Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Lenten Reflection - Did I take that road?

Walking out of Melida, Spain on the Camino de Santiago

My very last reflection before leaving for Spain six months ago was called "The Road Not Taken (Preparing #12)". In it, I shared Robert Frost's famous poem and was considering some of my aspirations and wariness for the upcoming pilgrimage. Clearly, anticipation had built up tremendously and I was eager to take my first steps.

Now, in the midst of Lent, I reflect on whether I had in fact been able to ward off the judgment of others and my own self-judgment. I admit in reviewing my blog postings during the walk that I wrestled with these thoughts and found it frustratingly difficult.

First self-judgment. It didn't take long at all. Here I was on day four (see "Day 4 - Recap - Changing Plans) and you will see that I grappled with a decision to skip a five hour walk through an industrial area. Rather than trudge through that mess and then stop and sleep before Astorga, I wanted to take the bus past the industrial area and then get to Astorga early enough to explore the city and cathedral. My original plans were to stay in a village then get to Astorga  at 9am but then continue onwards after a couple hours. But to take the bus and skip the industrial area made me feel like I was changing my plans and "cheating" on the pilgrimage.

I'm glad I did. I'm thankful that I spoke with Stephen back at home via Skype about this. He's the one who reminded me about my desire to not judge anyone about what their pilgrimage looked like. And here I was judging myself! I had to let go of my self-judgment and plans and go with the road that felt right. Thank goodness I did. I was able to enjoy the marvelous small city, meet some interesting people, buy a pilgrimage scallop shell, picnic at a Gaudi building, and attend mass celebrated by the Bishop.

I just had to let go of my ego.

The other judgment was the one that rocked my walk (see "Preconceived Notions and Judgment") because I didn't even realize I was being judgmental. I was reflexively judging another peregrino simply based on his appearance. I assumed that he and I were going to be radically different in theology and politics and I evaded him.

How damning I was... and it was me who got damned.

When I finally faced him, I realized that I was judging him so unfairly. I was blocking my own personal growth. I was creating walls of separation instead of sharing, bonding, healing. In my despair that night, I wrestled through the night like Jacob and slept at most four hours. That's something when you're really tired from walking.

And now, six months later in the midst of Lent, here in the US we've had things happening that make me wonder about this judgment by reflex. It seems to me that Ferguson is a community-wide version of this reflex. It's judgment on steroids. Take every person doing the judgment that I was doing, magnify it, point it at the disenfranchised, and you get the sort of systematic discrimination that just won't go away.

I think I'm more self-aware of this reflex in me now. I'm working hard to detect my judging before or as it is happening, to meet my neighbor with the knowledge that we are all God's children. My prayer this morning after the latest horrible news from Ferguson is that we as a people, as a community, as a human family, can work together to understand this destructive force and return to a place of sharing, bonding, healing.

What road will we be taking this Lent?

               Two roads diverged in a wood,
               and I — I took the one less traveled by, 
               And that has made all the difference.

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