Camino SculptureWe had planned to leave Cambridge on Monday morning, soon after I finished a conference call that could not be rescheduled. After a whirlwind pack up and clean, we finally left the house at 4:45pm. We arrived very late that night at Minga’s parents home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where we will leave our car and come and go from Baltimore-Washington International, Thurgood Marshall Airport. A couple of days later, I noticed that I had left all my collard shirts and a sport coat hanging in our bedroom closet. The good news is that on our way to Spain this coming Thursday, we have a six hour layover in Boston, of all places!

Oh the details, the minutiae, the endless cleaning, and all the STUFF. A major blessing of this trip is the opportunity to literally touch everything we own. We touch, we consider, we decide to keep or to throw. We shed. 25 boxes of books left the house. Lots of trash and several big, blue recycle bins on rollers, overfull with old paper, file folders and all sorts recyclable junk, were rolled up to the curb and taken away. If you had come by the house during our leave-taking, it was very likely that you would go home with one or another of the treasures we just could not keep. And THANK YOU to everyone who came by and helped us clear out.

This will be our third sabbatical since 1998—a third life reset. Emerging themes for this year of travel together in ministry are pilgrimage, peace and reconciliation, and recommitment to one another.

One profound experience of sabbatical is allowing myself to be stripped away. In addition to all the organizing, shedding and leaving stuff behind, I find that I am also leaving a big part of who I am. My identity is so embedded in context—my roles, my friends, my surroundings. As I go away from the outward facts of my like, away from much of what lets me know who I am, I turn inward. I am stripped down to what is at my core. The experience is challenging, even terrifying. Yet it is also enormously freeing. I can find and explore parts of myself that have yet to surface.I can let myself be shaped by new surroundings, by new people. I can be more attentive to the easily missed, small, tender wonders of life.  And I can clear out the stuff of my heart, the clutter of my life, so as to be more open to God’s promptings.

To walk on the Camino de Santiago, Minga and I have obtained an official credential from American Pilgrims on the Camino. This credential, or passport, allows us to stay at hostels run especially for pilgrims. After each overnight stay, our passports will be stamped by the people who run the hostel.  When we reach Santiago de Compostela, we go to the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (the Pilgrims Welcome Office) where we will present our credentials and be asked “Why did you walk the Camino?” Upon a satisfactory answer, we will receive a “Compostela,” a document that certifies our pilgrimage.

I have left my life in Cambridge. I am carrying a very small fraction of my worldly possessions. And I am walking with the questions, small and large.