The cairn as the final destination of our journey.
What you get by reaching your destination is not nearly as important
as what you will become by reaching your destination.
~ Zig Ziglar
Jim and I recently watched, “The Way” for the third time. The movie is a story about a father (Tom) and his walking journey on the El Camino de Santiago, a path of pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James, the apostle. The movie especially portrays how there is much more to this path of life than getting to our destination. The friendships we make, the difficulties we endure, the beauties we encounter, the experiences we celebrate, the stories we share, and the lessons we learn, are what make our lives rich and meaningful.
Many Camino hikers carry a stone with them, and near the end of the trail they place the stone on a large cairn (as shown in the picture). When the dear characters in the movie pause, pray, and reverently place their stones, I wonder what significance each stone held for them. I could perceive that each stone held several different meanings. The stones left at the end of the Camino not only marked an accomplishment but also signified a surrender.
Perhaps all the cairns on our life journey hold dual meanings. In every accomplishment, there is both victory and surrender. In every difficulty, there is the same. We might place a stone for both – “I have accomplished this, and in doing so, I have also surrendered this.” In each stone, there is sorrow and joy. Heartache and triumph. Frustration and forgiveness. Challenge and strength. Tears and smiles. Loss and gratitude. When we sort through our burdens, we will also find blessings.
Oh, we may journey with specific goals in mind, we may map out our plans and dreams, but in the end, we find we have gained much more. The memorable quote from this movie is, “You don’t choose a life; you live one.” The friends become emotional as they approach the shrine at the end of their journey together. The officials stamp their booklets, and they are asked, “What was the reason for your pilgrimage?” They all look surprised and thoughtful, as they recognize how their original reasons had evolved into much different and perhaps greater purposes.
From the shrine, we know that Tom is going to continue his journey to the Atlantic Ocean while the others return home. But with a glint in his eye and a small smile, he looks at each of his comrades. They grin, pick up their packs, and then walk on, together.
I like to imagine that at the end of our earthly journey, we will be grateful for all we have learned and experienced. We will feel blessed by the things we have encountered, enjoyed, or even endured. We will understand the ways in which God has made everything come together for good. We will know that this path has truly been the path of life, an unexpected but totally abundant path of life.
And we will see Jesus. With a glint in his eye and a small smile, he will look at us… and we will grin, drop our packs, and then walk on, together.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…
John 14:2-6 (NRSV)
(As you place your stone, consider these words) “Today I place this stone to commemorate the end of this ten-week journey. I am thankful for both the accomplishments and the losses during this time, especially for…”
God, our companion and our destination,
Today marks the end of one journey, but also the beginning of a new one. Thank you for this journey of life, and for all the things I have experienced, enjoyed, and yes, even endured. You have accompanied me through all of it, teaching, helping, healing, guiding, blessing, and loving me. Thank you. And I thank you that when I arrive at the end of my earthly journey, you will still be with me, ready to lead me on to new adventures. Amen.
Photo credit: Image of El Camino found at http://www.frescotours.com
This is the end of our series on cairns. I hope you have been blessed!
(This is my finished cairn.)