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Camino Reflections – Change of Plans


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In one of my first postings following this year’s trip, I hinted at an experience that caused me to reflect on the importance of holding plans lightly and stepping forward into the adventure of discovering how things will turn out rather than grumbling that everything is turned upside down. The place where that lesson began was Sarria, just after we had stopped to take pictures of the pilgrim mural at the bottom of the hill leading out of town.

Rick rang to say that the place we had planned to camp, a field opposite the albergue at Barbedelo, was being used for a fiesta that night and we would have to stop at the polideportivo (which we worked out to mean “sports hall”) in Sarria; he thought we could probably find it by asking around or he would come and find us after he’d checked in with the rest of the team. Unfortunately, it was siesta time and so the information office was closed and the streets were empty. This was another chance to reflect back on the lesson I’d had in getting lost the year before – as described yesterday, I’d found the correct path earlier that day but I also brought back to mind the lesson I’d learned from Isaiah 65:24:

Before they call out, I’ll answer. Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.

(The Message)

Our prayers weren’t answered as directly as last year but it was an important step to remember that we were walking in God’s plans, even ours had gone awry. We had discovered a town map which had some points of interest marked with Olympic rings (although no further legend) and so, having taken a sketch of the roads, set out to see what we could discover. One thing we discovered was that the map was somewhat interpretative and didn’t quite match the layout of roads but it was enough to guide us to our destination.

While not everybody slept as well as I did, on the hard floor of the echoing gymnasium, there were a number of blessings I could pick out from the change of plans. Personally, it meant I had ample material for the discussion I was leading on “Pilgrims Use Maps”; not only could I reflect on not getting lost as I had the year before but I now also had a positive story of using a map to find our destination. It also meant we ended up with a shorter walk than we would otherwise have and the following day, having been planned as the shortest one of the week, was the one best able to bear a few extra kilometres at the start.

Most memorable of all for me was that we discovered that another large group, catholic young people we’d met the day before at Triacastela, were also staying at the same place. After each group had had separate meetings, we spent time together sharing about who we were and what we were learning (including a rehash of some of my maps material). Most significantly, the Spanish lady on our team, Celia, shared at length about what God had done in her life, bringing her to a meaningful relationship with him. The next day, another change of plan saw Celia taking a bus back to Madrid where she needed to look after her mother but the change of plans in Sarria had, among other things afforded us a much greater insight into who she was as a person, which we might have missed if the previous day had gone exactly as we had planned.

Hold plans lightly; the adventure of change brings opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

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