My Pilgrim Blog – beginning the Camino, my first official pilgrimage

I’ve decided that I am beginning my pilgrimage – the last 300km of the Camino in Spain – today, Monday, October 5, 2015. So, for all you who asked if I was going to blog, here goes my ramblings – you asked for it. There will be less when I’m walking but here’s some initial thots. Today I claim pilgrim status, literally and figuratively. More on that later.

I probably began my pilgrimage this morning at 0130 when I woke up. I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was wondering about our plane tickets. So I got up and did some exploring via the internet, looking for confirmtion that the changes that Flight Network said we needed to make – leaving Barcelona on Nov. 5 on a different flight – had been made yet. The changes still weren’t noted so I wasn’t sure what to do but wrote it off to being part of the adventure, something the early pilgrims didn’t have to deal with. I emailed them and got an email back within hours with the new flights. One less thing to think about.

After an hour or so I went back to bed, got some sleep. I was planning to drive Linda to work so she could catch up on a bit of sleep. We had just returned, earlier that day, from Grace Bible Church’s annual Grace Escape retreat. We hold it at Red Rock Bible Camp and while good times were had by all, new beds make sleep harder…shades of the Camino. On the way to her place of work, St. Boniface Hospital, I shared with her a dream I had that night about losing my backpack, my wallet, and ending up naked in a car with a bunch of guys I really didn’t know or trust. My unconscious was speaking loudly of it’s concerns. We commiserated re: our travel / plane anxiety and both said that we felt better after talking about it. Already we’re benefiting from the pilgrim way of being a social event and how sharing burdens lightens the load – emotionally, at least. We still need to watch the weight of our backpacks.

After dropping her off, I continued on with a lighter spirit, and decided to go for breakfast at Danny’s at the Forks, cause it would give me more solitude, which I felt I wanted this Danny's - Day 1 pilgrimagemorning, probably because I wanted to process that dream a bit more. I enjoy Wannabees but it’s more of a social event eating there.

Before I went in I sat in the car processing the dream using my iPhone Notepad which allows me to dictate my thots, turning voice to text. I’m using it to journal on the Camino. As I reflected I became aware that I am embarrassed to tell people I’m going on a pilgrimage. I say it’s a walk or vacation and I hope to be contemplative, looking forward to whatever God has for me along the way. But for some reason I feel an old embarrassment when I thought of saying, “I’m going on a pilgrimage.” or saying “I am a pilgrim.”

One reason that came to mind is I don’t want people to think I’m trying to appear more spiritual than them. As I sat in the car talking to God about those feelings I realised that by avoiding saying, “I’m going on a pilgrimage.” “I am a pilgrim.” I’m hiding my true self, my true desire to know God and follow Jesus Way – which to me is what a true pilgrim / seeker is all about. Something anyone can be. There is probably some old pride dampening tapes being played in the background and I realise that to be embarrassed about wanting to possibly experience the blessing of God’s presence is very similar to my childish habit of not accepting good things because for some reason I felt I didn’t deserve them. I was reminded of one conversation I had with God about being worried about spiritual pride – especially with all my Bible College training. I really felt God say, “Stephen, you do your best and I’ll take care of the pride, if and when it comes.” This “word” for me has given me much comfort over the years. Unfortunately I often forget that gentle encouragement and let the “old tapes” direct my thoughts, feelings and subsequent actions.

On the Grace Escape this weekend I presented on Creation Care and one source was Thomas Merton’s reflection on a tree from New Seeds of Contemplation. He writes.” A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.” (29) He continues, “For me to be saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.” (31) “To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls “working out our salvation,” (32) “We are only really ourselves when we completely consent to “receive” the glory of God into ourselves. Our true self is, then, the self that receives freely and gladly the missions that are God’s supreme gift to His sons.” (p42) and daughters. (I’m sure Merton would add if he were writing in the 21st century)

Grace escape3 2015All that is to say that I deny who I am, my ‘true self’ to use Merton’s term, by not being free to say that I’m going on a pilgrimage in Spain. It now seems important for me to be able to freely say that I’m looking forward to walking in the century old footsteps of hundreds of pilgrims to a sacred place – the grave of St. James in Santiago de Compostela – because my deepest desire is to get to know God and myself better.  I’m finally admitting that somehow I believe this pilgrimage will help that “knowing”.  Yeah scenery, yeah people and yeah God. For some reason, I’m letting myself acknowledge that maybe walking the Camino, even if for only 300km, is one of those “missions” that God has gifted me with so that I may know God more and in knowing God, know myself. Dare I say that it will move me closer to Paul’s testimony of “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me”. Just reading what I just wrote brings back that embarrassing feeling of being “too spiritual” but that is really what I want so why not say it. What’s wrong with wanting to let Christ live in / through me? It’s at times like this I really wonder whether religion and learnin’ helps or hinders one’s growth in love and mercy – to oneself, others and creation. Sometimes we grow in spite of it and sometimes, like pilgrimages, it might help. Lord in your mercy. Hear my prayer.

There —  that’s my first pilgrim blog entry. It has been a freeing experience reflecting, praying, writing this morning. I’m finishing up writing on Linda’s Lazyboy in our living room in McNaughton, drinking coffee my new daughter-in-law just made – a great start to a pilgrimage. I’m going to continue blogging even if it brings up those feelings of being too spiritual – at least for my ‘small self’ – Richard Rohr’s term, which I prefer to Merton’s  ‘false self’. I hope to publish my thots anyway and let God deal with whatever pride, real or false that comes. I know I will enjoy the feeling of writing something meaningful, at least for me and be grateful to God for God’s grace and glory that is in and around camino_frances2me and possibly can come out through me, affirming my ‘big self’, my ‘true self’, my soul. I’d be interested in your comments on my pilgrim blog, even though I may not get back to you right away. Pilgrims don’t always have access to internet.

Buen Camino

About gsmurphy1

Husband, father, son, brother, listener, seeker, encourager, pilgrim, stained glass artist
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3 Responses to My Pilgrim Blog – beginning the Camino, my first official pilgrimage

  1. Al McBurney says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve just read them from our Hotel lobby in Venice. We’re getting close to the end our 18 day European trip.
    Appreciate your honesty Stephen about your inner journey. With what you’ve shared you are well on your way to a rich spiritual experience on this pilgramage.
    My prayers and thought are with you.

  2. Wilma says:

    I appreciate your vulnerability and look forward to reading more. Journey on, my friend. Blessings of joy and safety.

  3. Lori Matties says:

    And Buen Camino to you, too! Looking forward to having a small share in your experience through this blog.

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