I Pursued a Spiritual Journey and Failed Miserably Along “The Way”

Fresco Tours 161 rob and ken sweetUNEXPECTED LESSON ONE from The Camino:

              By Robin Hurst, Author, Founder, Your Path Matters and All In Retreats

When I anticipated our eight days of trekking on the Camino de Santiago to the tomb of Saint James, disciple of Jesus, I was sure that it would be one of the most incredible spiritual journeys of my life.

The visions in my head and heart were romantic. The dream of taking this trip with my husband, Ken, had been stirring in me for years. When we finally scheduled our adventure for September, Ken and I knew there would be a possibility of rain, so we planned accordingly by packing the appropriate gear if needed.

Unfortunately, our rookie planning was no match for the thunder, lightning, torrential rain and hail that met us our first day on the trail. There was no quick exit off the course to catch an Uber and it was unwise to escape into the immense evergreen forest canopy because the tall timbers were basically natural lightning rods.

The first half of our day was filled with warm sunshine and a joyful journey. It was a delight to meet up with others in our group for lunch. We lingered. We laughed. We enjoyed a bountiful feast. And yes, after much deliberation, I decided to shed my raincoat and extra shirt layer since the morning hike was so lovely. The additional gear seemed like unnecessary weight.

Those burdensome layers were left on the bus that we would not see again until the end of the day. After the first mile or two into our afternoon trek, the winds picked up, the temperatures suddenly dropped more than twenty degrees and torrential rain followed swiftly creating unavoidable ankle-deep water on narrow and uneven parts of the trail. The rain was announced by dark purplish-blue skies along with the symphony of rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning. The circumstances were surreal, but unfortunately undeniable.

As we grappled to mentally adjust to our circumstances, the situation was exacerbated by half-inch balls of hail that began to pelt our bodies relentlessly. Whimpering sounds came from my being as the reality of physical shivering escalated my discomfort while my fear of the true danger of a lightning strike intensified. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to lecture myself to stop the whimpering and to just pick up the pace to the finish line. Whining was not going to get me there sooner or dryer.

I then noticed that my husband pulled a peach umbrella out of his backpack and held it over me. He literally covered me. He held me close to him while holding the small umbrella over my head protecting me from the hail while sacrificing his own cover. Both of us tried not to think about the lightning magnet it was.

We hiked several more miles in the torrential rain to our destination of the iconic Iron Cross. I had looked forward to dwelling at the cross, saying a prayer and leaving a stone as a symbol of leaving something from within me behind while looking ahead in hope as is Camino pilgrim tradition. Dwelling at the cross was not appealing to me in the freezing cold, blowing wind, torrential rain and wicked hail. Not an inch of my clothing or body could get any more soaked than it already was, but lingering in the wide open at the foot of this metal cross in the elements was not part of my fairy tale dream of our precious spiritual adventure.

Until then, it had not occurred to me that the 100 miles we had ahead of us could be in the pouring rain – every day! This pilgrim would not have signed up for that kind of experience and labeled it a vacation. I prefer a more comfy kind of spiritual journey. These thoughts that were stewing in my mind were interrupted by the arrival of our bus. Bus transportation never looked so glorious to me.

Even though our first day was far from what I had envisioned, I made it through. My husband protected me from the hail and God protected us from the lightning. It was good to see the balance of our hiking group, who would soon become our dear friends, arrive and share their stories. They all laughed at Ken’s feminine colored peach umbrella – the only umbrella detected on the trail. Even though the laughter was welcome and warranted, I was grateful that particular umbrella was in my husband’s backpack and that he used it to protect me beyond his own comfort even if the rest of the group called him “Kenny Poppins” for the remainder of our adventure.

The lessons were many that day. However, not only did I not appreciate them at the time, I simply did not see them at all. I was wet, freezing and concerned for the days ahead. I was disappointed that I did not get to dwell at the foot of the iconic Iron Cross. I barely offered a feeble prayer there. That perspective prevented my dwelling with God to thank him for Ken, a peach umbrella, a group of new friends, and the fact that the Iron Cross was a reminder that He sent His one and only son to die for me so that I, in every kind of weather, get to experience His grace and the greatest love the world has ever known.



My circumstances and emotions can get in the way of my gratitude, my faith and my dwelling at the foot of the cross. Thankfully, God is patient and faithful. He will wait for me to find my way.

©2020 Robin Hurst, All In Retreats, LLC