About seven years ago my friend, Clif, gave me the movie called, “The Way”. It’s a story about a father estranged from his adult son because instead of finding a job, his son is determined to walk the trail known as the path of St. James that begins in France and ends in Spain.
Early on this trail, called the el Camino, the son is killed in a fall. Spontaneously, in his grief, the father decides to walk the trail himself, to finish his son’s dream and place his ashes along the way. The son’s quest becomes the father’s path to God. Along the Way, he finds healing and new life. He comes to know his son and love him more deeply.
Clif wanted to walk the trail himself, but he died suddenly before he could go. In the card attached to the gift of the movie, he writes: ‘We are all pilgrims who need to encourage each other as we walk our own Way, and I’m grateful to know you.’ It was his way of saying we’re God’s children, all in this together.”
Four years ago I hiked the last part of the Camino del Santiago (the way of St. James) in Spain with a group of five people from Alabama, including Clif’s widow. That trip initiated a kind of hiking prayer life for me that I had not anticipated. Now I hike weekly, sometimes in early morning before work and on my days off. I find that the solitude, the one foot in front of the other rhythm allows me to pray and process my life, like meditation. Being in God’s creation, outside walls rightsizes me and helps me listen.
Since Spain, I have taken long distance hikes at least once a year in unknown places with total strangers. I’ve walked across England, around the ring of Kerry in Ireland, and parts of the Via Francigena in Italy. Walking with strangers as a pilgrim in foreign places, away from my routine has opened my view of the world, made me physically stronger and nourished my life with God. I’m grateful to my friend Clif for that first challenge. I’m grateful God continues to use each piece of my life to deepen my spirit and teach me new ways to love.