All the rest is travel and results. Farideh, Saman and I spend a long, sleepy night in the Ben Gurion airport after the obligatory searching and prodding. (I go through smoothly this time, but Saman has to go as far as to take his pants down for the security guards.) We get a table with two Bahá’ís from Barbados I know from my hotel, plus Martine whom we’ve spent time with, plus a Canadian family Saman knows; we play cards and talk and sleep.
We’re all on the same plane, but we’re too tired to talk or visit. When we get to London, I dash off the plane without saying goodbye in an ill-fated attempt to meet up with a friend in Heathrow. The meeting never happens, and lousy English phones eat a good deal of my money, but when I give up and go settle in at my gate, Farideh and Saman show up to wish me off, which makes the whole day good.
Returning home is hard, both physically and spiritually. It’s already dark when I get back to Sea-Tac at four in the afternoon, and for days it rains and we don’t see the sun. It’s like living in Blade Runner.
I sleep wrong, somehow, and wind up on this weird schedule where I’m up until 5 am every night and then I get up late in the day. This is not Israeli time, so I’m not sure what happened. Also, I think I suffer mild food poisoning twice. (Apparently — a little life lesson here — if you leave an open packet of jerky on top of your microwave for a month, it will go bad. I didn’t know that.)
And there are mental tests. As I research Bahá’í subjects on the internet for this journal, I can’t help but run across websites by covenant-breakers and people with a vitriolic hatred of the Faith. Again and again they seem to crop up, and even reading some of them, even mostly by accident, is a kind of slow spiritual poison, especially in the tender state in which I find myself after pilgrimage. I am reminded of Mr. Grossmann’s statement, during his talk, that pilgrimage will require a “re-confirmation” of one’s faith.
On the other hand, these poisonous sites spur me to research the details of the Covenant and investigate more closely exactly how the Bahá’í community has arrived where it is today. And as I do so, what seems ugly and vicious often becomes a little laughable, even inconsequential.
Beyond that, I find that pilgrimage could not have ended at a better time — it perfectly coincides with the intensive phase of our cluster’s teaching effort, and although I didn’t know in advance and have no real plans, I find that I am invited to several opportunities to share the Faith with people who are seeking.
I don’t know yet, can’t possibly tease out at this point, what will be the full impact of pilgrimage on my life in the years to come. Confidence certainly comes to mind; praying at the Shrines, even when it was difficult, seems to have imbued me with a greater certainty of the power of my prayer and to have dissolved much of my anxiety about the future. But I’m sure there is more to come. Nearly every Bahá’í knows these words of Bahá’u’lláh, which appear in the front leaf of most prayer books:
Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul.
Read the entire journal: