Devotional Day 7
Now the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; but the rich person is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so also the rich person, in the midst of his pursuits will die out.James 1:9-11
Starting without a Rush
With the limited kitchen at Barcelos (a microwave and some utensils), we had our remaining hardboiled eggs, bell pepper, and cheese for breakfast, again being among the last to head out. Those ready to walk 33 km understandably wanted an early start. But we weren’t in a rush, going only 15 km to a reserved room. It was Sunday, so almost all businesses were closed as we walked through town. In the central square there was a certain traveler who seemed to have trouble finding the path, despite some large arrows and clear signs of direction. The Way seems clearer to some than others. This agitated fellow reverted to a cell phone call to a buddy, asking where he was and disregarding our pointing fingers. Perhaps the Way of Life is more confusing to some who don’t know how to seek the right directions.
After a couple hours we came to a coffee shop, where (of course) other pilgrims were getting drinks. I recognized the German ladies we’d met before and we chatted briefly with them. A young woman came in alone and joined our table. Elena was of Russian background, but moved to Germany at the outset of the war against Ukraine. It’s always thought provoking to hear the different stories and perspectives of other pilgrims.
The rest of the walk was relatively uneventful and pleasant. While drinking in naturally beautiful scenery, I thought about the reference to the “flowering grass.”
“…like flowering grass…”
Along the Way, one of the other things I’ve been enjoying greatly is all the beautifully colorful flowers often adorning our path. From golden yellow fields to brilliant fuchsia and purple blooms, to radiantly red roses, I drink in the natural beauty, glad to be present at the end of spring, before the scorching heat of the summer. I can imagine how different it will look in a month or two, and it makes me even more appreciative of the chance to enjoy it now.
Somehow, it’s hard for me to see riches and power anywhere as beautiful as God’s natural artwork, yet when we look at the world around us, throughout history we see the extreme, too often destructive, lengths that some people have gone to acquire one or both pleasures. At the same time, wealth itself is not evil, and I have met plenty of wealthy people who love God and use their resources to help others. It is the love of money that turns it into an idol.
James points out here the futility of prioritizing pursuit of wealth. No matter how “beautiful” it looks here on earth, on an eternal scale wealth is insignificant. Yet, it can be appreciated and shared in the here and now, and hopefully will be used to bring joy to others and honor to God, but like flowers it is very temporary. This reminder makes me think again of all the resources I’ve been blessed with on this earth. Am I using them to further the kingdom of God—which lasts for eternity?
I must admit, sometimes I perhaps end up at the other place of error. Having seen extreme poverty and global needs, sometimes I find it difficult to indulge in non-essentials when I have “enough.” Can I justify buying high quality shoes to walk El Camino? (I’m used to the <$20 variety.) I’m always aware of the differences in lifestyles when living in and traveling to different locations. After extensive time in low-income areas, some indulgences seem selfish. Yet, this image of beautiful, though temporary, flowers can also be a reminder that there is value in enjoying what we have around us. We must maintain an attitude of gratitude for all we’ve been given, and a willingness to use our gifts however God asks us to use them.
A Quiet Sunday
We arrived at an open (on Sunday!) restaurant in Balugães mid-afternoon, which was directly below our AirBnB room. Check-in time for our room was 3pm, so we had a short time to wait and get food. Apparently, the restaurant was usually busy for Sunday lunches, serving churchgoers after the service. We were the last customers before they closed at 3pm.
Another couple from Texas was present, who had some physical challenges walking at times, at which point they would call an Uber to get to their next rest stop, always a room booked ahead of time at an AirBnB or hotel. I couldn’t help but think about how this seemed an “easy” version. While perhaps more pleasant than stretching and endurance building, they were lacking in many of the interactions and common challenges shared with other pilgrims. Yet they were using their abundant resources in a way that was valuable to them and created opportunities grow relationally, spiritually, and perhaps even physically.
After eating, we went upstairs and had a quiet afternoon and evening, with the town shut down on Sunday evenings. In contrast to our usual albergue, we had a washing machine for our clothes, and shared the bathroom with only one other set of travelers, two Korean women who shared the adjacent bedroom. Our encounter with them was very brief, primarily through hand gestures due to a language barrier.
Dinner was the extra helping of lunch we hadn’t intended to order, after the server didn’t understood our intention to share one meal. They had been gracious to take the plate back at the time, then offered it as a take-out, which we accepted, knowing there would be nowhere else to get dinner or groceries. That night we watched a documentary and enjoyed a private bedroom. (Is this what some people did every night?) Ironically, I didn’t sleep well, perhaps drinking too much tea, the attack of a mosquito, or a combination of factors.
Walking 15km was no longer quite as taxing. I was grateful the pain in my leg had significantly decreased. The Camino was strengthening us.
Thank you, Lord, that de-prioritizing our human-made luxuries slows us down to appreciate the divine-made beauty of nature. Both are very temporary; both call for gratitude. Help me to maintain a mindset of gratitude for the many ways You have blessed me: from supplying practical resources to allowing space for enjoying beautiful flowers. All I have it Yours. Thank You for the ultimate promise of eternal glory, a source of hope and anticipation.
- How do you perceive riches? How much do you value your own possessions?
- Thinking about how temporary our resources are, how might that shape how we use them? Enjoy them? Share them?
- Take time to surrender to God anything you hold on to too tightly and to ask Him how He want you to use what you’ve been given.
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