Si, Se Puede

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By Jen Manglos | Twitter: @jenmanglos

“I can’t do this.”

I’m on my third day of the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain), walking a particularly exhausting downhill trail. Downhill trails are deceptive. They seem like they would be easier, but usually they’re much more difficult than any uphill terrain, because of the care it takes to avoid slipping and falling. It’s hot and I’m tired. I hate how sweaty I am and I’m worried about finding a place to sleep tonight. This day seems never ending.

“I can’t do this.”

I hear God and he asks, “Why is that always your first response?”

His question stops me and I realize it’s true. I constantly doubt myself, shut myself down. I’m so used to this phrase, like it’s my mother tongue. I’ve been told “no” so many times. By pastors, bosses, churches. There was the time when I thought I would get to lead a discipleship school for young adults. But no. Then there was the time I asked for a promotion to recognize the director-level work that I was already doing. No again. The “no’s” were wrong, but I also didn’t fight the “no’s.” I just rolled over and agreed, “I can’t do it.”

I cry at the memory of all of the “no’s,” the pain of the rejection, the doubt about who I am. I want to be who God created me to be, but that “me” just doesn’t seem to be accepted. Somehow, all of these “no’s” have added up to me giving up on myself. The realization stings.

I hear God again, “But with me you can.”

I know very little Spanish, but my mind flips back to a phrase I learned this year, “Si, se puede” (in English “Yes, we can”). This was the rallying cry of the United Farm Workers movement, a people who were told no constantly. They realized that it wasn’t about one strong person fighting for justice, but rather a collective “we,” who could win the fight together.

I hate asking for help. I’d rather just figure it out on my own instead of risking with another person. They might let me down. I might seem incapable or useless. But I can’t do this on my own. This walk. This life. I need help. “Si, se puede” becomes my prayer.

I continue to walk, breathing these words as I go.

Breath in, “Si, se”
Breath out, “puede.”
Breath in, “Si, se”
Breath out, “puede.”

Two days later, my body screams. The pain and exhaustion have teamed up to torture me. Every muscle is in pain and I just want to go back to bed. How will I walk twelve miles? How will I finish this day? How will I walk the mountain I have to walk? Yes, a literal mountain! I haven’t even started walking and the day already seems impossible. I trudge miserably through Pamplona, with my own sad theme song playing in my head. I eventually stop to drink water, take magnesium tablets, and stretch my legs–anything that might make me feel better. I listen to energetic music as the road continues to rise. I breathe and pray.

“Si, se puede.”
“Si, se puede.”

Halfway up I take a break and enjoy a feast of meats and cheeses with friends. There aren’t any tables, so we sit on the ground in the shade. We’re too tired to care as we sprawl on the cobblestone street. The food helps, but standing up is hard and I quickly fall behind my friends as we walk the last steps up the mountain. I put on music again and pray. The view is stunning. I can see Pamplona and am encouraged by how far I have walked so far. Step after step after step, I keep walking. My emotion rises as I get closer and closer till I finally reach the top and see this beautiful monument, silhouettes of pilgrims on their walk. I weep. From joy. From surprise. From exhaustion. I made it! This walk that I thought was impossible, was possible with God.

“Si, se puede.”

If this is possible, then what else is possible in my life? My body, my soul is learning a new story in my walking. A story where I can. A story where I can do hard things. A story where I can do hard things with God. I don’t know the moment that the story became flesh for me, but it is now. As I breathe these words, my heart learns a beat.

“Si, se puede.”

 

About Jen:

I am a person. A lover of beauty. A red head. I just finished walking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain. Don’t let that fool you though, I’m actually incredibly non-athletic and months later my body is still recovering from the walk. I’m a freelance writer, speaker, retreat curator, and spiritual director, particularly interested in spiritual formation, film, and the journey of the single woman. I have an MA in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from The Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology and previously planned spiritual retreats for Saddleback Church. Find me online at jenmanglos.com, on Twitter @jenmanglos, or give a listen to my film podcast, Stories in the Key of Light, @keypodcast.

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