Every pilgrim has to make decisions; some have to decide to stop because they have too many blisters or foot injuries. (I know two who have had to stop already, and a third one is considering stopping.)
My decision came today when I decided to jump forward on the Camino in order to experience a part of the Camino which many describe as the best part. (I don’t know, the parts I have walked have been pretty spectacular!) In any case, I am not a purist, as many Europeans are, and I don’t know if I will be able to come back. It would be nice to at least SEE Santiago, even if I do not have time to walk all the way. So far I have walked over 1/5 of the way there. But, today I am jumping forward through Burgos to the mountain town of Astorga. It is a good day to jump as there is a major storm today. Pray for the pilgrims who are getting slammed with horizontal, cold rain!
There is no direct way to get to Astorga, except by walking or a 1 am train. The lovely manager of the albergue told me about the bus that would get me within ten k of Burgos. She told me where to catch the bus. There was no busstop sign, no bus schedule, just a regular stop sign where the bus was supposed to stop, and it might come ten or twenty minutes late. My three words of Spanish, (please, bus, where) confirmed I was standing in the correct place. Sure enough, twenty minutes late, it showed up and I was dropped off two hours later, by then in a lite rain, ten kilometers from Burgos.
Now I have walked ten k, but I was a little afraid of missing my train connection if I walked, so I asked the cafe/bar worker guy if there was a bus or taxi to Burgos. He said yes for a bus and a lot of other things I did not understand. As it turns out, the bus is only in the morning and evening, so I asked him if he could call a taxi for me. Through the postman as interpreter, who stopped in to get his late morning coffee, I was told by the cafe worker that the taxi was too expensive and I must not take a taxi. He said that I should wait, and he would ask one of his regular customers, who stop in all the time, to take me to Burgos. And, that is what happened. A customer, a kind, nice gentleman, came in for his tortilla and cafe, and said he would take me to Burgos. He even drove me around the old city, which he was very proud of, and then he dropped me off at the huge cathedral. I had time to visit the cathedral and catch a train to Astorga. The rain has stopped, I have jumped forward, and tomorrow it will be time to walk again. (Did I mention how friendly, kind, and full of hospitality the Spanish people are?)
Jumping forward means leaving behind new friendships that have been formed. This morning I said goodbye to two women from Silver Spring who were part of my “first night family.” I also said goodbye to the two German women with whom I was walking and the delightful French grandmother whose company I enjoyed on that really hot day.
Last night at the pilgrim’s dinner there was a young German man (22) whom I had not seen before. I asked if I could do anything for him as he looked tired. It turns out he had walked 30 k that day, and the day before, and the day before. I asked him why he was walking and he replied because he had the time and to find God. He also said he was already surprised to learn that he didn’t have to find God, but that God was already there and he just had to listen.
This morning he happened to sit across from me again for breakfast. He was much more refreshed after a night’s sleep. He asked me about my profession, when I told him I was a pastor he asked me, “What does it mean that God is Holy?” I was happy to explain about the holiness of God to him in basic terms (shout out here to Debbie Beall) and then I went on to describe that his response last night was a way of understanding that God’s grace is always with us even before we recognize it. (Shout out here to you, John Wesley.) I read for him a small part of Psalm 139 and explained how God knows us intimately. When I asked if he had ever read the Bible he said he had tried to read it from the beginning, but it was too hard. I suggested he might like to start with a Gospel and a Psalm. He liked that idea. We had a wonderful encounter, and then he walked on, and I went to the stop sign to hope the bus would come, and it did!