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 is a question I find myself bouncing around within my mind throughout day, especially since finishing the Camino de Santiago. In a sense, my thoughts are now wandering around my skull as a result of wandering through Spain's grand landscapes and historic metropolises. Perhaps it's a terrible mis-use of the word wander to describe a dedicated pilgrimmage with clear objectives; however, the objectives themselves are a bit ambiguous in their definition and even more challenging to describe whether or not they were achieved in concrete ways.
This journey had been planned, at least in my in my heart, for a couple of months following my mom's death in 2011. I suppose my original reasons for wanting to walk the way were to remember her, honor her life, and struggle to find my footing in this world without her. There are a lot of questions that beg for immediate answers after losing someone close like a parent, but rarely do they arrive at the right time, if ever. Sometimes answers to questions are like those friends who say they'll come to your birthday party, only to let you know they are running severely behind on the day of, to then cancel completely and then reach out a few days later in sincerety with an apology and coffee on them. For the last few years of my mom's life we didn't live near each other and only saw one another about once a year or so, sometimes even longer. Her loss didn't affect me right away as the only thing that really changed was the knowledge that she wasn't breathing anymore. At least she wasn't suffering alcoholism anymore though, which perhaps was a greater burden for her? I'm not sure. It wasn't until a few months later that I began questioning what it was I should be believing about life, my faith in Jesus Christ, what the heck it was that I was really doing in Wichita, Kansas, and where I should go next in life. 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 flooded my mind as I found myself trying to engage in conversation with my apartment's newly re-plastered wall. To admit at this point that I might actually have been 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 the church counselor (who thank god wasn't the senior pastor. I'm not convinced he ever viewed me anything more than a person to fill a role and execute his vision for how a youth ministry should be run) 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 and figure out what to do next there. I resigned my position as youth pastor and moved back to the safety of what I knew to hopefully wander or be guided into what was next for me.
Years have passed since that period of my life and this past autumn I found myself in the unlikely position of being able to spend 40 days away from 'real life' and walk the Camino de Santiago. My desire to make the 500 mile piligrimmage never left me; although, my original reasons did. 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. Memories tend to float away like long-term guests who have worn their welcome, until all that's left are small knick-knacks found between couch cushions months later. There's a similar sense to this journey of walking Spain's dusty roads; it happened, but in a way it never did. It was perhaps the most visceral experience of my life, yet one that feels most like a dream. Perhaps if these words are never penned, and photographs never published, they will evaporate away like mist on a sunny morning; remembered at one point in time, but easily tucked away in the memorial archives of my consciousness.
Living in London opened up the possibility to actually walk the 500 mile journey, purely from a geographical standpoint, but wasn't something I gave considered thought to until my wife suggested I give it a go. But what would be my reasons for walking? What were my intentions? Certainly, I could drum up the loss of my mother 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. But why then did anyone attempt to make a pilgrimmage? Why was this one so worn beneath the many boots of spiritual seekers and lost souls and why would I want to leave my print in the mud and dust?
Answering this question has taken time. Even after the kilometers have been trodded, after staring into the depths of Atlantic as the sun sank beyond the horizon of Spain's western most point where the Apostle James spent his life doing ministry, I'm not positive I can answer the 'why' as articulately as I would like. Before the year's clocks had reset, I resolved yet again to brand another year with my two greatest ambitions: to love the Lord more than I did the day before, and to be the best husband I can be. It's fair to say I saw success and failure countless times regarding both pursuits; however, it seemed fitting that they be this journey's guiding lanterns.
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 sleep and rest retire to find myself in contstant dialogue with the King of Kings; which, we are called to as believers. Or, does it mean journaling more pages than the day before and copying down Bible verses? For all one knows, maybe it means more repentance and 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've been created to be? What if my best isn't good enough? What if I'm not good enough? My parents are divorced. Most of my friend's parents are divorced. Will 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.
The primary intent with this journey and output is 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, or 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 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: acknowleding 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.