In the summer of 2014 our church held a celebration of ministry, honoring Max for 30 years of pastoral investment in their lives.
(Confession - I remember thinking at the time, “Oh dear God, what am I going to do if they send us to Israel?”)
Instead, those kind folks created a money tree for a “future trip,” to the destination of our choice, which I knew was basically the same thing, but it saved me the agonizing moment of saying, “Thanks, but I don’t want to do this." It was clear that the trip to Israel was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.
We talked about “The Trip” but couldn’t see our way clear to be away from home for the length of time it would entail. (You would have to know some things about the autism spectrum to appreciate our dilemma. A ten day trip looked very messy, and mostly impossible.) We had some frank discussions about whether or not it was even going to be a two person trip. At various times one or the other of us has traveled alone to far places, and we talked about whether Max should just go to Israel without me. But no, it was important for him that I go along.
As the certainty of a trip solidified, I began to think more seriously about my reservations and reluctance.
I knew I wasn’t interested in an “end times” focused tour. I’m not interested in timelines, symbols, or fancy mathematic equations that add up to…something. My view of “end times” is this: “Jesus is coming. I am ready.” (But don’t come just yet please, because I love some folks who aren’t quite ready.)
But other than avoiding the “end times” emphasis, what was the source of my lack of enthusiasm…even antipathy? I needed to do some pondering to sort out my foot-dragging, to get to the root of my (lifelong!) reluctance to a trip to The Holy Land. I checked off a list:
Fear? I’m not afraid of flying. It wasn’t even the whole “safety” issue, although I had been heard to say more than once that a trip to Israel seemed like a decision to shell out a boatload of money to travel to one of the most unstable regions of the world.
Boatload of money. Okay, yes. That was part of the problem. I have always seen a trip to The Holy Land as a rich man’s dream. What percentage of the world has access to this sort of “super-spiritual growth” experience? I was bothered by the exclusivity of what we were going to do.
And then, this other frustration came clear in my thoughts. For years I have heard people comment, “Oh, you just have to go to Israel. Imagine, walking where Jesus walked.” (Spoken in hushed tones or a floaty voice.)
Or this: “Your walk with God will be deepened. You will never read the Bible the same way again…”
Followed by: “It will just change your.whole.life.”
On and on.
I chafed against those words – Really?
Obviously this is not something necessary for a close walk with God or He would have made it available to everyone. A trip to Israel? No thanks, it just wasn’t me.
I settled into the realization that I was going to Israel with Max; I would be part of his adventure even if it wasn’t “my thing.”
(And about the same time, some major changes happened in our household that made it seem like it might be the first time we would be away for more than a few nights without significant repercussions! That’s a different miracle for a different post!)
I was determined to be positive, to embrace the adventure. I didn’t want to drag down trip enthusiasm, nor did I want to be ungrateful. (I mean, it was a ten day break from everything?! Even if it wasn’t my choice of destination, I could welcome the idea of vacation!)
We were going to The Holy Lands.
I went into the trip as a cynic. Or at least a quiet skeptic.
like he always does.
And I discovered I was, in fact,
walking on Holy Ground.
But it’s not what you think.