Rector's Ramblings August 2, 2017
I have heard from a number of people that they are curious about other aspects of the pilgrimage I first wrote about a couple of weeks ago upon my return. So I’ll share a reflection from another day of the trip today. Then, I promise to spread out further reflections a bit, so none of us get sick of hearing about it! But, I’m still processing some of our experiences, so this is still an active subject for me. Spiritual experiences, retreats, pilgrimages, even some single liturgical experiences can stay with us for a long time. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been encouraging people to head to Honey Creek to the Diocesan revival with our presiding bishop in September. I have a feeling it will stay with us, as a diocese, as a parish, and as individuals, for a long time to come.
So, getting back to Scotland. As I said, each day ended up having a kind of theme, or a learning of some kind. Day six ended up being: There’s always a plan B! Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. We can do our best to prepare, to have things lined up to adjust on the fly, and yet we can still find ourselves having to find a new path, and new plan, or adjust in ways we had never imagined.
Some of you will remember the adventure of our family hiking last summer. Calleigh, our youngest, had that run-in with the copperhead snake, which turned out to be not as bad as it could have been. We knew from that experience that sometimes you just can’t anticipate what’s going to happen. And we had another opportunity to learn that on this trip. No snakes, but there was a sprained ankle. Our oldest, Eva, had been complaining of a sore ankle for a couple of days. It started out as a pain, but not severe. She hiked two days with it wrapped in an Ace bandage and with doses of children’s ibuprofen. The second of those two days, day five, she hiked fifteen miles on it. By the next morning, we knew we needed a plan B.
That morning of day six, Eva was with me in a B&B separate from Donna and Calleigh. Eva’s ankle was noticeably swollen – not dramatically, but noticeably, and starting to bruise. I realized she wouldn’t be walking. We went to morning prayer and sent the rest of the group off as we searched for a local doctor. As it turns out, the local doctor doesn’t handle injuries; for that you have to go to the regional hospital, in this case, in Berwick upon Tweed, nearly 30 miles away. We managed to get a cab ride to the hospital, and got her ankle checked out, complete with X-rays. The diagnosis was a sprain, and the treatment included no more walking.
We had two days of walking left and we had to figure out what to do. Time for plan B. So, I took a cab thirty miles back to the start of that day’s hike, and Donna got a cab to take herself and the girls to that night’s B&B. I managed to power through that day’s 14 miles in about four hours, arriving just as the group was sitting down to dinner at the hotel. Donna and Eva were both understandably frustrated to miss a day, but we also realized there wasn’t much we could do. We thought that perhaps Donna could make up the sixth day after we completed the whole walk, perhaps walking that route backward before we headed back to Edinburgh. That didn’t happen for various reasons, but it could have.
The seventh day was also a challenge. We had six miles to go – the final six miles – across the causeway that is only accessible at low tide. And one of us couldn’t walk. So plan B on day seven meant that I got up and began the hike at five in the morning, and then called for a cab to give me a ride back to the mainline in time for breakfast. I ate with the family, and then Donna and Calleigh walked the final stretch with the group while Eva and I took our time at the hotel. We then got a taxi to take us over to Lindisfarne just about the time the group would be arriving. We met them at the far end of the causeway and Eva and I walked the final half mile with everyone. We started together, and we ended together.
Sometimes life calls for plan Bs. And plan C, D, E, and more, depending on the day. We can do our best to plan, but no matter what, things will surprise us along the way. Hopefully we’re resilient and creative. Hopefully we don’t despair. Sometimes we may need to “have words” with God, and that’s ok, too. With God’s help, there is always another way, another route, another idea, another opportunity. It’s not always easy to find, and we don’t always want to find it, and yet it’s there. I’ve never met someone who ran out of options in their life.
At the end of the day and the trip, it didn’t end quite the way we had planned it or intended. But, we finished. We were together. And we loved it. We all wish there hadn’t been a sprained ankle, especially Eva. But there was. I’m just glad there was also a plan B.
God, give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Amen.