When walking the Camino de Santiago, feet are a common topic of conversation. In a way that I had never before experienced, my feet were an obviously critical part of my life and I daily felt their aching tiredness. Part of this was my problem: I packed too much. It is one thing to be able to carry a backpack and quite another to carry it for a month, nearly every moment of the day. The strain on my back was mitigated by a chest strap and a padded strap around my waist. But no extra strap could change the actual weight I was carrying and thus the actual weight that was relying on my feet.
There is an online community of past, present, and future pilgrims that I discovered after my own Camino. Reading through some of the posts, I came upon several that spoke about how much care they put into packing the littlest amount of things possible. A few posts even spoke about weighing everything in their pack and then going through, cutting off every tag on their clothes, and re-weighing to see the difference. A general consensus agreed: the less you have on the walk, the better.
Leave the heavy things behind and travel light.
I would like to propose this mentality as we prepare for the season of Lent. Sometimes we view Lent as a time to add lots of things and it can cause us to feel like we are more weighed down during a season focused on penance. But what if we focused on traveling lighter during Lent and asking the question: how can I create space in my life for God to be more present?
Lent, like the Camino de Santiago, isn’t complex. It is a very simple exercise of choosing each day to follow the way laid before us and to not get bogged down in what is nonessential. Maybe you are following the Lord closely already: what are the tags in your life that you can cut off, allowing an even greater freedom? Maybe you are struggling to follow the Lord: what are the main areas of struggle and how can your Lenten promises help focus your relationship with the Lord?
Instead of packing a lot of extra things into your life, consider how you can lighten the load, to remove the excess and strip things down to the simple necessities. Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)
The three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are opportunities to sacrifice, but they are also occasions to allow greater freedom. In 2 Corinthians 3:17, St. Paul speaks of how “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Instead of complicating matters, let’s simplify. Ask the Lord to reveal areas of your life that should be emptied in order to create more space for Him to live and move. Then choose simple and direct sacrifices that allow you to intentionally find freedom in the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
- How can we give the Lord more intentional time by committing to particular periods of prayer during Lent? This permits us the freedom to rest with God and can lessen the guilt we may feel in not dedicating enough time to the Lord. Being more intentional in time spent with the Lord can create a greater awareness of how He is active in our daily lives.
- How can we fast from things that might fill the space that should be given to things of the Lord? If we remove or lessen the things that distract (social media, snacking between meals, sweets, TV, online shopping, etc.), we can use that space that is created for something or Someone far better. Assessing how we spend our time can help us find things to fast from during Lent.
- How can we generously give of our money and time to create the space to love God in our neighbor? Almsgiving helps us shift our focus to other humans who are made in the image and likeness of God, just like us. When we give of ourselves, we are striving to mirror the sacrificial love of Jesus.
Take some time in the upcoming days to consider how you will pack for this Lenten journey. Leave what is unnecessary or what weighs you down or what is too cumbersome for the trek. Trust that He will provide all of the necessary graces along the way and will never permit you to travel alone. ¡Buen Camino!