We all bring something with us to the Camino that we intend to leave behind before leaving El Camino. It might be something we do not like about ourselves or something that we might be struggling with, perhaps a bad habit or an addiction of some sort. Hence, the tradition of pilgrims carrying a stone they have picked up during the Camino in order to leave it behind either along the path, on one of the markers, or upon completing the journey to Santiago de Compostela. This leaving behind of the stone symbolizes the leaving behind of the old-self.
Just as the caterpillar goes through a complete metamorphosis by becoming a butterfly with beautiful wings designed to fly, so do some pilgrims experience similar kinds of transformations. During the Camino I have seen many markers where pilgrims have left behind stones, flowers, notes, etc., but one object that caught my attention was a cigarette pack. One can easily infer that the pilgrim must have been struggling with wanting to quit smoking and had eventually found the courage and determination, coupled of course with God’s grace, to overcome his or her addiction to cigarettes.
Of course, not every pilgrim experiences transformation to the same degree. But you do hear countless accounts of people’s hearts and lives touched by God during El Camino, prompting them to change the direction of their lives. Understanding how much God loves us becomes a redeeming moment for pilgrims – recognizing that God suffered for us out of love not only makes us become aware of the fact that we are loved by God, but it gives meaning and reason for our present sufferings and crosses in life.
Realizing God’s love is transformative!
Seeing so many crosses that practically cover the entire length of the fence that separates the airport from the Camino path is a testament to that.
Just as my leg was cramping up and I was getting tired during today’s Camino, I spotted a stone in the shape of a heart. That stone reminded me that God’s love is unchanging and everlasting.
We don’t need to impress God to make Him love us. He already does. His love for us isn’t dependent on us or what we do. Sometimes I forget that, and God needed to put that stone in my path to remind me!