While traveling on a pilgrimage to mourn and celebrate what would have been my thirty-sixth wedding anniversary, I learned an important lesson:
Tea and popovers can lead to important insights.
With rising emotion, I approached Jordan Pond House in Maine. Kim and I spent a lovely day in Acadia National Park on our honeymoon. We returned for our twentieth anniversary, and I needed to go back. It was part of remembering and processing, but it was much more: English tea, popovers, and strawberry jam.
Kim’s favorite. Not bad to me either.
If Kim had known there was a trail around the entire lake, we would have hiked on one or both of our previous visits. This time, I had heard about the trail and decided to find it. The hike is over three miles and simply traces Jordan Pond. The reward is English tea, popovers, and strawberry jam upon completion.
As I completed the trail and was thinking about the tea and popovers, I had an insight. The trail around Jordan Pond reminded me of my entire marriage and now just after it.
First, the trail was so nice and easy at the beginning. It was wide enough to easily walk and had been beautifully maintained. In fact, most of the trail was simply enjoyable. The scenery was beautiful, and the trail was such that you could look up the mountain or out across the lake without worry of stumbling. The trail was that nice.
However, up around the bend I faced a different story altogether. I had been warned by a guide earlier that the trail deteriorated on the back side of the lake. He stated that most of the journey is easy until you get where there are lots of rocks and boulders on the trail. His cautionary advice was an understatement. The trail became rockier, and then it became nearly impassable. At least that’s how it looked.
A thought invaded my mind: This is almost as stark a change as I’ve experienced over the past few months! The drastic change was incredible. From easily passable and enjoyable to nearly impassable and difficult in a moment. There was a key I quickly learned: Don’t look too far down the path. Take note of the rocks right in front of you and deal with them. I could keep my eyes focused on the rocks that were right at my feet. The rocks on down the path could wait until I needed to face them.
And then, there was a transition. But it wasn’t back to the same open and beautiful path as it was at the beginning. It was beautiful, but it was different. A different sort of path had been put in place to rise above a new soggy and boggy landscape. Planks had been erected to keep hikers above it all.
At one point, I took note of an extended part of the path where a consistent set of supports were measured out ahead of me and bolstering the raised plank pathway. And I thought of my immediate and extended family. They rallied around me to help me walk my unwanted journey. I thought of the Body of Christ, my local church. The guidance and care I received was a support to me. I thought of my missionary family around the world. They peppered my inbox and phone with consistent messages of support.
And then I looked up ahead and saw a near return of the beginning pathway. I don’t want to go so far as to say it was a return to the exact path. However, it was a return to a broad and flat path.
And as I walked this new path, I flashed back to a meeting with Dr. David Fort, a trusted counselor. He told me just three weeks after Kim died that I would eventually enter a period of wistful peace. He cautioned that it was a long way off, but there would be peace in my future. I’m not there yet; but I know it will come. Wistful peace.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
But what did come at the end of my hike was English tea, popovers, and strawberry jam! And it was as good as I had remembered from my previous visits with my bride.