As I wrote about in my last article, I recently returned from a trip to France that included a spiritual pilgrimage to the cathedral in Chartres. I started my journey with an amazing several days in Paris where I enjoyed much of the culture and history that the French offer so beautifully. On the first Sunday of the trip, I, along with Melanie Crockett and Mary June Jones, attended worship at the American Church in Paris. An interdenominational and international Christian community, this congregation’s mission includes engaging in ministries and services that enrich the lives of residents and visitors in Paris which includes providing three English language worship experiences each Sunday. We participated in a lively, thought-provoking service where we had several God moments...more about that later. In speaking with the Senior Pastor after the service, we discovered just how small the world really is when he told us that his wife grew up in Cary! The world got even smaller when we met her and she began to name people from Hayes Barton who have had a tremendously positive influence on her life including Charlie Russell and Jill Highsmith.
We practically floated out of that church carrying the blessings that we had received like a bouquet of flowers having a sense that God was leading us into a part of our journey that would mark us forever. Later that afternoon, we boarded a train for Chartres with expectant hearts and questioning minds. What was God up to? Would we be able to recognize God’s movement? What would life in a monastery in Chartres look like for the next week? Who would we encounter when we arrived? What were their stories? What brought them to this place at this time? Who or what brought us?
We arrived at Chartres a little over an hour later, and as if we were in a scene for a movie, it was dark, gloomy and raining like crazy. We needed to travel several blocks from the train station to the monastery, so with Paris-purchased umbrellas in hand, we put one foot in front of the other and began our fast-paced walk. Here is where things got tricky for me. I’ve never been accused of being a light packer, and even though many people advised me to take a minimal amount of clothing, I had not listened. Not being sure of what the weather was going to do…and it was all over the place…I had packed a lot of stuff! As I was winding down the wet stone walks, dragging my suitcase behind me, trying to stay in step with Melanie and Mary June, I began to think about how my journey was beginning. I was clearly weighed down with too much stuff! I started to wonder about all the stuff I was dragging around on a daily basis…at least as heavy as my suitcase…that I did not notice. As my bag got heavier and heavier and the wheels on the bottom began to wobble, I wished that I had listened to the wise voices that told me to “travel lightly.”
Jesus is the strongest voice advising us in many loving ways to let go of the things that burden us and find our rest in him. We all have to take our own journey. We have to travel at our unique pace and carry our acquired things. But we can adjust our heavy loads at any time by remembering that much of what we carry may be unnecessary. With God’s help, take some time this week to think about what is in your “suitcase.” Are there items that you don’t need anymore? Is there anything that you can give to someone else that will enrich his or her life? What needs to be thrown away because it is not helpful for you or anyone else to carry?
Upon leaving this part of our trip a few days later, I decided to abandon several clothing items in my room. I hope that they have found their way to a person who can benefit from their use. As I pulled my suitcase from the monastery back to the train station to return to Paris, I was grateful for the reminder that there is a time to hold onto things and a time to let go of them. My lighter suitcase was a reminder that God is always speaking to us about the best way to travel. Hopefully I will do a better job of listening in the future!
Celebrate Life, LuAnn