Walking… a relatively easy task for most.
Something I’ve been doing for nearly 24 years now. The idea of walking 52 miles seemed like no big deal, but our four day walking pilgrimage from Taos to Chimayo, New Mexico proved otherwise.
Looking back on my Chimayo experience, one thing is very clear: we need each other.
As we began the second of two eighteen mile days, I couldn’t help but feel every sore muscle, every raw blister, and the weight of my pack which felt as though it were increasing with each mile. As I walked the first few miles, I knew that this day was going to challenge me more than I had anticipated. The day before had been a breeze; I seemed to be carried by grace. This day, however, felt very different. The energy that had carried me through the previous day seemed to be dwindling with each step. I pushed through the first half of the day in the anticipation of making it to the rest stop at the halfway point. Upon arriving there, I was hurting. Dizzy, a little dehydrated, and quickly losing steam, I realized that John, a fellow missionary, wasn’t doing so great himself. We seemed to have a mutual understanding that at any moment we could laugh, cry, or collapse. We were both very aware of our weaknesses. It was then that we decided we would walk the rest of the day together.
We made it our mission to see each other through to the end.
As we set out on the second half of that day’s hike we could do little more than put one foot in front of the other. As our muscles ached we both took on a slow, deliberate, awkward-looking sort of limp. It wasn’t pretty, but it was moving us toward our destination. I had been feeling a little bit better than John, so we anticipated me being the optimist and cheerleader as we continued on. However, a few miles in I felt my body fighting against me. John somehow sensed that I was only moments away from a breakdown. As tears formed in my eyes he grabbed my hand and took off at a quicker pace. He called himself my tug-boat as he pulled me behind him over each hill. I laughed and cried simultaneously – one because it hurt like heck, and two because of the hilarity of the situation. John continued on like this for at least a couple of miles.
It was as though his pain had faded into the background because he was so focused on getting me through mine.
Little by little we got closer to our destination. Before we came around the final curve (having no idea how close we were to the end) we discussed what would happen when we saw the church at the end of that day – John joked that we would take off running, to which I responded that simply wouldn’t be possible for me. But sure enough as we rounded the last hill and heard the other missionaries cheering, we took off running. As we ran the last few yards I was overcome with emotion. Together we had made it through a seemingly impossible task.
One step at a time, hand in hand, we made it home.
I knew that day was powerful. I could not have finished it alone, but God knew that and He never intended for me to do it by myself. He gave me John. In a similar way, God doesn’t intend for us to make it to Heaven alone. A pilgrimage is a representation of our spiritual journey home to Heaven, and my experience that day could not have been more eye-opening. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God himself is a communion of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were made for each other and to journey towards Heaven together.
Praying for each other is one way that we can help to carry each other along this journey.
On pilgrimage, I carried with me 125 small pictures of loved ones, intentions, and of friends on the street. Each time I felt myself losing energy or lacking purpose for the pain, I would pull one of the images out of my pocket. Suddenly the hills and blisters had greater importance. Just as John carried me along and forgot about his own suffering, Jesus invites us to unite our own trials to those that we love. Suffering endured for the sake of another is a very different experience from suffering alone. Jesus opened my eyes this week to the power that we have in each other’s lives.
I invite you this week to spend time reflecting on who in your life Jesus may be asking you to carry. Whose intentions are you going to offer up this week’s sufferings for?
All things when united to Him take on greater meaning and purpose.
Anna is a first-year missionary from North Platte, NE. She enjoys eating good food, time spent in adoration, and any opportunity to say Go Big Red!