Book Club Channel
Living Into Focus: Read An Excerpt
The Camino was a locus of change and transformation. Camino conversations—along the path as we walked, resting at tables in outdoor cafés, sharing tea or wine in the evenings at hostels—were often about what was amiss in our lives. We raised questions about lifestyles, jobs, relationships. We wondered about possible changes that we might, could, or would enact. We made resolutions about how we would reorient our lives. And when we contacted each other after the pilgrimage, we asked what difference the Camino made.
Frequent discussions among pilgrims dealt with vocational discernment. Marcus of the Netherlands fretted that though he had hoped his job would serve the needs of others, it actually required him to spend most of his time acting as a bureaucratic functionary. Susanne of Austria pondered new work that would allow her to live closer to family and friends. Yuki of Japan realized that her life was perilously out of balance and that her situation could only be redressed by seeking other employment. Hendrika of Belgium saw that her job did not contribute to the wider well-being of others. And I kept coming back to the fact that I felt like an exile where I lived and wanted to return to the country of my birth to be close to family and old friends. The Camino was a context for sorting and weighing priorities.
And so it was not surprising to learn of impressive lifestyle changes that fellow pilgrims made after this journey.
A Spanish factory worker that I met walked the Camino for a month and then gave up his job. He bought and rebuilt an old building in which to offer hospitality to others on the pilgrimage.
A German woman was at a time of transition and went on the pilgrimage, unsure of what was next. In a desolate area one morning she heard a flute playing. It was the host at a nearby hostel. Impressed, she ended her pilgrimage there and now tends to passing pilgrims—feeding them, bandaging feet, and offering massages.
When Jon returned home to North America, he had the resolve to take early retirement so that he could devote himself to pursuing art, something he had wanted to do all his adult years.
These folks longed to experience new ways of living. They desired to be alert, aware, and alive. They sought vigorous engagement. They wanted to find and honor priorities that could reliably guide them on routes to meaningfulness and fulfillment. And somehow the Camino helped.
Each of these folks spoke to me of the courage and clarity that came from walking the Camino. Their bravery inspired me to look carefully at my own life and its unhealthy pace. That was certainly worth the walk, a walk that woke me from automatic and unconscious patterns. I trust that sleepwalking is behind me and that more balanced and invigorating patterns of living are available to all of us.
Antidotes and Anecdotes
I know how hard it is to keep my own life balanced and sane, and I am aware that the ways I use and relate to technology often make things worse. As a family man—father and husband—I have seen the challenges of raising children with a proper regard toward television and computers and other devices while guarding precious time together as a family. As a pastor I knew that many ordinary Christians struggled to honor their responsibilities without being swamped by incessant demands and distractions from work. As a citizen and church member, I see how our communities are fraying as people get more disconnected from each other and the values they hold and espouse. These are realities for all of us. Fretting about such matters is not mere nostalgia for "good old days" that never existed. Our lives are speeding up and changing, and not always for the better. We need help, all of us.