This will be my last devotion about my pilgrimage though I could go on and on. God packed so many spiritual lessons that perhaps I’ll need to write a book. I want to end on the subject that confirmed my call to this pilgrimage and overwhelmed any hurts, hardships, or heaviness—that subject is JOY!
Our last day of walking the Camino started differently than the others. We hiked to the church at the Mount of Joy to have our service (every other day we had services in historical churches where we stayed for the night). The Mount of Joy is so named because that is what the pilgrims who have traveled more than 500 miles felt when they reached this place. They were on the precipice of arriving at the Cathedral for which they were destined. It is a bitter-sweet experience because it meant that you would soon walk back to your ordinary life and leave the journey of the Camino behind. Yet, you have joy for having opened your soul to the gifts of God along the way.
This day I walked mainly by myself, coveting the last steps of this amazing experience. At one stop I saw the Australians on our trip having a cup of tea. I longed to join them, but they were almost done and time was short to make it to the church service. Then I looked up, and my friend Charlene was ordering a cup of tea. This was my invitation to experience Tea Time for My Soul on the Camino, while sitting in a lovely wooden chair under the shade of an olive tree. When I finished my cup, I asked the owner how far it was to the Hill of Joy (I needed to be there by 12). He told me that it was an hour’s walk—I had thirty minutes. I didn’t want to miss the service, so I walked as fast as I could using the technique that the Physical Therapist taught me. I passed tons of pilgrims, all slowly moving to their destination, really savoring their last steps on the Camino. I’m sure I was a sight—huffing and puffing—and walking as if I were riding an imaginary donkey!
Upon arriving at the Hill of Joy, I had time to cool down by eating my favorite chocolate. I wasn’t late at all and even had time to accompany the Father back to the restrooms where I wanted to stop earlier but decided against it because of time. The little chapel on the Hill of Joy did not disappoint. Behind the altar was a crude Pieta that was intriguing and delightful to the eye. The Scriptures for the service (predetermined for the whole church that day) matched the experience I was having. Zephaniah 3:14-18a—Sing for joy on the Mount of Joy because He delights to sing over you! Romans 12:9-16—directions for how to love one another and treat each other on a pilgrimage. Psalm 12 answered why I had so much joy—because of the Great and Holy One of Israel! Our sermon came from Luke 1:39-56 about the joy exchanged between Mary and Elizabeth when John the Baptist jumped in Elizabeth’s womb as Mary, nurturing Jesus in her womb, walked into Elizabeth’s home.
Upon the conclusion of this Camino, Father Walker challenged us to recognize that we wait for the new heaven and the new earth. He gave us the joyful news that our Camino was not over when we reached the Cathedral de Santiago, home to the bones of St James. Our life is a Camino whose destination is heaven. Psalm 16:11 says:
You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.
The joy I experienced is available to me every day. All that I need to do is acknowledge the presence of the Lord and I indeed experience abundant joy. He gave me so many personal and joyful experiences along the Way that I could not write them all down; they were too many to keep up. He didn’t shield me from hurt, pain and rejection. He used all my hardships to deepen my connection to His presence, which multiplied my joy. My Camino is proof that there is abundant joy when I walk a path with Him.