So, here we are dans la belle France, in fact dans la even more belle Provence! On our first morning, although it is not as hot as we had anticipated, the sun is shining which is more than can be said for Kingston on Thames. The view from the bedroom window of the quaint Bergerie (shepherd’s cottage) where we are staying is like a Monet painting: a field full of poppies in the foreground, an ancient and picturesque village behind and a line of blue hills in the background. Fabulous.
Terry is enjoying his book, sitting in the sun, but the surrounding hills beckon and I announce I am going for a walk. We have been here before, so I am fairly confident of finding a path that leads to the top overlooking the valley where nestles the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. I don’t want to be long because we intend to go to Vaucluse for lunch. I set out and sure enough easily find the path I am looking for. It winds up, stony but well defined, and as I get higher I am exhilarated by the beautiful views toward the Luberon range of hills on one side and the gentle plains on the other.
Eventually, I reach a point where a signpost points me toward Vaucluse in one direction and Esperacon in the other. I take the first and continue without deviation, hesitation or repetition. I am now going through forest. Pine trees and thorny bushes are thick on either side. I press on, but the path gets narrower and narrower, and the bushes press in and scratch my legs. I am puzzled: this doesn’t seem like a proper well trodden path! But I keep going until the track peters out altogether. I push on a few yards and stop. No point; I must reverse, go back the way I came. I’ve obviously missed a turn somewhere.
So I turn around and walk back to the path. At least I try to walk back to the path. How difficult can that be? Oh that must be it, over there, of course! But after a few yards, I am faced with impenetrable thorn bushes. I back out exasperated and turn in another direction, following gaps in the trees which must lead to a path…I blunder around trying this way and that, by now becoming genuinely worried. I have not brought my phone with me or even a bottle of water! How dumb must I be, I tell myself.
By now my imagination is running riot. I could blunder around here until nightfall; I could die of thirst or starvation or fall down a crevasse and no one would ever know. Suddenly a tremendous roar from over head and a fighter plane zooms low across the sky. It is so sudden and so loud it scares the life out of me and contributes to my growing panic. I stand still and speak sternly to myself. “Stop it. Do not panic. Think. Pray.” In fact I have been praying non stop. “Help me please Lord. Show me the path! I’m lost! Help me, oh help me!”
Where is the sun? Which way is south? At this point the sky is cloud covered, but I think I know. Trying to stay calm I decide to walk steadily in a downward direction, dodging through branches and twigs. Suddenly a path! Yes a real path with stones and edges. Enormously relieved I turn left on to it. After about 10 minutes I arrive at a high point overlooking a deep valley. I realise I should have turned right so I retrace my steps (again!) and soon come to the signpost on the main path. By now I am jogging down that path, full of heart-felt thanks that the Lord guided me out of the confusion, despair and fear of being lost.
Being lost is frightening. Why is that? There is an inbuilt desire to know where we are and where we are going; to be surrounded by the familiar; to be in control. We find security in knowing where we are, and not knowing reduces the most confident person to a gibbering wreck.
Perhaps what is worse is not knowing that you are lost, that you are pressing on thinking you are OK but heading for disaster.
I am so glad that Jesus found me when I was lost. I didn’t know I was until then. But since then I have had a true path to follow. There have been a few short-lived deviations, but he always searched for me and found me and brought me back. I can say like David, “Make me to know your ways O Lord, teach me your paths, lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation.” (Psalm 25:4)
I arrive back at La Bergerie, scratched, dishevelled and exhausted. Terry looks up from his book “Nice walk dear?”
Photograph by JMC Photos