May 21, 2012

The Pilgrim in the Pastor's Wife

On sunny summer days at the playground, I sound the five-minute, two-minute, thirty-seconds-and-it’s-time-to-go warnings. But at least one of my children will always begin to cry: “I don’t want to go. I wasn’t done. I want to stay!”

I can relate. I don’t handle change so well either. When a friend is packing to move cross-country, when graduation season waves good-bye to precious young adults, when a beloved church member falls asleep in Jesus, my heart shrieks: “No! I wasn’t done yet!”

Change is hard.

These days, Psalm 84:5 is often in my mind: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you; in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Or, as the NIV says: “whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

Whether it’s friends who are moving on, personal possessions that slip away, or our own life and location changes. . . ministry life is a pilgrim life.

And the Lord promises that the pilgrim path to Zion is a blessed road.

A Pilgrim is Going Somewhere

I am sometimes a reluctant pilgrim. I never feel ready for the change around the next bend.

But, this world is not my true home; like Abraham, I am looking to the city with foundations (Hebrews 11:10). And the Lord makes the gracious promise that whatever I give up in my pilgrimage (“everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake” Matthew 19:29) I will receive in eternity. A hundredfold.

I am going to Zion. And it will be good.

A Pilgrim is Somewhere

I am going to Zion. But I’m not there yet.

A seminary professor of my acquaintance is fond of saying, “Wherever you are, be all there.” It’s not Scripture, but it’s a good description of the kind of pilgrim Jesus was. He was looking to the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2), and He had compassion on a hungry crowd. His face was set toward Jerusalem, and He healed a beloved child (Luke 9). A heart set on pilgrimage is also a heart that makes the most of every opportunity along the path.

I’m going to Zion. And I’m not there yet.

A Pilgrim is in Good Company

I’m going to Zion. And I’m not alone.

On parting from friends in this life, along with my sadness, I often feel a sense of heavenly anticipation. The relationships we have on our pilgrimage may be brief or lengthy, but they are nothing compared to the eternal fellowship we will one day enjoy. We are going somewhere—together.

And we must not forget Christ, the very one who said: “foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Jesus has traveled the pilgrim road, and our strength is in Him. He is the truest companion for the journey.

I’m going to Zion. And it is good.

When my children raise their post-playground wail, I often tell them, “Baby, what you are looking for is permanence. We all want unending happiness, but we aren’t going to find it here. You are really crying for heaven.”

When the next change comes along, I’m going to remind myself, too.


  1. What special thoughts! I'm getting ready to let go of a very close friend that will be moving halfway across the country, and this is such a sweet reminder. Thank you!

  2. This post was truly meaningful to me. Thank you. These exact same thoughts have been on my mind lately. What you say to your children sums it up perfectly: "You are really crying for heaven."

  3. I've been thinking about this Psalm over the past couple of weeks. The husband and I are going on pilgrimage this summer--a hike in the Alps. I've also been re-reading some favorite passages from Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, a favorite book of my pastor, a very gifted man I believe you know and love!

    Also, I love your comment about crying for heaven. Another quote I picked up recently, about the things we grieve is this, "All's elsewhere." -- Scott Mcknight. As much as I love the many good things and people God made, I am sensing more and more that all is indeed elsewhere.

    1. "All's elsewhere" I love it. Isn't that what Jesus was saying about storing up impregnable treasure in heaven?

  4. This made me cry for heaven in this moment.


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