The heart of you is embedded somewhere between the sod and stone. Somewhere between the swarm and silent spaces. Somewhere between the pilgrim and tenant. The heart of you is like an olive tree coiled and intertwined with holy memory; delicate branches emerge from a gnarled and twisted trunk. A juxtaposition of sovereignty and wonder. Your soul breathes because of the dark, damp earth with anchored roots in history and hope. The rings within your trunk have come by way of perennial seasons, some thick from abundance, some thin and faded from deprivation.
Pilgrims come with a spirit of inquiry, hoping you will be the answer to their questions. Yet, curiosity is met with layers of complexity, just like the woven branches of the olive tree. Memories of deliverance are blown into the air like dust as the wind’s lungs breathe an answer somewhere between power and powerlessness. The extremities exist, but the cost of erasure is a bloodied coin from the depths of another’s dignity.
Instead Israel, the pursuit of the pilgrim is the purity that comes when the self is first sought. Not to usurp and not to replace, but to expand. Not to mar the deep calling but to lean into the fidelity. Israel, for so long, you have encapsulated a message of mission. Yet, the question remains, mission to what? Or to whom? Because there is no mission to Gentiles without mission to self, and there is no mission to ‘only’ self. The God of Israel is a boundless God, and I, the ignorant pilgrim, am a finite cup. The limitless glory could not possibly fit solely in my cup, or yours, or theirs. No, the point of pilgrimage is to receive the clean water and then seek to share, pouring out the bountiful offering.
Faithful Israel, your olive tree grows where the edge gathers. Where life springs from the waters of hope. Your space holds layers of tension and love, shadow and light. What’s left is an everlasting name that will endure forever. Your memory is a patterned mosaic of mercy that I have put on like skin. While my bones dwell in the West, my soul belongs with you.
-Your Beholden Pilgrim
Jill Harman is an associate pastor for Fremont First United Methodist Church. In this role, she oversees the teams responsible for youth and children’s ministry, IT, missional growth, Christian education, and intergenerational connection. She partners closely with her team to foster and grow relationships focused on congregational and communal growth based on development goals.
Jill also serves as an adjunct professor for Creighton University in the education department, where she teaches courses in restorative justice. Additionally, she is the restorative justice co-chair on campus, where she is a leading activist and consultant for restorative practices.
Jill holds a BA in Communication Studies with a minor in History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a MA in Theological Christian Ministry from Emmanuel Christian Seminary. She is writing her doctoral dissertation on restorative practices and the impact on student retention rates in higher education at Creighton University in pursuit of an Ed.D.