Because if we have a God at all then I’m quite certain He is a subtle, almost poetic God, a cool, Vermont, Robert Frost of a God, looking up from His desk and watching the wind and snow through His hoary farmhouse window. I see Him sipping His tea carefully and then setting it down again among His writing papers and correspondence, hardly making a sound against the saucer.
“But I confess I’m moved by the idea of a thousand years of pilgrims covering the same ground, coming up over the same mountain outside Santiago and seeing the same spires of the cathedral for the first time, every last one of them – of us – chasing their personal miracle. I am moved by an ancient cairn of stones that I know is to be found somewhere in a mountain pass in Spain. It has been built up one Celt, Roman, pilgrim and stone at a time over a few thousand years until it has now become a mountain of rising expectation.
They say that each pilgrim is granted one prayer with his stone. I look forward to seeing that pile and adding my own rock to its mass. Many pilgrims carry their rock from home, and when we first came out and visited the South of France a year ago, to check it out, to make sure we weren’t totally crazy picking Provence sight-unseen, I found a small, smooth rock on a beach in Cassis. On a whim, the rock went back to Seattle in my suitcase and then it came back again to France in yet another suitcase when we moved here, then on to Jerusalem during the kids’ Winter Break, and now, finally, I think, it is headed to Spain where it will settle down for eternity. This is truly one of the best travelled rocks in the world, the envy of the rock pile, a pilgrim rock if there ever was one.
I know how I get, and I will make my wish carefully and throw my rock as high up on the great pile as I can or try to climb up it a bit to find the best location or I will dig in off to the side and bury it to make sure it stays there forever. Or, and this is how my particular brand of magical thinking goes, if some later pilgrim is too tired or lazy to get their own stone and decides to dig in and use mine from where I buried it deep in the mountain of unanswered prayers, then it was meant to be that way, and now I’m part of some greater-scoped miracle and my prayer for a miracle actually did get answered even if I don’t ever get to know it because it was answered out of the force of some larger spiritual bookkeeping effort to answer prayers generally and not in a personal way at all. There’s really no way to stay on top of God in these matters. You just can’t be everywhere all at once.
Because if we have a God at all then I’m quite certain He is a subtle, almost poetic God, a cool, Vermont, Robert Frost of a God, looking up from His desk and watching the wind and snow through His hoary farmhouse window. I see Him sipping His tea carefully and then setting it down again among His writing papers and correspondence, hardly making a sound against the saucer. He is sad and quiet and slow-moving, but in nowise defeated. Like all New Englanders, He has simply learned to gear down for the long, long winter and to take things in His stride.
He unfolds and reads my note without expression:
Dear God, I will be alone and on the road to Emmaus from mid-March through early June and I welcome, in fact you could say I deeply long for, Your violent and rapturous correction in these matters. Yours truly.”
– From Chapter 4 “The Scallop Shell” of Walking Backwards (A journey of a thousand miles on the Camino de Santiago)
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