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(Part 40)


September 14, 2013
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

On the second stage of my Pilgrim’s Walk along the Camino de Santiago (Way of James), the Lord continues to speak to us servant leaders. I share these thoughts with you, continuing with “How to Survive as a Servant Leader, and Even Thrive.” Here are 7 additional principles.

Principle #8: You are privileged when you suffer for Christ. Yesterday I had intense pain on both my knee joints (this had happened about four times in the past whenever I trekked for some hours with rough or uneven terrain going up and down), and at the end of the first stage yesterday could hardly walk. This morning, just in the first kilometer, the deep pain remained, especially on the left knee joint. How could I possibly survive today’s 17.5 kilometers? I thought of Jesus and his pain, brutally scourged and carrying the heavy cross, made heavier by the pain of rejection. So I prayed, no longer for the Lord to remove the pain, but for me to be able to finish my course, despite the pain. It would be my insignificant share in the cross of my Lord. The Lord granted my prayer! You may not like suffering and pain, and may ask God to keep these away from you. But suffering and pain are salvific, and essential to our growth to holiness.

Principle #9: When you give in or give up, you weaken; when you endure and persevere, you gather strength. The normal thought for me would have been to rest every now and then, the longer the better. But I found that when I rested long, the pain was more (seemingly) when I got going again, while when I just kept on going, I could get used to the pain. At times I even was able to accelerate my pace. For many, when the going gets rough, they give in, give up, lie low, rest from service, evade the difficulty. Rather than being refreshed and recharged, many inevitably become comfortable in their ease. Why bother, they think. I don’t need this, they reason out. They eventually fade out of active service. But difficulties and trials are allowed by the Lord, to test our mettle, to strengthen our resolve, to shape our character, to purify us. God has a purpose for everything. Don’t give up; just keep on going.

Principle #10: Always be grateful. I was in deep pain but I could still walk. In fact, I am alive, I am healthy enough to walk the Camino, and the sky is really blue. We are showered with God’s bountiful blessings every single day, which unfortunately we just take for granted. We wake up (others don’t), we are able to get up (others remain bedridden), we are able to eat (others can’t, due to illness or poverty), we have our spouse (others left them or were left by them), and so on. Think about it right now. If you cannot make up a list of at least three dozen blessings, you are pathetically blind. Where do those all come from? No one but God. When you are grateful and aware of God’s bountiful blessings, then you will not fall into self-pity, or frustration at how your life or service is turning out, or be disappointed because things seem not to be going your way, or wonder if God still loves you. Gratitude will see you through the downs of Christian service.

Principle #11: You may want to be grateful for that thorn in your flesh. It would have been reasonable for me to pray for the cup of suffering, in this case deep pain in my knee joints, to pass. Paul thought so too, as he begged the Lord three times to remove the thorn in his flesh. Jesus said no. Why? Because power is made perfect in weakness. Because with Christ, it is when we are weak that we are strong. Servant leaders can tend to pride, even arrogance, which will be a continuing threat, because God brings down the proud. They can tend to do things on their own human wisdom, because they think they know it all. The thorn in our flesh keeps us grounded, on Jesus of course. We don’t become high flyers, since we are meant to be lowly slaves. Just trust that indeed the grace of God is sufficient. Then you can, like Paul, boast gladly of your weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell with you.

Principle #12: Continue to serve, in or out of season. We started today’s walk in a cold dark foggy day. By noon the sun was bearing down. At one time I am wearing a vest, slightly shivering, at another my shirt is soaked with sweat. At times there is a cool refreshing wind, at other times there is just the stench of cow manure. Good thing it did not rain. But even if it did, the pilgrims were there to trek, and trek we would. You are there to serve. At times you will find it highly satisfying, but at other times you will find it frustrating. You can soar to high heavens with bliss, or come crashing down to earth with severe disappointments. Serve anyway. Because the One whom you serve is constant, ever beautiful, ever true, ever just, ever faithful.

Principle #13: Always be mindful of the guideposts provided by God in your walk through life and your service. The Camino has yellow arrows pointing to the right path, done in different ways. A large clear sign, but also a faded arrow on a rock. If one was not attentive, one could lose one’s way. What are your signs or guideposts? What keeps you on track? These are the Bible, an intense prayer life, formation programs, community life, fraternal support, the sacraments, even my books and writings. Make use of all of these. Live out what you learn. Stand on the many Christian principles that you will encounter. Then you will have a strong foundation for continuing to function as a servant leader.

Principle #14: Walk with your brethren. There were a number of peregrinos (pilgrims) on the Camino. Of many different nationalities, races, peoples and tongues. All greeted each other “Buen camino.” All were joyful, smiling at each other, occasionally engaging in animated conversation. All were going in the same direction. This is like the people of God. We are all pilgrims, making our way to heaven. We ought to be focused on our goal. We want all to make it to the end, with no one left behind. We help each other out (I picked up a North Face jacket someone a hundred meters ahead of me dropped, and brought it to him). Now you as servant leader are not only walking along with your other brethren, but God is using you to help bring them to where He wants them. You are the guide, you are the support, you inspire (even as you perspire), you encourage, you help in whatever way you can, you endure, you pick up the strays, you point out the way to the lost, you love.

Dear servant leader, you own camino has been determined by God, as you gave your yes to serve. It is your great privilege to walk it.

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