When the Tourist Becomes a Pilgrim

Petra, Jordan

Over the past days, I made my second pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan.  I entered the state of Israel for the first time back in 2010 and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2011.  Both earlier trips were huge in shaping my passionate love for Jesus, the Holy Bible and the lands in which God’s presence has dwelled throughout both the Old and New Testament.

Another trip to Turkey and Greece in 2012 set this flame ablaze again as we journeyed through the Book of Acts, into Paul’s letters and to all 7 Churches of the Revelation.  I snapped more pictures on those trips than I could ever look at.

For all three of these journeys I have been primarily a tourist.  There is nothing wrong with being a tourist.  A tourist takes a lot of pictures.  A tourist needs to see the ancient sites with their own human eyes to supply their imagination with visual images and landscapes.

A tourist on these kind of trips is like a baby getting to eat ice cream for the first time – they are not sure what it is, but it is sweet and cold and wonderfully good and they can’t seem to eat it fast enough.  A tourist arrives at one site and is so excited about what they see, they anxiously rush to the next, and to the next, and to the next to keep getting their fix.  I love being a tourist; there is nothing quite like it.

For this trip, however, I was no longer a tourist.  I became a pilgrim.  A pilgrim moves slower.  A pilgrim is calmer.  A pilgrim takes pleasure in seeing the giddiness of the tourist, but doesn’t have to feast at the buffet line of experience.  A pilgrim selects 2 or 3 things and relishes in their goodness, their completeness, at a deeper level.

Mt. Olives, Israel

The pilgrim’s journal is filled to the brim but their camera SD card…not so much.

This time I was a more of a pilgrim and less of a tourist.  And I liked that fact very much.  I moved at a different speed.  I sat down at the sites.   The texture of the trip for me wasn’t like an over-excited, crazy-wild Jack Russell Terrier, it was more like a solemn owl nestled atop of branch overlooking the beautiful forest.

What is a Pilgrim?
P – Pauses often to breathe and truly see.
I – Is in the moment, not the traffic.
L – Lingers in silence.
G – Grateful for pictures that others take because the camera sometimes doesn’t come out.
R – Reads, writes and reflects a lot.
I – Itinerary is not even on the radar.
M – Measures the experience not in days, stops, sites, or miles traveled, but in meaningful encounters with God, with His Word, and with others.

There was a simplicity to the study and depth of the trip.  My eyes were filled but more so my heart.  I love being a tourist, but being a pilgrim in the Holy Land is far more gratifying.  I hope I can continue growing as a pilgrim.

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