He now knew that what had held him back in life was the unquenchable longing he had carried with him ever since childhood. He wanted to win the love of others. To do so he had been kind-hearted, gentle, and good-natured toward the poor; he had let his wisdom shine, but with moderation and humility, among the priests of the town so that they would like him; he had been submissive toward Lord Eiliv Kortin because the archbishop was friends with his father, and he knew how Lord Eiliv wanted people to behave. He had been loving and gentle toward Orm, in order to win the boy’s affection away from his moody father. And Gunnulf had been stern and demanding toward Kristin because he saw what she needed: to encounter something that would not give way when she reached for help, something that would not lead her astray when she came, ready to follow.
But now he realized that he had sought to win her trust for himself more than he had tried to strengthen her faith in God.
Erlend had found expression for it this evening: Not as much my brother anymore as the brother of all men. This was the detour he would have to take before his brotherly love could benefit anyone at all.
Two weeks later he had divided up his possessions among his kinsmen and the Church and donned the robes of a friar. And now, this spring, when everyone was profoundly troubled by the terrible misfortune that had befallen the country– lightning had struck Christ Church in Nidaros and partially destroyed Saint Olav’s shrine– Gunnulf had won the support of the archbishop for his old plan. Together with Brother Olav Jonsson, who was an ordained priest like himself, and three younger monks– one from Nidaros and two from the order in Bjorgvin– he was now headed north to bring the light of the Word to the lost heathens who lived and died in darkness within the boundaries of a Christian land.
Christ, you who were crucified! Now I have given up everything that could bind me. And I have placed myself in your hands, if you would find my life worthy enough to be freed from its servitude to Satan. Take me so that I may feel that I am your slave, for then I will possess you in return.
Then someday, once again, his heart would crow and sing in his chest, as it did when he walked across the green plains at Romaborg, from pilgrim church to pilgrim church: “I am my Beloved’s, and to Him belongs my desire.”
The two brothers lay there, each on his own bench in the little hut, and let their thoughts lull them to sleep. A tiny ember smoldered in the hearth between them. Their thoughts took them farther and farther away from each other. And the following day one of them headed north, and the other south.
–from Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Unset