I’m a little homesick today. Homesick for a place that’s never been home. Not physically at least.
I went—almost on a whim—for 8 ½ days, but it was something more than another trip. It reached down inside me and grabbed this and grabbed that and threaded them together in the most unexpected way.
I went with no expectations. I went because . . . why not go?
And going changed me.
There was no beam of light from heaven or profound moment of revelation. I didn’t hear God’s audible voice. It wasn’t any thing at all. It was one seemingly small moment after another.
It was being in a cistern and understanding the terror Joseph must have felt.
It was standing on a hilltop—descending to the valley floor and picking smooth stones out of a riverbed—and realizing the enormity of David’s illogical courage. His boldness could have been the end of his entire nation, if he failed. And every shred of reason said he would fail.
It was standing in an underground columbarium and glimpsing a fraction of the volume of doves whose lives were destined for a sacrificial system that could never atone for people’s sins.
It was watching shepherds tend sheep in the middle of a desert.
It was riding on a camel whose ingeniously designed feet allow it to traverse inhospitable land.
It was seeing an oasis in the middle of a desert canyon.
It was being in the water of the Dead Sea and then being in the living water of the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
It was standing in the blazing heat on top of Masada and understanding what a stronghold is. What a refuge is. What a rock is.
It was looking into the caves of Ein Gedi and beginning to grasp the juxtaposition of fleeing to a source of life in a dead land.
It was driving through valleys and over hills that made the life-and-death reality of safe passage and control of trade routes become more than historical trivia.
It was looking at a sycamore tree and realizing the desperation an outcast felt that led him to seek just a glimpse of Jesus with no expectation of a result.
It was seeing the ruins of modest basalt-rock villages and magnificent Greco-Roman cities that made real the strength of people living in a world with none of the conveniences I deem necessary.
It was sitting on Mt. Carmel overlooking the Jezreel Valley—the breadbasket of a nation—and imagining the devastation of three years without rain and the confidence of Elijah to not only believe God would answer but to taunt his opponents and then stack the deck against himself.
It was walking the ruined streets of Chorazin and Capernaum, slipping into the synagogues and feeling the hope they pegged on just trying harder to keep the unkeepable law—while missing the Hope who was fulfilling the law in their midst.
It was standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and wondering how those fishermen who’d washed out of the religious education system felt when a rabbi chose them.
It was sitting on a rock outcropping atop Mt. Arbel looking over the lake and feeling the sadness of a people still searching for a Savior in a place He most likely came to pray for them.
It was the wind whipping against me on a boat in the middle of the lake, watching the waves and wondering if I could ever have the faith Peter had—if only for seconds—that propelled his feet onto the water.
It was sharing a Shabbat dinner to the sound of the lake lapping the shore.
It was standing on the mosaic-ed floor of Herod’s palace jutting into the Mediterranean and being awed by the audacity and dismayed by the egotism.
It was staring across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount wondering where Jesus found the strength to volunteer to take on the abuse of my sins, so I might know the freedom He designed me for.
It was hiking up to Jerusalem and listening in my mind to the throngs reciting the Psalms of Ascent as they made their pilgrimage.
It was running my fingers along the cornerstone and understanding no place is undefeatable, but I have a Cornerstone that will never be thrown down.
It was weaving my way through crowded city streets and imagining the voices hurling scorn on the One who knew them and loved them anyway.
It was singing with one voice in chapels of little consequence other than marking the places the One to whom we sing once stood.
It was eating the very foods God promised His people He would provide for them in the land He promised to provide.
It was constructing context and a setting for the book I’ve read in a vacuum.
It was being fully present in a place I knew only in theory.
And today I’m homesick for it.
I’m homesick for the grace and compassion the land stirred in my soul when I stood and saw and felt the magnitude of the ripples spreading through time from one small point on a map.
I have head that scripture comes to life when you visit Israel. You have confirmed this. I am so thankful that you have these amazing memories.
Alive, indeed! And during this season the memories of it are adding in so many layers of context.
Thanks for giving us a taste and helping us remember the awesome gift. I miss these keen insights and your reflective spirit. Glad I can follow you here.
Oh, miss you too, my friend! Your history-loving self would drink it in there — let me know when you’re ready to go, and I’ll go with you 🙂