Excited. Nervous. Finally fulfilling the ultimate duty that will take away all sin.
But the emptiness lingers.
They pursue. But they do not find. Because it's not in the pursuit of ritual perfection that we find salvation, but in the being pursued by grace. I can't explain this heavy joy that shines in the corners of my teary eyes, knowing that the prerogative is all the Pursuer's, and yet, how these lips cry out in desperation for them to be pursued!
Over the next three days they'll perform, they'll pursue, but they won't be satisfied.
I prayed this morning that all the three million pilgrims would have to face their gaping emptiness like the pit of despair it is. That as they circle the Kaa'ba they would see disappointment in their brother's faces - hopelessness sunk deep in. That the hunger pains would wrench souls until they have to cry out, "This isn't what I thought it would be!"
Those carrying the largest sins, the hardest for the Almighty to overlook, will come in expectation that a weight will be lifted by the strong hands of ritual. But ritual is weak, and a god who overlooks sin, but cannot remove it, is even weaker.
They carry it on pilgrimage, and they'll carry it back home, convincing themselves (or trying to) that their god will not see their staggering and sweating exhaustion on Judgment Day.
This first day they'll begin with ritual washing and they'll don white. But this scrubbing won't dissolve doubt, and the cleaning won't bury burdens, and the white robes are only shouting that more ritual makes purer, when working for salvation really only digs your despair deeper, and who will tell them of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world?
John the Baptist declared it. He called himself a voice - just a mouthpiece of God. A nobody with vocal chords and lungs filled with the wind of the Spirit and a soul convinced of grace coming. "Prepare the way of the Lord!" Prepare the way of grace.
I don't have much. I don't have much of anything at all, but I do have vocal chords, and the gift of life, and the Holy Spirit's wind and fire because of grace coming that was actualized in blood-love. How can I keep from crying out, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!"
They'll try that later too. Sacrifice. A physical animal. And it won't be enough because the blood of bulls and goats can't take away sin sunk in. Sin ingrained and born into. Sin so heavy it can't be overlooked.
It must be paid for.
We have good news, because "Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow!" But there's only one way for the Word to get from us who have it to the pursuing pilgrims who don't. Communication.
And I know you can't go. We can't go. We can't walk around the Kaa'ba with them and whisper the sweet melody of hope, and sow the seeds of grace, and shout the arresting news of sin-erasure. Infidels aren't allowed close. But He is near to all who call on Him in truth. He is near to the broken pursuers, and He hears.
Ask Him to answer, to draw them close. Ask Him for the sake of His glory to overshadow the three million and start scrubbing with the blood. Ask Him to fill them with emptiness so that there is room for the Spirit. Ask Him to send dreams and visions and true printed words of Life. Ask Him to remove fear of expressing disappointment in their Almighty. Ask Him to cause the questions that are simmering in their deep despair to boil over in a flood that opens the gates to His answers.