Like David in an Israel Desert
You know that moment when a dear friend experiences a really fantastic, life-altering event, and as much as you want to hug them and cheer with them you also kind of want to sucker punch them because it’s the exact thing you were hoping for? No? Just me?
For quite a few months, my life-well has felt a little dry. Maybe a bit like the Israelites felt as they wandered in the Negev desert. I was doing all the “right” Christian things, but every day it was the same thing: I’d get up, read my Bible, go for a run, breakfast on bran flakes, commute to work, meander home through an obstacle course of errands, then scarf dinner somewhere along the way before collapsing in bed exhausted. (Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day?) I longed for refreshment – for even just a lap from the water of life. But all I could see for miles and miles was the hot, dry desert around me. I know there are times in life we just have to get through. This felt like one of those seasons, as when David cried out to God from his desert:
“I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.”
In times like this I find myself looking for something out of the ordinary to help me refocus. For me the needed jolt came in a conversation. Just two weeks ago my friend (Not to name any names – but we’ve been bff’s since we first met in Mrs. Martin’s fifth grade class, we’ve played every possible sport together and even named our hamsters after each other. My hamster’s name was Linda.) returned from a Christian tour to Israel. To her credit, she didinvite me to go, but life just felt too busy (you know, with all the bran flake eating I had to do). When she returned I knew I had made a terrible mistake. Just one look at my friend and I realized she was someone new. There was life in her eyes.
I invited her over for coffee one morning to scroll through pictures and hear all of her stories. She visited an endless array of spectacular places – biblical names I’ve heard for years going back to my earliest Sunday school memories. One picture I loved showed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with its dizzying architecture and glittering chandeliers. Her face lit up as she described her experiences, photo by photo. Like her time in a shepherd’s field – a blanket of green grass speckled all over with little white cotton-ball-sheep. They really are silly little creatures, she explained, and yet, the shepherd tends to them so lovingly. She swam in the Dead Sea – that lovely teal water so captivating to the eye, yet in reality it is stagnant and lifeless (I can relate to that). She sailed on a boat along the Sea of Galilee – the same waters that Jesus walked across. Her hair whipped around in the breeze, the smell of the fresh air, the sound of the water lapping against the side of the boat. She closed her eyes to take it all in, fully captivated. She described to me her thoughts about the storm that had happened there thousands of years ago – with giant waves ready to swallow the little fishing boat, the fear of the disciples, the terror of death, and then those three words spoken by Jesus (she could almost hear it), “Quiet! Be still.” In an instant there was calm; peace. This was the moment, she explained that she’d felt closest to Jesus. She would never read that Bible passage the same way. She would never read anyof the Bible the same. It was more than just a story to her now. I looked up from the pictures into her twinkling eyes rimmed with tears – she had been where Jesus was, and it had changed her. I longed to go there too.
Then like the smooth stone that struck Goliath it hit me! The whole time I’d been wandering in my desert searching for some sort of oasis, some sort of comfort. Ten steps to a happy life or a dose of the warm fuzzies. But as I listened to my friend I realized it wasn’t a new activity or feeling that changed her. Her time in Israel had introduced her to someone she had known for years, but mostly from afar. Letters, books, stories of this person had taught her so much, but seeing, hearing, feeling Him in His home had introduced her to Jesus in a powerfully new way.
Like some kind of living water osmosis I learned from my friend almost as if I had been there too. Instead of searching for sunscreen or lip balm here in the desert, I ought to look for Him. A companion to travel with, not a gadget to make travel more easy. Not a new purchase to give me temporary forgetfulness. It’s easy in dry seasons to want a shot in the arm, hoping it will change things – either my circumstances or my feelings about them. Don’t get me wrong: I’m going to join a Christian Holy Land tour. But until that time when I can walk where Jesus walked (or sail, or swim) I will look for Him in the life I live here knowing He has promised that I will find Him.