistical details. Rather than chronicle each day’s journey, I want to highlight a few experiences and learnings from my time. I did share daily thoughts and pictures on Facebook, so if you wish, you can go there and see many more pictures and daily experiences.

Through the centuries, many followers of Jesus have noted how spending time in creation can help one draw closer to God. As David Fitch, a scholar/author I enjoy, said, “On the nature of worship: no one stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon and says ‘I am awesome.’”  This was certainly true for me as I walked the trails of the Camino. In particular, there was one day when I ended up walking far longer than I intended due to a lack of a place to stay. With a traveling companion, we traversed the Hospitales, by many regarded as some of the finest walking of the Camino Primitivo.

Unfortunately the afternoon/evening we were walking was extremely windy and foggy and so we were not able to enjoy much of the view. Nevertheless, there was something magnificent about walking across the ridges with the wind howling and the fog blowing to remind me of God’s wonder and grandeur. Though we missed much of the scenery, we were rewarded with a beautiful sight of the sun breaking through the clouds (see above) as the fog moved on.


Certainly you don’t have to go to Spain or spend hours in the fog to enjoy the wonder of experiencing God through his creation. You can do the same walking on the shores of Lake Michigan, exploring local trails, or even just watching the birds out your front window. I enjoy all of those things but my time on the Camino exposed me to new parts of God’s creation that led me to greater appreciation and deeper worship of God for his creativity and thankfulness for all he has given.

Some of the other practices that Christians have found beneficial over the years are silence and solitude. In our world today, these can be challenging to practice with the constant intrusion of beeps and buzzes, music, and general noise. Even when I am putting gas in my car’s tank, the drone of gas station TV is filling my ears. As I thought about this, one of my conscious decisions was to practice some silence during my walk on the Camino.

For me this meant not putting on my headphones and listening to music or podcasts as I typically do when running or driving in the car. Rather, I chose to walk in the relative silence of my surroundings. It wasn’t a strict time of silence since I often had conversations with other pilgrims. But, it was a time to be free for a while of the need to have constant background noise.

For me, and for many others, when you take away the external noise, there is a realization of the inner noise. To put it another way, when we practice silence, what we are able to hear is all of the noise that is going on inside of us. So, as I refrained from podcasts and music I was “forced” to listen to what was going on inside of myself. I was tempted at times to put my earbuds back on but knew there was value in listening to those inner voices and dialogues.

In the midst of that listening, there were moments of insight and other times simply a realization of all the noise going on in my head. I knew this from my doctoral work which explored this very issue, and was reminded of the need to be more regular in this practice. It’s something I would encourage you to also try: regular periods of time of abstaining from electronic media, maybe one day a week, to help you hear what’s going on inside of you as well as hear from God.

Because the Camino has its origins in a pilgrimage, there were numerous chapels along the way. Some of them were open to go inside, and others were closed off. I made it a practice whenever I came across an open one to stop in for a few moments and pray. Sometimes this was 3 times per day and  other days there were no open chapels.

Nevertheless, this practice helped ground me and remind me of part of my reason for walking: to spend time with the Lord. It’s not my current practice but for seasons I have practiced a liturgy of the hours, which means having prayers at fixed times of the day. This discipline has its origins in the practices of the Israelites who prayed at fixed times each day. What this does is help us to stop in the midst of our daily activities and be reminded of God’s presence with us and that what is most significant is God, his kingdom, and our relationship with him. My time on the Camino reminded me of the value of that practice and I will be resuming it again soon. If any of you are interested or want to learn more, please contact me.

There were certainly other moments of insight, worship, and wonder. My goal was to share just a few of those with you so that you might know a little bit more about my time and experiences during my sabbatical.

I continue to be thankful for being given the opportunity to have this time of sabbath and appreciate the willingness and sacrifices of the people who are Fruitland Covenant to allow me to have this time.

With much appreciation,