Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match,
Find me a find, catch me a catch,
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, look through your book
And make me a perfect match.
Lyrics from "Matchmaker" by Sheldon Harnick
Once I was asked, “What is the most significant find you ever encountered in the archaeological field?”
I answered: “my wife.”
Such discoveries are as exquisite as a Cypriot Bilbil.
Now I’m not going to say that going on an archaeological dig, coming on a study-tour, or even walking the Jesus Trail is the best way to find one’s life-mate, but on the other hand, it can happen.
Consider an example from just this past week.
A lanky lad whom I’ve known for more than a year, came into my room one evening. He was ostensibly looking for laundry soap. He stood there for a moment. Then Nima blurted:
“Tomorrow I want to propose.”
“Great,” I mumbled, still looking for the soap. I didn't even look up. “Sooo . . . What are you proposing?” (I assumed it was something about our program, a short-cut route to Sepphoris, or another logistical issue.)
“To my girlfriend.”
I was confused. “You have a girlfriend?”
(My wife will confirm that I am as socially awkward as a one-eyed rhino. Being aware of subtle things like how Alice fusses with Burt's hair or how lovely the table centerpiece is or how the engine of the car is on fire are details that can, at times, escape me.)
"Yes. She's on this trip." Then he became specific. "Tabitha."
“Tabitha? Ha! (long pause). I didn’t even know you were dating!"
He shared with me his secret plan and enlisted my help.
The next day our little group of travelers crested the Horns of Hattin. It was a crisp clear morning. You could see fifty miles. The outline of Hermon’s snowy profile was clear. The Sea of Galilee sparkled in the sun. The gazelles were dancing. Angels, humming. It seemed to me the perfect time.
So I stopped the group and delivered a Most Insightful Lecture on how the First Crusade met its grisly end on this very field and how the fragment of the true cross was lost in the battle which gave Pope Urban III a heart attack and launched the career of Richard the Lionheart and how Renaud de Châtillon was beheaded by Salah ed-Din over the matter of a snow cone (and these are just some of the higher points).
All of this was done, of course, in hopes of creating a little space between past and future.
A bit further along the trail, it happened.
Nima dropped to one knee. Then he dropped the bomb.
Tabitha was taken by surprise. The two of them chatted a little; with the wind and all, the rest of us couldn't hear what was said.
But she seemed agreeable.
There wasn't much else to do but pray for the couple, so we did.
I must say, we've had many things happen on the trail and in the field, but this is a first.
Now, to be clear, there are many good reasons to walk ancient paths in the land of the Bible. We now will add one more to the list: finding a mate.
To Nima and Tabitha: may you grow old together and share the vistas of life's trail in the company of one another. May your future home be rich in honesty, grace, and faith.