Devotional Day 6
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.
Awakened by Door Pounding
I was awakened before my alarm clock by a pounding sound, and as I surfaced through layers of consciousness eventually realized that it was on the door of our dorm room. One of the girls who had also been sleeping in the room couldn’t get the door to open from the outside! (She said she’d been knocking for 40 minutes, but the earplugs we all wore to block out snoring and creaking had also muffled her pounding.) After getting up to let her in, I fixed the attached pulley to make sure we wouldn’t be left stranded out of the room like she was, separated from our belongings. Some of our roommates were gone even before our alarms went off at 7:30am.
Both Dean and I had actually been sleeping pretty well, thanks to earplugs and true exhaustion. Usually my first night in a new bed is a restless one, so I was quite grateful to be able to sleep despite it being a different bed each night. As usual Dean and I were some of the last to depart the albergue after fixing and eating breakfast. But that day, with pain still present in both his back and the back of my knee, we were ready for a shorter walk, about 15 km, into Barcelos. While we took our time, I thought about James’ words on humility, the humble, and humiliation.
The comparison between the humble “glorying” in a high position and the rich in humiliation is a fascinating one. James is clearly emphasizing the temporary nature of some of the worldly things we tend to value highly. In the end, we’re all on the same playing field, not identified by rank in our human-constructed society. For the humble or lowly, equality means they have been exalted, while the wealthy are demoted from their place of superiority, that “humiliation” of becoming equal.
To have true humility while being wealthy might include celebration that all the poverty and hierarchies we see around us will someday be obliterated, and we will no longer be (mis)placed in a position of undeserved privilege. But the reality is that most of us don’t even recognize ourselves as being wealthy or privileged, and therefore fail to honor those who truly live humbly. I noticed that no one from very low-income countries were with us on El Camino de Santiago. While plenty of pilgrims were unemployed with limited resources, they had found the means to get there. All of us had the luxury of affording a place to sleep and food to eat without working all day for wages that fed us and our families.
I have had the privilege of seeing severe poverty, where there was no electricity, no paved roads, no running water, no access to education, no guarantee that the family’s basic needs of food and clothing would be met next week. We live in wealthy nations, where there exist resources even for those without income. How often we fail to acknowledge the many ways we are blessed! Yet rather than appreciating what we have and respecting those who have learned to be content with much less, we tend to notice those who have more than we do more. By worldly standards, we see them as elevated, worthy of attention, whether or not they did anything to deserve it.
“glory in humiliation…”
Perhaps James is also countering the tendency we have to judge each other and ourselves in comparison to one another. I easily fall into that habit. I grew up comparing myself to my older sisters, feeling some kind of need to “measure up.” Comparison is not a helpful pattern, because we emerge either feeling worse about ourselves or looking down on others. We glory in our elevation or despair in humiliation. Neither of those is godly nor loving.
On El Camino we see a wide range of people in age, background, fitness, and nationality (though predominantly Western nations and almost exclusively middle to high-income countries). We hear and repeat that everyone should do it their own way, going at their own pace. I appreciate that attitude! Yet I sense this piece of me that sees others walking faster and feels I should go faster. (After all, arriving sooner increases our chance of getting a bed at the next albergue!)
But the reality is that we’re all going to end up in the same place! Those who go slower and need more time may have a greater sense of accomplishment upon a difficult day’s completion, compared to the ones who can easily speedwalk 30+ km per day. Being content in “humiliation,” or simply not being first, frees us from competition and comparison. We need to find value in the journey, the steps we take along the way, not the speed at which we take them.
We arrived at the public albergue in downtown Barcelos around 3 pm, right when the doors were scheduled to open. Alas, we were told that all beds had already been taken by 2 pm. I couldn’t help but notice the four men present who had walked speedily past us earlier in the day. There are downsides to taking a slower gait. Fortunately, this was one of the few cities that had more than one municipal albergue, and we were instructed to retrace our steps one kilometer. The smaller albergue stood just on the other side of the bridge, and was less well known. The volunteer told us that if it was also full, we could come back and they would try to find a place for us to sleep on the floor.
Indeed, at the other spot there were still plenty of beds available, so we got bottom bunks in the back corner. We also had a chance to take showers before others arrived (many also redirected from the downtown albergue). There was only one shower room for everyone and no lock on the door. Behind a frosted glass door, there were three shower heads, but no barriers between them. I took a quick rinse and fortunately the only person that opened the outer door before I was finished was Dean (who identified himself after I called out “I’ll be done soon!”). Each albergue has its own quirks.
After doing the daily laundry we were chatting with John about the next leg of the journey. At the age of 76, he had traveled El Camino countless (literally!) times. The next public albergue was another 33 km away, far beyond our current capacity, but doable for him. We had heard many praises about a private albergue en route, but Casa Fernanda was usually fully booked far in advance. He encouraged us to call, just in case there had been a cancellation.
Upon borrowing a cell phone from a local we called, but it and another popular spot were both full. So, to avoid being stranded or ending up paying for a hotel room, I looked online to find a reasonable AirBnB spot about 15 km away, not far off the Way.
Then we found a local restaurant with a peregrino menu, and after returning I enjoyed looking over the river while journaling. In the end it was a better, calmer location! Good thing we didn’t arrive too quickly!
Thank you, Lord, that our value and significance is not in our wealth, our position in society, or how well we perform in any measure of comparison to others. Help us to live gratefully, appreciating the many blessings we’ve received, and humbly, knowing that all we have is fleeting.
- Consider how you view yourself. Where you find value? Do you compare yourself with others?
- What does humility look like in your life? How does one find glory in humble circumstances?
- Take time to give back to God all the temporary things you see as giving you worth. Ask Him to show you the value He sees in you.
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