My family and I have been privileged to travel to Europe from time to time in the past. Each time we have travelled with at least one child, but our record is four. We were younger, and airfares used to be a whooooole lot cheaper (I still remember wistfully buying one non-stop round ticket from St. Louis to Paris for $198). This upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela will be the first trip that we will make without young children.
One of the things I’ve learned the hard way over time is that I am not able to have things as I would want them, simply because I want them, or even simply because I try to make them that way. If age makes me lose my mental focus (it seems that I am forever careening from one present-tense moment to the next, lucid at any one time but clueless as to the journey) it surely drives home the reality of my inability to “fix” things. This of course is part of God’s wonderful plan. It isn’t my plan of salvation; they really aren’t “my” kids, “my” job, “my” friends, etc. Ditching the idea that I save myself, even temporally speaking, is a must-learn lesson that leads to dependence upon the One Person who is able to save it all.
So, we are preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago, which is one of my long-time goals. Think of George Bailey– practically 3/4 of that movie was George telling everyone he was going to travel the world, thinking about traveling, and taking some steps to bring it about. And for one reason or another it never comes off. Until now, I’ve been the Camino George Bailey. Substitute the Camino de Santiago for George’s Grand Tour and you can understand how much I’ve bored and annoyed friends, family and sometimes total strangers over the years.
And planning a trip is nearly as exciting as taking one. I take particular delight in making sure hotels, flights, trains, tickets and all the minutiae of travel are covered. Don’t believe me? Ask Methodist Jim sometime how early I arrive at a train station in the middle of nowhere so I couldn’t possibly miss a connection. And what better trip to plan than the Camino?
As many have pointed out before, the pilgrimage is a metaphor for life. I try to plan all the connections in life, too. I love doing it. I want to save my own soul and everyone else’s. I want to plan my day and yours, too. I want to know if Benedict’s abdication is valid, if the Dubia will ever be answered, who the next Vicar of the Oratory will be, and whether LeSean McCoy is over his leg injury.
And like in life, my wife (for blogging purposes I’ll call her “Sharon”) simply lives well and does well, and makes sure all my planning is not in vain. It is my packing list, perhaps– but guess who actually packs it? It might be my idea to travel here or there with children (to benefit them, wink), but guess who actually makes that possible? I want to visit this or that place, but guess who actually makes those visits enjoyable and worthwhile? These questions answer themselves. And I don’t mean to imply that Sharon is a passive participant; she has a plan of her own when mine are too insane.
But, back to the title of the post– Letting Go. This is no ordinary trip, it is not first and foremost a vacation. We have a purpose on this journey– several concrete prayer intentions that we are hoping God will grant.
And again, the pilgrimage is a metaphor for life.
This trip is different, even in the conception and planning of it. We are going with another couple (for blogging purposes I’ll call them “Ed” and “Mary”). It seems like a good fit for this enterprise. They have hiking and outdoorsy experience but have never traveled to Europe; Sharon and I have European culture and way-of-doing-things down, and I have some functional Spanish skills. When it comes to the planning and execution of trips, their skills seem to be similarly alloted between husband and wife, but as if on steroids. Speaking just for me and not my lovely bride, they are holier and more competent than I am. I find that the planning, the connections, lodging, the gear, the schedule, the preparation–all of my normal slate of duties– are being done for me, and done well at that. All I have to do is to accept it; since they are very kind people, our input is genuinely sought, but I have no doubt they could plan the whole thing by themselves and hand us our bags at the airport and all would be well.
The pilgrimage is a metaphor for life. Who wouldn’t want a guide and friend to lead one safely on the way? God has a plan. He sends us help. Why would I not leap eagerly at that, instead of viewing it as a cross that I’m not the one doing it? That I am not saving myself? Letting go of planning this Camino is just the simplest of ways of reinforcing that I need to let go of having my way on the journey of life. And why not, when the Person planning it has my interests in mind better than I could, and will bring it about better than I could? The question, again, answers itself.
Time to let go.