Prone to Wander
prone to wander
lord I feel it
prone to leave
the god i love
here’s my heart
lord take and seal it
seal it for
thy courts above
How does one conclude a spiritual journey, or embark on one for that matter? This question, which took shape following the final dusty steps of my pilgrimage, bounces around my mind, aimlessly connecting then releasing. By wandering through Spain’s historic and noble landscapes, my thoughts have regressed into diasporic wanderers themselves. Conceptually, wandering may be inappropriate language to underpin and define an intentionally planned pilgrimage; however, through many intentional days of walking, praying, setting into silence and solitude, I perceived and felt convicted of just how far off course and aimless my both my life and faith have become.
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I had planned this journey, at least in my heart, for a couple of months following my mom's death in 2011. I suppose my reasons for initially yenning to walk The Way were to memorialize her presence in my life via some grand gesture of physical sacrifice and suffering. Her life’s decisions were defined by those two words: sacrificing the life she desired and hoped for, as a result of suffering through decades of debilitating alcoholism. She was not an ideal mother, but she was mine, and I wanted at the time to honor her life, even in the midst of struggling to solidify my footing in this world without her. Questions beg for immediate answers after the unexpected (but expected) loss of a parent; yet, rarely do they arrive at the right time, if ever. More often than naught, these answers resemble friends who commit to attending your birthday party, only to let you know, minutes before their expected arrival, they are delayed and end up canceling altogether. In the years following my mother’s decision (along with the state of Colorado) to seek treatment and help at a rehabilitation facility just outside Missoula, Montana, we saw each other less and less. I never visited her once while she lived there and we didn't live near each other. It was only on brief occasion (about once a year or so, sometimes less) did we spend any time together in-person.
Her loss wasn’t immediately effectual. The only thing that altered my day-to-day life was my cognitive understanding that oxygen no longer inflated her lungs, that her heartbeat had ceased, and her body, now only dust, was neatly enclosed within a small box. As a silver lining, there was some semblance of comfort knowing she wasn’t suffering through alcoholism anymore. We all suffered with her in that disease, but she more than the rest. It wasn't until a four or five months following her passing that I began questioning what it was I should be believing: my faith in Jesus Christ, what it was I was hoping to achieve by being a youth pastor in Wichita, Kansas at this stage in my life, and who it is I am meant to become. This is perhaps the first time I actively considered what it would be like to abandon everything I held dear and try to start over, whatever that meant. The questions broke through the dams of reason and faith and flooded my mind, until one evening, as I found myself attempting to engage in conversation with my apartment's newly re-plastered wall, I realized that things are not ok. To admit at this point that I was actually depressed wasn't something I could muster, but I did know enough to seek help. For the next few months, I began spending time with my church’s counselor, and she, along with a lot of questions, tears, prayer, the spiritual guidance of my close friends, and my now wife's support, helped me realize that I should move back to Colorado Springs to figure out there what to do next. I resigned my position as the youth pastor and relocated back to the safety of what I knew to hopefully discover what was next for me.
Years have passed since that period of my life, but during the autumn of 2018 (a period of life in which my wife and I were living in London, U.K. for her to pursue graduate school, while I attempted to advance my career within Apple’s global retail marketing team) I found myself in the unlikely position of being able to spend 40 days away from 'real life' and finally walk the Camino de Santiago, nearly 7 years later. This period of living on the other side of the world opened up the possibility to realize this dream of making that spiritually saturated 500-mile journey; however, it wasn't something I gave considered thought to until my wife suggested I pursue it. My desire to walk The Way never left me; although, my original reasons did. Of course, I wanted to make this spiritual journey, but what would be my reasons for walking? What were my intentions? I mourned (and still do in different ways) my mother's passing, but the immediate impact of her loss now feels more like a stone, resting at the bottom of my pants pocket, forgotten until every now and then when I stick my hand in and feel its heavy presence. Certainly, I could drum up her death and wear the journey as a badge — or burden — and attempt to harness all the feelings and emotions I once had to fuel every step, but it would only be a shell or mask of sorts, covering up anything that would be real in this moment.
Why then does anyone attempt to make a pilgrimage? Why was this one so worn beneath the many boots of spiritual seekers and lost souls? Why did I want to leave my print in the mud and dust?
Without conclusion or concrete reason beyond knowing at my core the importance of making this trip, I aimed to let my life’s two central goals be my guiding lights: to love God more than I did the day before and to be the best possible husband I can be.
What does it look like, practically, to love God more than the day before? Is it even quantifiable? Perhaps, it means praying 17 minutes one day instead of the 14 minutes the day before? Is that a 'good' or 'right' indication of my heart's utmost desires? By that logic, I must accumulate more and more time each day until I find myself in constant dialogue with the King of Kings from when I rise till I retire — which is our calling as believers. Or, does it mean journaling more pages than the day before and copying down Bible verses? For all one knows, it means more repentance and partaking of communion at each small church along the path? Is it all of that? Or, maybe it's none of it? Quite possibly it's a mixture of those things to the point where they become the tools which carve away the parts of my life that don't reflect Christ's likeness. Equally, how is it possible to be the best husband I can be? What if I am incapable of being the man I've told myself and have believed I'm created to be? What if my best isn't good enough? What if I'm not good enough? My parents divorced. Most of my friend's parents divorced. Would spending 40 consecutive days walking together, struggling and thriving together, break us or bind us, making me into the man I've always desired to be? Who am I really? These two statements spawn a myriad of questions that force me to confront who I really am: past, present, and future.
Even after the kilometers have been trodden, the depths of the Atlantic stared into off Spain’s most western oceanic horizon, and where the Apostle James conducted his life’s ministry, I'm unable to articulately satisfy each 'why’ with an appropriate response.
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The primary intent with this journey was to not only document as a way of cementing memories and experiences into the bedrock of my consciousness, but to examine wandering as a theoretical idea, a moment in time, a particular place, an attitude toward the world, a spiritual searching, and an appetite for the unknown. At times, the work is as literal as an open path laid bare before me with nothing but miles ahead. At other times it's as symbolic as two closed curtains drifting apart or a crack in a slab of stone. There are instances where the photos don't translate to anything other than the wandering of the lens and the lack of intentionality behind the pressing of the shutter. The work is as demonstrative of my own wanderings as it is of the subjects featured.
Prone to Wander is ultimately about self-reflection and re-commitment: acknowledging that yes, I wander, make mistakes, and am more guided by sin than I prefer to be, but by actively choosing to continually realign my focus on Jesus Christ, I signify that I am His and He is mine.