I have tried, Oh heaven, how I have tried. I planned my journey so carefully, investing in everything I could possibly need. There were the expensive walking boots, so I would not be tempted to give up by sore feet, and could brave the stony paths with brisk enthusiasm. I went to the best outdoor outfitters, and spent more than I should on good hiking clothes. I was told that layers were the way to go, so I could just add and subtract to adjust to every temperature variation. And the innermost layers were the most expensive, because moisture must be wicked away from the skin. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, or what dreadful thing would happen if I wore the wrong underwear, but a smart man knows when to take advice from experts, so I did just as they said. Socks, too, it was important to have good quality socks, and be able to change them when your feet got wet. Then there was the cloak, fully waterproofed and lined with thick wool, to keep me safe from the weather, and wrap around me at night if I ever needed to sleep outdoors. Not that I planned on doing that very often, there were hostels along the way (or so rumour had it), and, even if they were overpriced, I would have money. I was also advised to get a particular shade of grey, that would provide good camouflage if I ever found myself in a dangerous situation. And, since we’re talking about keeping safe, I chose my staff with particular care. A pilgrim is not allowed to carry a sword, there are strict rules about that, but if my staff should contain an insert of sharpened, toughened wood, well it’s not really a sword, is it?
Then there was the hat. One needs a wide brim to keep the sun off one’s face and the rain from one’s nose, and the fit must be just right – too loose and it will blow off with the first gust of wind, too tight and you will have a headache before the first day is over. Truly a matter of fine discrimination! Eventually I found one that was just right: high-crowned, with a bright gold buckle on the band, and a bright red feather sticking up. After all, I was journeying to the presence of a king, it would be important to make a good impression when I arrived. Buying a sturdy pack with a light, strong frame and well-padded shoulders was relatively easy,; working out what to carry in it took a lot more effort. There were the obvious things: containers for food and water, a microfiber towel, hand sanitiser, insect repellent (would there be insects? Best play it safe), a swiss army knife, a torch, water purification tablets, lots of money. Then I thought of others – a torch with spare batteries, a camera, to capture those special moments, a box of matches, a mirror to check I looked the part.. And so the list went on.
But there was one thing I really wanted that I couldn’t find anywhere – a map. I searched high, I searched low, even went into second-hand shops, but it was useless. Everywhere they told me the same story – that no map of that journey existed. Some tried to offer me a heavy black book instead, suggesting that this would be my sure guide, But the book was nothing but stories, poetry and songs, and it weighed me down, so I refused it. ..
And now – look at me! The boots were the first to go – sucked off my feet in the mud of a bog. It’s amazing how far a person can walk with rags tied round their feet. My hat blew away in a storm, I bartered my cloak for food, and all the contents of my pack were lost or stolen along the way. It’s probably just as well I lost the mirror, I think if I could see what I look like now, I would lose my last wavering thread of courage. My clothes are nothing but filthy rags, and the patent underwear got used along the way for wrapping my feet. My special staff was snatched from my hands the first time I tried to defend myself – and then they beat me with it before running off into the night. I have no idea how I made it this far, especially as I never had a clue where I was going.
I have nothing left. How can I come into the King’s presence like this? I am filthy, sick and useless. Once I thought the King would be honoured when I brought Him the gift of my service, now I know better. I have nothing in my hands at all, unless you count the scars and the dirt of the journey. And yet .. and yet ... I have nowhere else to go. If He will not receive me I will be a beggar at his door all the days of my life.