Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Remembering... by Forgetting

I meet regularly with a spiritual director. For those who aren't familiar with what a spiritual director does, he or she is not a guru where you follow their directions unchallenged. No, many religious traditions encourage using spiritual guides to help believers on the path of spiritual growth. A spiritual director serves as a resource on your personal journey of faith. A good spiritual director helps you recognize how the Holy Spirit is working in your life. The emphasis is deepening one’s relationship with God - not with the spiritual director.

One of the things that we've been talking about is why I find the Camino de Santiago so important to my spiritual well being. I feel healthier and stronger - spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally. I may have ups and downs with physical well being, for blisters can be pretty painful and thankfully seem to have disappeared as an issue for me. Why does this journey always make me feel closer to God and why don't I find this closeness as easily at home?

To some, I find God easily, in quiet discussions with people, in celebrations of life, in breaking bread with people I'm learning to know. And yet, that doesn't happen all day long. Other times of the day, I become impatient. Or anxious. Or lazy. Or selfish. And I distance myself from that which I enjoy most. I don't act in the way of unconditional love or in gratitude. It's discouraging, frustrating, and more than a little exasperating because I feel like every time I make a step forward, I'm also taking a step back.

I keep thinking to myself, "Stop forgetting what you've learned, whether here or on the Camino". Remember! Don't forget!

At one point earlier this year, my spiritual director pointed out that perhaps I have it backwards. Perhaps I'm not forgetting what I've learned. Instead, I'm remembering all the wrong things. I'm acting reflexively, remembering all the things I've been taught throughout my life, by society, by stress, by bullies, by bigots. I'm remembering it all and I'm never forgetting.

Except when I'm on Camino.

Now, when I first walked the Camino in 2014, I, in fact, did carry all these things I was taught. I didn't ever mention my spouse's name, though I wore a wedding ring. In sharing his name, I would reveal my sexual orientation, and for some reason, like a stone in my backpack that weighed me down, I buried this and hid it from others. And for what benefit? Was I safer? I doubt it. For my reputation? I didn't know any of these people. Why?

It wasn't until that night in Melide when I realized that I wasn't giving space for the Holy Spirit to work in my life that I began to change how I walked the Camino. You can read about that day at "I Lost My Hat and Found My Head". I avoided Jim because he was different. I feared that he was a bigot, with scant evidence and certainly no benefit of the doubt. And in doing so, I was blocking the very messenger that God was sending me.

In walking differently, I started to leave behind those stones, leave behind the things that hurt me. I started to let the Camino, let God, let my fellow travelers protect me, care for me, and love me as I loved them. In that vulnerability, I traveled more simply, more lightly.

And in doing so, I was unlearning - forgetting - all the defense mechanisms and habits that weren't helping me but instead were holding me back.  I shed the memories of pain and hurt and just walked simply, one step at a time.

What my spiritual director noticed was that I remember who I really am when I'm on Camino. And when I do, people see me, feel me, trust me. They feel my love for them because I intentionally won't carry something that will hold me down.

I forget all the stony defenses so that I can remember who I am.

So that I can remember the Me of flesh and blood. The Me created in the image of God. The Me of spiritual craving and me of unending gratitude.

It's ironic, isn't it, that I remember most when I forget all that I've learned. That I had to learn to forget. That I have to learn that I must unlearn.

Perhaps that's why I started many of my camino days with this prayer attributed to Saint Francis. I should remember to say it every morning here at home... so that I can remember to forget.
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

Grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life


  1. Iris Graville is a Quaker and a writer. She lives on the next island over from me. I think you might enjoy this piece she wrote a few days ago.

  2. Thank you for the referral!