e wake up earlier than planned—Ally, Morgan, and I. It’s our first morning in Jerusalem.
I’ve dreamed about coming here all my life. What I never dreamed was that I’d get to share the city with my two older daughters, ages 10 and 8. My youngest stayed home in Tennessee with Cindy, who’s traveled here before and who prayed us across the Atlantic.
Yesterday was a pulsating drive up to the Old City and a rush through aggressive markets—Jewish, Muslim, Christian—to the tranquil Garden Tomb. It was everything we’d imagined.
Today is supposed to be a big day too. It’s Thursday, the last day of the week that non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount. We’re leaving Sunday for Masada, then Galilee, where I’ll baptize my girls in the Jordan. So today is our only chance to visit the place where the Orthodox still fear to tread; they don’t want to risk walking where the Holy of Holies might have been.
I had heard how beautiful it is to approach the Temple Mount from the east, in the morning light, hiking down from the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane; so that was our big plan for the day. But our plans have taken a turn. Morgan threw up several times last night.
This morning she says that she’s feeling a little better and that she wants to see the Temple Mount. I quickly deem her fit enough, and we slip into the required long pants and skirts, respectively.
We take a taxi to the Lions’ Gate and enter the Old City on foot. Immediately to our left I see a Temple Mount entrance. As we approach security they call out, “Are you Muslim?” When I say no, they motion to continue on the road we were already on. Keep walking up the Via Dolorosa, they say, and take the next left.
The road is cobbled and uphill, and Morgan begins to tug on my hand. Morgan doesn’t usually let me carry her anymore. Like all twinkle-eyed daughters eventually, she has grown beyond her dad’s arms. But she keeps tugging.
“Sweetheart,” I ask, “do you want me to carry you?” She nods and lifts her arms. She’s my little girl again.
She puts her arm around my neck and sips her water bottle as we trudge along together. In time we turn left and find the entrance meant for us near the Western Wall.
We spend two special hours on the Temple Mount. By the end Morgan is rejuvenated and her old self. She pours her bottled water over Ally’s head.
Only later, as I watch the girls giggle away a hot day with a cool swim, does it dawn on me: the street where I carried Morgan was the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross. Intellectually I had known this, but I wasn’t thinking of it at the time. I was thinking only of my daughter.
As she had leaned softly against me, my sole desire at that moment was simply to hold her, to ease her burden; the strange yet welcome love that, probably more than anything else, lets a sinful parent know the heart of the Father. We will do anything to give our children joy. And when we actually have the chance, well, try stopping us.
I’m so grateful for this experience—when carrying my daughter felt lighter than not carrying her. It helps me understand.
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2).
Andy Nash is a professor and pastor who plans and leads family-friendly tours to Israel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was published April 19, 2012.