A few years ago, I walked the Camino de Santiago. I’ve been asked to give a public talk about my pilgrimage, which means revisiting photos and stories taken on the way. Here is the beginning of one:
Do you know the story of Ignatius of Loyola? (Don’t worry, it’s not that long.)
He was the 13th son of a Basque noble, a very long time ago. He was a bit of a ‘ner do well – got into the odd scrape with a local girl’s dad or a lad down the tavern. Usually his family name did wonders for smoothing things over, so he could get back to his charming misbehavior. Then came a scrape that his name could not bear away. Along came his father with some money and a first class ticket to the Castilian King’s court. Now as you all know, a parent swooping in and plucking their child from trouble doesn’t always work the way that is hoped. Fast forward about a year and Iggy’s charming misbehavior is not so charming. He’s wenching his way through the Castilian court, he is a degenerate gambler – in debt to his pretty eyelashes. He loves to fight. Perhaps worst of all: he is vain.
His penchant for fighting, and his useful ‘diplomatic’ abilities earned him a seat on a horse in a great battle somewhere in the kingdom of Navarre. In this great battle, known as the battle of Pamploña, Iggy was very badly injured. We’re talking two legs damaged injured, or ‘whoa! Can’t fix that with the primitive butchery that passes for medicine these days!’ injured. His legs were set, and he was told that he would have to convalesce for many months before he could attempt walking.
(I know you’re all expecting a miraculous conversion story…but Iggy wasn’t quite there yet.)
He was a bad patient, but he got well. The problem was his vanity. The surgeons of the day had tried their hardest to fix Iggy – and they had, mostly. But there was not yet a cure for vanity! He could stroll with ease, but he could not wear the tight boots and leg-hugging pants of a soldier without looking all knobbly and stuff. Since he needed to look a certain way for the ladies, and we know that Iggy loved the ladies, he opted for an operation that involved some saws and lots of pain with no promise that his legs would still be attached afterward. Let’s fast forward to the part where he’s convalescing once more.
During this convalescence Iggy was a bit more humble. He now knew that he would never walk easily again – one leg was shorter than the other. He was a bit depressed, so he decided to read the latest Punch and Judy gossip rag…but all there was at the hospital was the Bible…
‘Lindy Cameron? Please, Lindy Cameron? Will you come to the Air France desk for an important change…’
I was still at Seatac and already, a change.
‘Please, can your seat change for a family to sit together?’ of course it could!
I found myself seated next to a rancher from Montana who was on his first international trip to…India! We had a wonderful flight. He showed me pictures of his family, told me their stories, and revealed to me that he is an evangelical protestant who would be doing mission work.
I’m not always that tolerant of evangelism – So I had one of those, ‘screw the family that wants to sit together!’ moments, but it passed quickly. He was friendly, funny, and when I shared with him that I was not a believer he did not seem to mind. We talked about my family, and my upcoming pilgrimage.
‘You’re traveling alone?’ he asked, with surprise, ‘that is very brave.’ People often say this. I just smiled, nodded and tried to think of how to respond, ‘I don’t know how to be alone, so I usually want someone with me,’ he finished.
I was surprised by his frankness. We ate some, chatted some, I told him about the Camino de Santiago that I was on my way to begin – 500 miles across northern Spain! (even I was impressed by my sense of adventure!)
Many hours later, two hours later than it was scheduled to be, the plane made its final descent into Paris. As we disembarked, my new friend said enthusiastically, ‘I’m curious to see what the Lord has planned for you, my girl. Very curious. It’s bound to be something!’
Something indeed, I thought, as I ran to be the first in line at the customs booth…