Devotion Day 3
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:3-4
Finishing the First Walk
After several hours of walking along the coast, which seemed to go fairly quickly, we got to Matosinhos. Our new friend from Germany was ready to move on, but it was the end of the metro line and our things (except what we had included in our backpack to test our own strength) were still in Porto. There we still had a pre-paid reservation for the hostel beds, with the expectation of staying two more nights.
Before heading back, we had a very late lunch at a local restaurant. The first place we entered looked fancy (likely over-priced) and smelled like bleach. Making our way down a small alley we found a spot open that had more than seafood (the local preference, but not satisfying my taste buds). The one person who knew English was there as a regular customer, who helped translate descriptions, then chatted with us for the whole meal. The price turned out to be a small fraction of what was on the expensive tourist menus, and it felt satisfying to be at a place appreciated by the locals.
We made our way to the metro, rode back to our stop in Porto, covered in colorful tiles. From there we walked to the albergue. There I had time for more reflection on the first verses in James.
James calls endurance both the result of faith-testing and the cause of significant outcomes—being made perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. That description of perfection seems unattainable—at least while in this world. Perhaps that is indeed the final outcome, how we hope to end up, or toward which we are working. As we do our “strength training,” we gradually become more fit, with stronger muscles and greater endurance.
In preparation for El Camino, Dean and I did a significant amount of hiking to prepare our bodies. I know from past experience that if I go for a long time with minimal long-distance hiking recently, my tendinitis would flare up after a couple miles. But through gradual increase in distance, difficulty, and weight carried, my tendons are strengthened, and I can go further. So pre-pilgrimage hikes on mountains and gorges helped increase our physical “endurance.” However, we weren’t getting anywhere close to the daily 15 to 25 km for an average day on El Camino. It was still unclear how far our endurance would last.
Physical Endurance Tested
Right at the beginning, going up and down numerous stairs and hills, my knee started hurting, which I had never had happen before. It felt like an initial challenge to any confidence that we could proceed, and I prayed it would be healed. I was encouraged that it faded as I got to the flat terrain along the shore. Toward the end of our first, relatively short (about 16 km) day, another unfamiliar pain started increasing in my hamstrings. They were being stretched for longer than they were used to, clearly lacking in endurance. Just one day of walking tested my physical strength, and while I was never out of breath and my usual points of tendinitis showed no problems, a new area of weakness was revealed.
I hoped that by the end of the Camino my body would be in better shape—closer to “complete” fitness. The initial lack of perfection shouldn’t elicit a feeling of failure or readiness to give up; it simply serves as a starting point. Likewise, all of us have places our faith needs growth or strengthening, especially for facing the great or long-lasting trials.
Spiritual Endurance Tried
We might think we’ve read the Bible enough, prayed enough, listened to enough sermons, or read enough books to be readily equipped for whatever life throws our way. Then, when it actually hits us, we are surprised by the imperfections that are unveiled. Gaining physical, emotional, and spiritual endurance is a life-long process, and we are being perfected as long as we are in that process of stretching and stressing our capacities. While we are not expected to actively embrace the spiritual equivalent of extreme sports, we also don’t want to become spiritual couch potatoes. If we aren’t stepping outside (or at times being pushed outside) our comfort zone, we aren’t learning and growing. Praise God for our trials!
Preparing for the “True” Departure
A while later we made our own dinner in the common kitchen, enjoying steak and wine with strawberries for dessert. I had a meeting on Zoom scheduled, and the quietest place I could find was the dorm bedroom. Meanwhile, Dean got into a theological discussion with other peregrinos (pilgrims) and the volunteers, soon finding an opportunity to share the gospel. Later when I went to get something from my bag, I was told that he was “dangerous” in potentially “converting” others; clearly, he had gotten their attention.
Our hosts graciously agreed to let us leave a day earlier than planned and use the third night we had reserved upon our return. This allowed us to shift plans to continue our pilgrimage the next day, launching from where we had taken the metro back. While we had our backpacks, the suitcase we were planning to leave there was locked in the office, so Dean couldn’t transfer what he needed to add to his backpack. While we had some details to work out the next day before departure, it was exciting to consider we would soon “truly” be on the Way.
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities we have for our endurance to be both tested and improved. While it never feels comfortable at the time, I know I can trust in Your work of refinement and sanctification. Help me be willing to see my areas of weakness, surrender them to You, and grow in dependence on You.
- Consider times when you felt your faith being stretched. How did it impact your relationship with God?
- What do you do when difficult experiences expose areas of weakness? Ask Jesus if there are any places of weakness He wants to work on.
- We often “train” best with others, to challenge and support each other. Who are the people you can be vulnerable with when feeling weak? Who would challenge you to go outside your comfort zone? Think about inviting that person to meet on a regular basis for prayer and sharing.
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