My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Israel. The sights, sounds, smells, food, culture, and history bombarded our senses and overloaded our brains. Information poured at us with little time to absorb or process, somewhat akin to drinking from a fire hose. And yet, what we saw and experienced is etched on our minds and hearts as we slowly debrief our journey.
Following are a few observations from our pilgrimage:
Seeing with Fresh Eyes
The year I graduated from college I went to Israel. This trip, I wondered what a little over four decades would do to my perception. It didn’t take long to realize I was seeing with fresh eyes. Age, wisdom, spiritual maturity, struggles endured, and life experiences flowed together to provide fresh vision and new perspective.
By putting aside expectations, and memories of my first trip, I was able to experience anew this journey.
At our hotel at the Dead Sea, I stood in line with a woman I had never seen before. As she spoke, I recognized her accent. I asked if South Africa was her home.
“No, I’m from Mozambique. Do you know Mozambique?”
I told her I did because my aunt and uncle served as missionaries in Rhodesia many years ago and I visited them there.
“Ah, Rhodesia! We raised our family there,” she said. Then she asked which town. When I told her Bulawayo, she smiled and said, “You must meet my husband. He is a Bulawayo native.” She introduced me to her husband, and he quickly said he had known my uncle.
This encounter brought tears to my eyes. Here, far away from home, I heard an accent, asked a question, and met a man who had known my uncle. It was an unexpected encounter, but not by chance. God gave me a gift that day at the Dead Sea, one I will always remember.
New in the Familiar
Prior to our trip, I questioned if repeating this trip would be so similar I would encounter nothing new. However, I was pleasantly surprised to visit new sites, experience different locations at familiar sites, hear new information, and gain fresh insights.
In traveling to places you’ve been before, allow yourself to expect a different experience, see from a new perspective, and hear with fresh awareness.
In traveling to places you’ve been before, allow yourself to expect a different experience.
Different, but Same
For me, one of the most unique experiences was walking the Via Dolorosa surrounded by a group from another country. As they sang in their language, I recognized the tune and joined them, singing in English. As we walked together, no one seemed to notice, or mind, that I was singing in another tongue. In those moments, I realized our sameness was greater than our differences. We were all on a pilgrimage where nationality and language were irrelevant. We shared a common purpose and walked the same road. How glorious it would be if this were more often the case rather than the strife so prevalent around us.
When you travel with others to locations important to your faith, bonds form. You learn about each other in casual conversation and gain more insights as days go by. Shared experiences, exchanged contact information, and discovered connections lay the groundwork for new friendships. Longstanding friendships are deepened. Young and old, new and well-established relationships, all travel as one.
Allow the Journey to Teach You
Every life experience, whether positive or negative, teaches us, if we are willing to learn and grow. We see positives even among the negative, confront our biases, and open ourselves to a broader view. Expect to grow from your journey
Every life experience, whether positive or negative, teaches us, if we are willing to learn and grow.
Take Time to Remember and Savor
Upon our return, while standing in a winding, ridiculously long customs line, I was bombarded with business emails and phone messages. One message notified me a cousin was in ICU and not expected to live.
The wonder of our pilgrimage faded as I slammed into reality. As is often the case following a spiritual high or days away, returning to real life was a crash landing.
Now, despite the demands of life, I am committed to carving out time to remember, savor, and write all we experienced.
In a hurry-up world that keeps us spinning from one deadline or activity to the next, the chance to step away from that pace and visit sites of spiritual significance diverts our focus and feeds our souls. The need for spiritual renewal is often overlooked, but when the opportunity arises, seize it. Spiritual growth and renewal have a positive impact on all areas of your life.
Thankfulness for Where God Planted Us
One thing travel does is create a since of thankfulness for home. While we loved the experience, returning home to the familiar, and our loved ones, was sweet. We look back on our journey with grateful hearts and await the opportunity for forward motion in the next pilgrimage.
“What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem” (Psalm 84:5 NLT).
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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