As I write this post, one of my dearest friends is about half way through her 4th or 5th trek in Palestine. She first went on a Journey of Faith Pilgrimage with Columbia Theological Seminary, and has since led two trips with her church, spent a four month sabbatical there in 2012/13 and is now traveling with a group for the Philippines as their leader. She also attended the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference before the group arrived and is spending some days of rest and renewal. In the Fall of 2012, two of my collegial friends and I were the beneficiaries of her deep love and commitment to this Holy Land. Why, you may ask, am I telling you all of this?
Well, it has something to do with me though I have not really the foggiest idea exactly what it is. I am a total "squirrel" person when it comes to interests, passions, jobs, fads, etc. I can fall in and out of love with and idea, a book, a practice, etc. like one of the Kardashians does with husbands/boyfriends. However, when I sit back and recall those 16 days in Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nablus and points in between, while being lost, taking in scenery, eating an inaugural lunch on the beach at
Caesarea Maritime, sitting on the patio at the American Colony Hotel and hearing Vanunu's story, and so much more, I feel as if it happened just yesterday. I also cannot think of any single experience, education, travel, mission or ministry that has stayed with me to the depth and breadth that those 16 days did. It is as if there is a very strong magnet that is drawing me into this land, its people, the conflicts, the beauty, and the curses. Further, as I ponder and pray, it feels very familiar and very distant. It's the same sort of gravitational pull I had some 18 years ago when I was first feeling that I was called to seminary. It was insane, crazy, lunacy and simultaneously unavoidable and the only thing I could possibly do.
Trouble is, this has a lot less specificity. Right now, I've done everything I can think of to get this out of my mind and heart. My friend asked my why I feel such a draw to this (so much so that I'm planning to lead a pilgrimage with this dear friend in the early part of 2015). I don't have words. I have images, feelings, stories…oh, the stories. Stories that are still as fresh as the taste of pomegranate juice or minted lemonade from one of the bazillion food stands in Jerusalem. My friend keeps saying to me, "God is really up to something with you!" I really wish I knew what. In the meantime, I have read countless books on Israel, Palestine, the Land, the conflict, and possibilities for peace and justice. I've watched at least a dozen Palestinian and Israeli movies. Last weekend I attended part of the Sabeel Conference in Pleasant Hill and this Sunday evening I plan to go hear two IDF soldiers speak at the local synagogue here in Walnut Creek. Oh, and of course, I am reading all of my friend's blogs (you can follow her at palestinianponderings.blogspot.com), and hanging on her every post and picture and comment as she reflects upon her time there.
So, when I heard that call to seminary and professional ministry, and began to share the news with friends and family, many, many people smiled, grinned, chuckled or just nodded knowingly, and said things like, "It's about time," or "I knew that a long time before you did." A part of me was wishing that had told me about it, but perhaps I was not ready or would not have listened or heard it when they did. However, if any of you out there have any ideas about what is going on here, I'd be really happy to at least entertain the fantasy that you may have some of the pieces to the mystery of call and response to God's wacky ways of messing with me! Really, do let me in on the secret.