Sitting in a cottage in Northumberland a week after my walk, with my leg immobilised, causes me to reflect on the highs and lows and lessons I (and maybe others) might profit from this 300 mile
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage,
As they pass through the Valley of Baca
They make it a place of springs."
1: Pilgrimage was and is a community activity. The isolation and aloneness were brilliant for worship, prayer and reflection. However life is to be shared, others are to be a witness to your life, be it breath-taking scenery, the wet drudgery of muddy fields or the deep relief of a pub that is open! The pain and discomfort of walking (valleys of Baca) were quickly forgotten in the beep of an SMS from family and friends saying, "well done" or, "you can do it"!
2: Our strength comes from God. The last 6 days were incredibly painful and as it turns out because of a stress fracture in my lower leg. Will power and grit had to give way to a doctor's authority
saying two weeks complete rest. I am not good at resting or waiting. I like doing. I find myself a reluctant student often sitting in God's classroom with Jesus underlining the text, "apart from me you can do nothing"!
3: We live so much of our lives in coffins of metal. The motor car has transformed all of our lives but not always for the good. We hear, see, smell and feel nothing of the world and the seasons unfolding
around us. We rush, we lose perspective on time and distance (just popping down to the shop 3 miles away is a two hour return walk!) and we remain blind to so much of God's incredible creation. 30% of this journey was on back roads and the road kill tachometer included owl, snake, badger, fox, rabbit, pheasant and sadly 4 roadside shrines to motorists.
4: British footpaths must rank the Eighth Wonder of the modern world. They cross and crisscross our tiny nation allowing walkers to roam free. The majority were well posted especially the more famous ones; The Viking Way, Pilgrim Way, Wayfarers Way etc. However I did find some in sad neglect, overgrown and almost lost. The other challenge is to engage in the battle with modern landowners, some of whom seem to delight in confusing the amateur orienteerer or by putting
obstructions in the way.
Ultimately we are all pilgrims in this world making our way towards home, a lasting city, a terminus point of rest. Along life's paths we do get lost and other dear pilgrims leave us and we feel that aloneness each day. But life is to be lived. God has purpose in each valley or mountain experience and we need to be good students always learning and always encouraging the faith steps of others.