By: Michael Arias
I sat there, hunched over, in the dark of an old cathedral, crying. I’m not one for crying, unless there’s something in my eyes, but that’s a different story. I was legitimately and genuinely crying, for the first time I could remember in a long, long time.
I was all alone on the Camino of Santiago in Spain, a country relatively foreign to me.
The country was undergoing a heat wave, and more importantly, I was getting sick very quickly, with a fever looming on the horizon. I could feel my energy draining with every step I had taken since I woke up that morning. The day started with me feeling like trash when I woke up at 6 a.m., and now, after four hours of walking only half the distance I could normally walk in that same amount of time, I was feeling like I had nothing left. It was a bad situation to be in. The next sizable town was easily six, if not more, hours ahead of me given my current pace. The village offered little to nothing, and the thought of going backwards: akin to giving up.
It was big question-and-answer time for me. Why continue walking the Camino? It was at that moment literally turning into a living nightmare of pain and loneliness.
I originally started the Camino half because I love the outdoors, half as a pilgrimage, and half because I had a month left on my student visa. I know that adds up to three halves, but hey, that was my deciding logic and motivation up to that point, and it had been totally sufficient before I got sick. Now though as I felt my strength disappearing, I needed better reasons to go forward.
But that’s when it hit me. I wasn’t alone. I mean, not as alone as I thought I was. I had already lived five months in Spain, studying Spanish. Being in a foreign country, a foreign continent, was no longer a radically new experience. Having been alone, without known family or friends, for five months had taught me an important lesson, and that lesson was about to be my saving grace: I had God with me, the same God that I saw every time I visited my church at home in Florida, prayed to at home, and talked to at home.
Jesus knew how to understand not only my English but also my American mannerisms and ways of thinking, an ability that suddenly became so very attractive when trying to live on a day-to-day basis as the foreigner in a very communal university student-residence. Those previous five months had taught me that I could rely on Jesus always. He always looked out for me, understood me, and helped me.
So in that dark, cool cathedral where I sat crying, I turned to Him.
To this day I don’t know if those tears I cried were of joy or sadness. Joy because I had realized how truly present God was with me, or sadness because I had forgotten how truly present He was and had thought I was alone.
The important part was that He was with me, and if He had gotten me through five months in Spain, he could get me through one more on the Camino, sick or not sick. Consequently, I got my new and ultimately more powerful source of motivation: the Camino would continue has a walk with Christ.
It may sound obvious to you: Camino de Santiago translates to the Walk of Saint James, James was a Saint, Saints walk with Christ, so it’s a Walk with Christ. You get it, I get it, great.
But here’s the catch: (I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this.) There’s a big gap between knowing something with your mind and knowing it with your heart.
It took me to be in a very much not-so-fun situation to finally connect the two dots: knowing that God was with me and feeling and acting upon the knowledge that He was with me. My hope is that by recounting this little portion of my experience I am in some way helping you connect your dots too.