I’ve been thinking a lot about pilgrims and pilgrimage lately. Mainly, because I’ve been working towards the development of our Lent Devotional booklets for this year, and that’s our theme. I’m looking forward to hearing dozens of stories from you all. One of the major drawbacks to our isolation, is that we have missed out on hearing and being a part of one another’s’ stories. So, I thought I would share one of mine from quite some time ago.
Andy and I were married on February 25, 2006. It was the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. Andy planned our honeymoon as a surprise to me. That was the plan. I simply requested a warm place with a beach, and the rest of the planning was up to him. He chose an all-inclusive resort in St. Lucia, which is in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. He kept the secret of our destination well, and even mentioned to the airline staff not to announce our final destination at the check-in. They played along, and I journeyed with him from RDU to ATL, and into the international terminal. When we arrived at our gate, I checked the sign, and didn’t recognize the name of the island. Even though I knew the destination now, I still didn’t know where we were going. It was glorious and exciting. Just what I wanted out of our honeymoon.
When we arrived in St. Lucia, we were picked up by a van from our resort. Our journey took us to the other side of the island, so we were able to get quite the tour along the way. I was struck by the poverty and the simplicity of the local dwellings as we passed by. Our driver tried to distract me from looking out the window, by engaging me in conversation about myself and where we were from. We found ourselves in a very different world than either of us had ever visited before. We were surrounded by beautiful people whose skin was much darker than ours, and a landscape that was absolutely breathtaking. When we pulled into our gated resort, the dichotomy became abundantly clear. The immaculate landscaping, perfectly manicured lawn, and the luxurious hotel set right on the beach was in stark contrast to the views along the way. Once we arrived and were given our “welcome mimosas,” Andy and I looked at each other with confusion in our eyes. Where are we? We don’t belong here. We had no money! I just completed an unpaid 6-month internship post college graduation, and was enrolled at seminary for the following Fall. Andy was working, but hadn’t quite hit his stride in his career. We arrived at this paradise because of his parents’ immense generosity and sacrifice. It was a gift that we will always be grateful for.
We spent the first day or two of our honeymoon feeling uncomfortable and unworthy. We felt guilty for our privilege, and the indulgence we were experiencing. We felt the tension of ourselves being rich white people, surrounded by other rich white people, who were being served by native dark people who sought to cater to our every whim. We weren’t aloud to tip anyone – resort policy. We struggled to find a way to express our gratitude.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a fantastic honeymoon. We had fun, went on adventures, hiked in the jungle, ate wonderful food, got sunburned, and explored underwater through snorkeling gear. We had to figure out how to navigate through it all, first.
Andy and I decided that we should befriend the staff at the resort. We decided that friendship and consistently expressing our appreciation would be a way to cross the divide. We sat with bartenders at the poolside and learned about their lives. We asked about their homeland, their life, and their favorite things. We asked to be taken out to unique snorkeling places, based on our boat captain’s favorites. We laughed, learned, and enjoyed one another. Suddenly our worlds didn’t seem quite so distant.
Andy and I learned a great deal about ourselves on that hour long journey across St. Lucia. If we had just arrived at the resort from the plane, I don’t believe we would have had the same honeymoon. We wouldn’t have engaged the staff in the same way, and we wouldn’t have felt the need to express our gratitude in the same ways. I’m grateful we were able to see and experience what we did along the way. The journey along the way is truly transformative. It’s not all about the destination. I look forward to going on more adventures someday. Every single one of them changes me and helps me understand our common humanity a little more. God always finds us and surprises us.