Reduced to the purest possible form, marriage is a pilgrimage.

So it’s no surprise that during my ten days in the Holy Land, my most favorite part was breathing it all in with my bride of fifteen years. From Netanya to Nablus, the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, and even on the long flight back through Frankfurt, Germany, this pilgrimage was delightful due largely to my fellow traveler.

You’ve traveled with your spouse before. You know it’s not all picture perfect (although Kirby Trapolino’s divine photos could convince you otherwise, and you can find many more here.) We bickered and fussed a bit. When you can’t process your emotions, you sometimes take it out on the most safe person around.

My wife has always been my most safe person, and I hers. So goes marriage. It’s exhaustion and elation. It’s sagging shoulders and inner strength. It’s a universe of emotion and experience, compressed tightly into a short lifetime.

Our Holy Land experience compressed it all even more tightly, and four images captured it all.

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Wonder

We’re but two simple pilgrims on a boat, full of wonder.

From the front of a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee, we sang together songs of worship. It was easy to imagine Jesus upon the sea. You could almost hear the wind and waves alarming the disciples while Jesus slept in the back. Over there, on that hillside, was the feeding of the 5,000. Over that cliff right over there the pigs drown themselves when demons invaded their bodies. Capernaum is over there, where Peter made his living in a boat similar to the one we sailed upon.

We were filled with wonder, speechless, and side by side. We’ve been this way before in marriage — at the birth of our children, in awe at God’s provision, stunned by acts of mercy and kindness.

We’re but two simple pilgrims on a boat, full of wonder.

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Resolve

Commitment is too weak a word. It takes more than that, this marriage thing. In Cana, we renewed our vows. Our fifteenth anniversary was in December; this trip a gift to one another to celebrate. So the timing could not be more perfect.

We stood, feet planted on the ground somewhere in the vicinity of where Jesus changed the water to wine, and we resolved together again. The words we recited meant so much more today than they did a decade and a half ago. Our pilgrimage has been long enough now that we’ve learned what we’re saying. We’ve learned that life is arduous at times. There is richer and poorer, sickness and health. There are good times and bad.

We’re but two simple pilgrims, feet planted firmly on the ground. Resolved.

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Grace

Every moment of our pilgrimage is an act of grace, a reminder that the old is being made new. Stepping into the chilly waters of the Jordan river was a reminder that this grace can startle you and penetrate your skin, soaking deep down into your muscle and bone and heart and soul. It is a power that cannot be diminished, remaking you day by day.

This pilgrimage came after a long, hard year. It was a year of resurrections. Personal resurrections, relational resurrections, vocational resurrections. Yes, we had to put some things to death. But grace is the soil that envelopes the dead things we sow into the earth and brings them back to life — bold, beautiful life.

Commemorating our baptisms was a stunning reminder of God’s grace in our lives.

We are but pilgrims empowered only by God’s grace.

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Fun

This world weighs you down and life provokes tears, to be sure. But most of the time, more often than we are all sometimes inclined to admit, life is fun. Marriage is fun. There is time and space to rejoice and dance and life and dine together in peace. Smiles abound.

I thought of this when our bodies bobbed up and down in the Dead Sea, defying science (or rather, surrendering to it). We just floated there, like we were on a floatie in the pool. Except we were on the lowest point on earth, floating around like a buoy, holding hands, giggling and wondering how it was possible. We posed for pictures and forgot that the water was cold and just had fun.

So goes the pilgrimage of life. It’s not that troubles don’t await at the shore. It’s just that sometimes you forget. You laugh. You link arms with your friends and take it in.

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Yes, my very favorite thing about this pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and the pilgrimage in life that continues, is that I share it with my lovely wife. Filled with wonder, feet planted on the ground with resolve, empowered by God’s grace, with laughter and joy in droves.

We’re just two pilgrims; inseparable, and heading in the same direction.

One thought on “Two Pilgrims

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