I started walking the Camino de Santiago on New Year’s Day. Known as a pilgrimage across Spain, the Camino dates back to the eighth century. Millions upon millions of people of every faith, hue, and nationality, have hiked the month-long (or longer) trek to the city of Santiago de Compostela where St. James the Apostle is reportedly buried. It is considered a sacred journey in search of meaning and transformation. It could not be more timely on the heels of 2020.
We watched as red and black balloons drifted up slowly into the winter sky and then out of sight. Gone. Like my friend’s husband of 39 years whose memorial my son and I were attending. Gathered in masks on a cold December afternoon, we stood in the quiet of the field, eyes lifted, honoring him. A grandfather, a deacon in the church, a dad. Gone, gone, gone. Late that night, and many others that follow, I lie down on my living room floor. I like to feel the solidness of the hardwood beneath me. It grounds my prayers, especially in this bittersweet holiday season.
Love is spacious. This is what I am learning amid a global pandemic that requires us to keep our distance. Ironic, perhaps. But the wide embrace of God’s love brings me solace.
“Why not joy?” my spiritual director asks me. In the face of this unrelenting year—laden with loss and injustice—why not eek out as much joy as possible? Find hope amid the pain? We call this a “both-and” in spiritual direction: the idea that opposite experiences exist side by side and that each has value in and of itself.
I pulled up my garden today. It was a sad affair, leggy petunias and dried up purple salvia next to the red replacement mums that have refused to flower. I trimmed the browning dahlias and removed the daisies. The arid and rocky soil seemed only partially to blame. The dying roots surrendered with ease. We are all so worn out, I thought to myself, as the late summer sun dipped behind a cloud.
Today, watching the lake lap the shore, I am reminded that all things pass. My son and I leave the beach as we arrived, masked and hand-sanitized. A sense of repose has found me. I wrote this Godisbig reflection in 2014 as I waited through the unknown. May it speak to you in this moment too. Praying that you are staying healthy and safe.
I still remember the day I was the only white person in a crowded school gymnasium. My third-grade students had asked me to come to their basketball tournament. I was 22 years old, teaching in Houston, Texas. I had not been formally trained as an educator and was new to the south.
“Listen,” I whisper to my eight-year-old son. “Do you hear that over there?” I point out past the cluster of barren trees and the tiny birds swooping high and low across dried grasslands. He stops his forward motion long enough to let the call of a distant bird capture his imagination. The two of us have been cooped up inside our flat for over seven weeks now.
My thoughts and prayers
are with you during this difficult and tragic time. May you be well. May you be
safe. May you feel carried by God’s grace. May you feel surrounded by love.
“Will you pray over her?” she asked. My hands began to sweat. Erica had not left her daughter’s bedside in over five weeks. Her grown daughter had a rare brain tumor that many months later would be removed. In that moment, though, in the dry recycled air and windowless hospital room, the swelling on her daughter’s brain seemed unstoppable.
I never used to pray for people in my younger days. I might have offered to pray, but I rarely delivered on my promise. I didn’t exactly see the point. In the face of adversity, my resilient and independent twenty-year old self believed that I could do more than just pray. I could mend what was broken.