Week Three: Help Along the Way

Pilgrim Steps

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  • The spiritual practice of giving and receiving HELP

  • A Family Advent Activity

  • Nativity Characters on the move
  • Journey into our Community

Of her pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, our friend, Julia Carpenter writes, “A pilgrimage is never a solitary journey. It is an experience of being helped, and of helping the people God places on your path. The questions I am called to ask myself, every day, are ‘Am I willing to accept help from others? Am I willing to disrupt my plans to offer help to another pilgrim?’”

Mary was most likely going about her daily chores when out of blue, the Angel Gabriel showed up and told her that her life was about to take a dramatic turn.

She was not only going to be the young, virgin bride of the carpenter Joseph, she was also to be the mother of the “Son of the Most High God.” YIKES! What a disruption! But by the end of the conversation with Gabriel, Mary was able to say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

God did not abandon Mary to face her circumstances alone. God provided help. Before too many weeks had passed Mary took a trip to visit her relative Elizabeth who was also pregnant with a miraculous baby. Scripture tells us that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, two things happened. First, “the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). Second, Mary sang a song of praise and thanksgiving to God. She offered thanks to God for all His mercy and care for the people of Israel from “generation to generation” (Luke 1:46). Can you imagine the comfort and help these two women gave one another as they pondered, together, God’s provision in the middle of their disrupted lives?

The Psalmist reminds us that God provides help along the way for us as we pilgrimage through all the disruptions of our life.

“God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.”  –Psalm 46:1

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.” –Psalm 32:8

God is amazingly creative in the way He helps us even when our outer situation is difficult. Sometimes God helps us through a friend, or even a total stranger. Sometimes God opens our minds to discern the way forward in a situation that had confused us. Sometimes we are given the inner assurance that God is holding us in His everlasting arms, and sometimes, we are able to help others. So, Julia’s question is a good one, Am I willing to disrupt my plans to offer help?

“On the Camino, self-reliance turns to reliance on others very quickly, pulling others into one’s experience.  There are albergue (bed and breakfast) owners along the route providing a bed, the fellowship of a communal home-cooked meal, a garden to meditate in, first aid, laundry washing, bibles to read, and a gentle wake up with an ethereal “Ave Maria” or a gentle shake of your shoulder.   There are baristas that are unbelievably encouraging while serving excellent cafe-con-leches just when you need them, and offering to fill your canteen.  There are train station attendants who are very patient, pharmacists who are helpful.  At some stops there are nuns who visit your bedside at lights out to say a short prayer.  In tiny hamlets, there are bowls of fruit and prayer cards to read left on a table at the end of a long driveway.  There are retired couples who invite you into their barn when the rain torrents start.  Once, a young man ran for kilometers to catch up to my daughter and me, because one of us had dropped a rain cover from our backpack…we still argue about who dropped it.  Without these gracious offers of comfort, the walk would be so much more difficult.  With these kindnesses, all the blisters, unevenly packed backpacks, very loud snorers, and wrong turns (attempted short cuts), are much less memorable than the beauty and the people. On a pilgrimage, annoyances and challenges will come, as will the offers for help.

And so, off-loading a stubborn self-reliance leaves room in the pilgrim’s backpack for the humbleness to see and accept help and grace, and leaves room for lasting gratitude for the experiences and the connections with people and God that result. My Journal entry:  How willing am I to accept help? How good am I at noticing kindness?

CKPC Member Julia Carpenter

This Week's Scripture: Luke 1:26-45

Listen with your imagination to the story of Mary, Gabriel and Elizabeth.

Follow the link to participate in this week’s “Pilgrim Steps”: