Never in all my life did I think I would be able to travel to the Middle East, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. To walk where Jesus walked, to be in the place where he lived is the most amazing dream. And unless something crazy happens, it is going to come true.
When Dave and I got married, he was an intern at a church. I was a child care worker. To this day, I look back and marvel at how God provided for our daily needs on such little income. Year after year I learned to live on less, with less. You see, I grew up in an upper middle class family. My parents didn’t start out there though. My Dad and a few partners built, from the ground up, a successful home building company. They valued quality, integrity and hard work. It paid off. I will be forever thankful for my Dad’s hard work and integrity through which he provided for us.
The reality of being a newly married couple in church ministry proved challenging for my default comfort level. Dave joked I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. “That’s not true!” I would answer back. But to be honest, he had a point. Growing up, I wanted for little. In all of my memories as a child we lived a very comfortable life materially. Early on in marriage I had to engage the process of giving up stuff. I gave up having nice, new cars. I gave up on having new furniture. You can find amazing things at yard sales! I gave up on being able to buy what I wanted when I wanted. I gave up on having a brand new house. Back in Akron by the grace of God, and I mean that, we were able to buy a 100 year old house which had a long “needs fixing” list. I gave up on getting our kitchen remodeled. As the years went by, we realized we didn’t have the time or money to do what we dreamed with the house. But what I personally gained was so much better.
There in lies the grace of it all. God, attentive to my needs, met me left and right as I came face to face with my longings for the stuff of this earth. He gave me more than I ever could have imagined in relationships with others in the great neighborhood of Highland Square. He gave me more than I could imagine in himself. Jesus met me in every square inch of giving up material things and expectations. Jesus became my water and my bread, everything I needed. Jesus became my very real breath as I navigated being a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids 5 and under in that old house living far away from family. I cried many tears in the night longing for sleep. I cried many tears of frustration with myself and my impatient, yelling ways.
In the land of less I gained more than what I originally could see.
I met Jesus at the cross in ways I never had before. I began to see his birth in totally new ways. I sat with him in the garden where he wept sharing in his suffering, even if only slightly. I fell in love with Jesus anew in the land of less.
An overseas trip like the one I will take this Wednesday is something I gave up on ever doing, removed from my radar. The desire within in me to travel and meet people from other cultures has recently been reawakened. When I was a child I heard a female missionary tell of her adventure and calling in a far away country. Something stirred in my heart. At another time I imagined myself in Zimbabwe, excited by the possibility of new and different. It’s funny how you forget certain childhood memories and ideas. It was in El Salvador a few years back when I was alerted to this forgotten familiar heartbeat. My heart is now skipping a beat at the thought of what I get to do.
Through the gift of another I get to take a trip to the land where it all happened. I get to go on pilgrimage to see the places Jesus lived. Every time I think of it, I cry. Never in all my life did I imagine I would be able to do this. I am completely in awe.
I will travel with a group from my church. I will see some of the places where Jesus lived. But this is not a tourist trip. This is a pilgrimage. The number one reason for our travel is to listen and learn. There are brave women and men who engage in the peacemaking process every day in the middle of one of the most challenging conflicts around the world.
We, in America, only hear a small slice of the story through the media. Some of us Christians only know bits and pieces of the history of the land and the people of Israel and Palestine. I hope to share some of what I learn from my pilgrimage in upcoming blog posts.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
“Going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39