(This is the second post in a series written by St. Mary’s Interns Greg Petershack and Madison Moseley, as they walk the Camino de Santiago in Europe. This is an 800 mile, 1000 year old pilgrimage taken on foot through the terrain of Spain and France. Read the previous post here.)
I am sitting out in the little courtyard, the sun warms my arms and legs, and the savory smell of dinner being cooked is wafting through the air. My clothes hang on lines to my left and there are unused washing buckets drying in the sun on the outdoor sinks to my right. Fields stretch endlessly beyond the fence in front of me and the little maze town of Bercianos lies behind me. I’ve been in this town for only 6 hours or maybe a little bit more and yet, I feel at peace. This spot that I didn’t know existed a day ago, sitting in a green plastic chair under the summer sun of northern Spain–this is my peaceful home. A little piece of heaven…
(My friends, don’t underestimate the ability of Jesus to reveal his heart and eternity to you during a lawn chair chill session.)
By the grace of God, I have been walking an ancient pilgrimage across Spain called the Camino de Santiago for just over three weeks now and what gift this time has been! Every single day is beautiful and painful and thoughtful and HEAVEN. I have never heard more languages in my life or known that blisters could appear in so many places on my feet. The churches in each village, town, and city are magnificent, with architecture telling the wonders of our God in ancient and awe-inspiring sagas. I have discovered that the Way, as the camino is often called, is a place to go and grapple and grow. Every hour is new, and the realities of God’s love are revealed in subtle nuances of living that only the simple routine of a daily journey centered around Him can unveil.
Back to HEAVEN. I don’t often think about that place, to be honest. I mean, I think about how I want to get there but the buck usually stops at that point. I spend far too little time pondering questions like, “What is heaven like? What am I actually striving toward?” I feel like those questions are so worth thinking about because they offer a drive and a reason for taking the narrow path, and it’s also just awesome to think about an eternity of joy. Anyway, this trip has opened my eyes to a reality about heaven:
The love of Christ shared with one another brings the infinite into the finite.
My absolute favorite places to stay along the camino have been those that are run by the churches. Some of the parishes have decades, if not centuries, of history, and one of my favorite traditions is the community dinner that many of them host. This is a chance for all of the pilgrims to take part in the preparation and set-up of a big meal, and then we all sit at these long tables with some good wine, too much bread, and SO MUCH JOY. We are all striving on this journey of the camino together and it is so beautiful to share a meal and talk about the path, why we are on it, and what it means to each of us. I leave those meals feeling so full, body and soul. No language barrier stands a chance against pilgrims who want to share their hearts and the evenings inevitably end with so much smiling and laughter and hugging as we communicate the love of Christ to one another in every universal way possible.
It’s a taste of eternity. And I’m only kind of talking about the paella.
Like, holy shoot y’all, this is such a big deal!!! Heaven is an eternity in the presence of Love himself..so when we encounter His love here, that is a vision of heaven. HOW INCREDIBLE IS THAT?! Heaven can be glimpsed even in a meal where I’m surrounded by strangers who don’t even speak a word of my language but feel and know that we are all striving for more. And my heart is beating so fast right now because I know that this doesn’t have to end here.
The camino is structured in such a way that it is so easy to witness the love of Christ because of the silence and mutual suffering and joy that every pilgrim is going through and which unites us all. But the more I’ve thought about it, isn’t that exactly how our lives are set up as a whole, too? We have the exact same opportunity to find silence, to share our sufferings, and to proclaim our joys. We have ample opportunities to commune with one another and recognize that we are all striving for more, for heaven. That recognition brings about this indescribable bond that our hearts are made for! We are restless as we search for that fullness that Christ-centered community rooted in a longing for eternity brings. I can’t even begin to count the number of times in my life when I haven’t taken the opportunity to journey with another or to allow another to walk with me and my heart aches at those missed opportunities to glimpse the infinite. But God is so good and we have the present to step out and do more, be more.
Friends, I encourage you to find your plastic green chair–those moments and relationships and encounters where Christ desires to love you, be loved by you, and to love through you. You are so loved and the God of the universe desires to share that truth with you within the space of time. Let’s not waste any opportunity to journey together, seek together, acknowledge Him together. Eternity is here and so are we.