Just Like New...
Back in the Spring of 2005 I was travelling through Europe without a care in the world having the best "last" semester of college ever! A group of us decided that during Holy Week we would head to Medjugorje and see what it was all about. Now, for those of you who don't know, Medjugorje is a place in Bosnia-Hercegovina where the Blessed Mother appeared to six young people beginning on June 24, 1981. The Blessed Mother appeared to, and later told the visionaries, God sent her to our world to help us convert our hearts and lives back to Him. Our Lady's call is one of Peace, Love, Faith, Conversion, Prayer, and Fasting. Now the Vatican has not yet approved these messages because they are still taking place today and in order for the Church to validate something like this, She has to be certain that the messages stay the same until they end. But at the same time, the Vatican has also said that it is an okay place to go and pray.
So our group (about 5 of us) took the 13 hour bus ride and showed up on Holy Thursday morning with no place to stay and only our backpacks. But God revealed Himself to us largely that week by giving us a place to stay with two of the most holy people I have ever had the privilege of meeting and experiencing prayer in a way I never had before. To tell all the tales of that blessed Holy Week it would take pages upon pages so I will just recall one story for this particular blog.
We were staying with a couple, Nancy and Patrick, who encouraged us to climb Cross Mountain (where there are stations of the cross on the way to the top) and pray...they also encouraged us to climb it barefoot...now it was raining that morning and I waited until my group went and I went a little later by myself. So I took off (barefoot) with flip flops in hand to use on the way back down the mountain...going up barefoot sounded like a good enough sacrifice. And so I started...it was slow going, but I was determined...people were passing me like I was standing still...it was HARD because the rain was making puddles so I couldn't see all the sharp rocks hiding beneath the surface. But I finally made it to the top, it was breath-taking and the HUGE cross at the top was stunning. I sat and prayed for a bit and then...feeling rather holy, I slipped my flip flops on and started my trip back down. But I soon realized I would slip and kill myself in the flip flops if I kept them on while trying to navigate down a wet mountain. So, feeling rather defeated (my "holy" feelings were short lived) I took off my flip flops and continued down the mountain, now not feeling so prayerful. A man and his son passed me going up, as I was coming down and said he something to his son as he passed me...then again they passed me going down as I was...slowly continuing my climb down. (Now here is a good place to tell you that climbing up a mountain barefoot is nothing compared to climbing down! Climbing down puts all of your weight on the ball of your foot and those little rocks will kill those tooties!) He stopped his son and said something again, then looked at me and asked if I was American. He then said that he had told his son that I was a very strong woman to be able to go down a mountain barefoot...I don't tell you this because I am tooting my own horn...I tell you this because it was the most humbling thing anyone has ever said to me...I had been walking down this mountain feeling rather sorry for myself but never once stopping to look at the Stations of the Cross around me to reflect on what Christ must have felt...I'm sure He was barefoot also. God constantly gives us gentle reminders to think of Him. I was a little more mindful of Christ's walk as I finished my own.
So, finally, I got to the bottom of the mountain and walked back to Nancy and Patrick's house all wet and muddy, my feet were literally caked...and as I walked into the courtyard, Patrick came running, yes, literally running out to greet me with a blanket and a basin of warm water to wash my feet. This man, practically a stranger, knelt before me and washed my feet and asked me about my hike up the mountain...I told him the only thing I could even think to say, "it humbled me." Patrick looked into my face and said, "that's all God wants." It was simple, that was all he said and then patted my feet dry and sent me to the kitchen for tea and we didn't speak about it again, but I have never forgotten that moment or that lesson: God can always make us just like new...we just have to be humble enough to let Him.