Nearly three years ago, I strapped on a hiking backpack and walked five hundred miles. As I walked El Camino de Santiago, people crossed my path who were completing the pilgrimage for the second or third time. While beautiful, I wondered why people would complete this trek multiple times. Once will be enough for me, I thought.
Yet now and again, I find myself longing to be on some dusty trail in the midst of the Spanish countryside. It isn’t because of my love for travel, although I suppose that does play a role. My desire to be on the Camino for a second time stems largely from my desire for simplicity.
On the Camino, it is easy to be simple. In fact, it is almost a requirement that one be simple. On your back, you carry all of your clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries, etc. Everything you think you will need along the Way, you must plod every blessed mile with it fastened to your back.
Sometimes it annoyed me to live so simply. I wanted a different outfit to wear. I was surprised at how much I found myself longing for a real towel and not the travel towel I would use each day. At times I wished to simply remain in the same place for more than an evening. There were several things that made me not like living simply.
Yet, in a very authentic way, I realized my heart was made for simplicity. When my closet of clothes overflows and the laundry basket is full, when my bookshelves no longer have room for the books I insist on buying, or when I find myself shopping online for things I realize I do not need, I remember that my heart is a simple heart. Yet I wish simplicity was forced upon me instead of needing to be chosen.
My possessions have a weight and I want to be free.
Sitting in a cluttered room, I find myself slightly jealous of my older sisters and their vows of poverty. To be free to be poor. I know I romanticize poverty, but there is a longing in my heart for less. And in that less, I know I will find more.
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
For over thirty days, I walked the Camino and if I did it again, I would pack less. There is a simple beauty in choosing between two outfits. There is a simplicity found in needing to walk a few miles each day. I’ve never been so aware of my feet before. And rarely have I felt like I’ve spent the entire day just being and walking in the Lord’s company. Those lovely, simple things make the Camino something I wish I could be doing right now.
Wonderfully, however, the Lord makes me choose. Here and now is my Camino. Preparing for Lent, I had a list of different things that I wanted to do. But I dislike when I make a long list and then need to try to remember all of the different things throughout the Lenten season. So as I considered the list, I realized they all focused on the general goal of simplicity.
I am trying to simplify my life so that the Lord has easy access to my heart. He shouldn’t have to fight through the noise and the chaos to reach me. I should be attentive to whatever He has to say, whenever He wants to say it. Hearts rooted in simplicity can achieve that. And though far from living simplicity, I am desiring it. God wants to work in the midst of those desires because they are centered on a deeper desire for Him.
This Lent is a Camino of sorts. It is a time to strip away the excess weight that is burdening me so that I can be free to walk with the Lord. When all of life is a journey to Santiago, being of simple heart and simple possessions will make the difficult pilgrimage easier.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.