Pilgrim’s Progress, part 2: Gains and losses

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Three trains, two busses and about 24 hours after deciding to return to the Way of St. James, I hit the trail again.

It was 7 p.m., but the sun wouldn’t set till after 9, and I’d made a reservation for a gite 10 km past Lectoure. Hiking so late meant I had the trail and my thoughts to myself. What was the purpose of my pilgrimage now? Before I’d sought rest, but since leaving Rocamadour, I felt a new fire in my belly, the strength for greater ambitions. Thunder boomed overhead, and I wondered if God had new plans for me too.

The next day I hiked around 40 km from Marsolan to Montreal du Gers. My pack was heavier than ever due to the impulsive shopping spree in Agen, but my heart and steps were light.

The next day I was packing close to 40 lbs. The pack, a brand new Osprey “anti-gravity” in burnt orange, was already heavier than most other people’s since I’d brought my computer and I like my creature comforts. But that day I packed it with wet, just-washed clothes and loaded up on several days’ of hiking goodies in Eauze. Oh, but those dried fruits and nuts, the chanticleer apples and especially that chèvre were worth their weight!

Still, I wondered at my newfound strength. Could something have happened in Rocamadour? Could God have healed me of celiac disease, that source of daily fatigue these last 8 years, for example? I didn’t form any judgments, but I listened to my iPod with joyful affinity as Christian exclaimed:

“Thus far did I come laden with my sin;
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither; what a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?”

By 3 p.m. And 26 km, passing through the tiny town of Manciet and finding everything closed, I was a little less skippy. Some teen girls lounging at a spring-fed fountain told me I had to go back up the hill to the church for drinking water. I groaned, walked to the road, dropped my pack behind a large flower pot and took the hill at a jog.

I marveled again at this new feeling of ease. “Keep this going, God,” I’d prayed earlier that day. “Whatever burden I lost in Rocamadour, let it stay there. Keep me light.”

When I returned to the public fountain my pack was gone.


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