I spend hours everyday walking along the roads of the Camino de Santiago. The roads are made of various surfaces.
Most of the time, as these photos reveal, I am walking alone. There is no one else in site. A good percentage of the time I am walking with other pilgrims, but…
From time to time I walk the roads with locals, villagers and workers going to and fro about their business. These are the people that capture my attention.
You see, for me (and the other pilgrims) these roads are SACRED, they are magical. They carry, in between their stones and mixed in with their asphalt, the very possibility of something unexpected and holy. We love these roads (even though they are beating us into submission with every step, as many as 50,000 a day.)
Not so for the locals. These roads are VULGAR to them. They are common, ordinary and completely devoid of magic. They are the equivalent of an elevator ride to a taupe cubical, nothing more.
How is this possible? How is it possible for me to overwhelmed by the suspicion that something transformative might be happening with every step and these sweet local souls are simply functioning (like riding the elevator to a cubical)?
I think it is a matter of association.
I have associated those steps, on whatever surface is presented in that moment, as a chapter in a larger story. It is a story that I care about and that I am somehow convinced that God might care about as well. And my association leads me to accept that surface as profound, as sacred.
I spent years riding an elevator every morning, to a job I dreaded, and never once did I feel like the elevator (or the traffic jam on I-5) was sacred. It was just vulgar. But the problem was not with the elevator, it was with my association.
I was not alone in that elevator (I never am). That elevator was a portal. It was a path to the opportunity to work hard, to experience meaning, to care for other people and to provide for my family. What could be more sacred than that? And I missed it.
Let me share another parallel.
I am getting to visit beautiful churches all along the Way:
They are gorgeous. And inspiring. And yes, I feel the sacredness when I stand inside of them, look up into those vaulted ceilings and listen to the Mass.
But here is the question I am asking myself: Are these ancient monuments to worship fundamentally different than say… my dining room back home? Are they?
Both have walls that are soaked with stories. Both have floors that are soaked with tears… and hopes. Both are filled with symbolism. Both are arranged around a table where “families” and friends gather. Both are the place where divine work takes place.
You see, the problem with me is not that I need to go out into the world and find more sacred places. The problem with me is that I am too often blind to the sacredness and divine narratives that saturate every facet of my life…
… if I am only awake enough to see it.