Since settling down in my Ontario hometown for the rest of the summer at a desk job, I’ve had some time to reflect upon my journey on the Camino de Santiago. Specifically, the discomfort I put myself through in walking it.
On the third day of the pilgrimage, I pulled a muscle behind my knee and was in quite a bit of pain as I walked on it over the next week. I also got some wicked blisters and came down with a fever that lasted four days. At times I thought, “I could be using my vacation time to relax on a beach somewhere. What the heck was I thinking!?!”
But the Camino taught me, with each passing day, the great value in suffering well. When pilgrims undertake a journey like the Camino, we are willingly submitting ourselves to suffering. We know we will encounter physical ailments like blisters, sore muscles, sprains and the like…
But we really walk because we carry other pain with us—mental or spiritual—which may seem far more insurmountable.
As we walk, we overcome the first in order to reach Santiago and this then gives us hope that we can overcome the latter, internal pain as well. We discover the untapped strength that we possess as we dig deep within ourselves and we encounter the Divine repeatedly which guides us along the path.
Suffering teaches us just how strong we are and allows us to better appreciate the joy we experience when the sun comes out. It is part and parcel with this life and, if there’s one thing I saw so clearly on the Camino, it was that we are resilient enough to walk through it with hope and a little bit of love from our fellow pilgrims.