L I V I N G I N T H E E Y E O F G O D
Theme of today for Alex:
Observing and absorbing many different types of beauty,
being grateful that I have a pair of eyes to take it in
and a camera to share it with you.
Today had all of the potential in the world to be less than great. Last night I was unable to get to sleep until 3:00AM, and I had my alarm set for 5:30 since we leave campus at 6:45. Let’s just say I woke up cold, exhausted, and without an ounce of cognitive or physical energy. Yep, I was jet-lagging harder than a first-time flight attendant.
But as we walked from the JUC campus to our sherut (bus), framed by the snow covered trees, the city of Jerusalem to the west (right of us) was glowing as the sun hit it. The orange allure of the sun reflected against a hilltop of buildings held a magic to it that I can only give the Lord full credit for making possible.
…but joy comes with the morning.
And suddenly my jetlag woes didn’t really matter.
J U D E A N W I L D E R N E S S
One momentous part of today was the fact that we went significantly further from Jerusalem than we have at all so far, venturing out to the area that once represented the tribe of Benjamin. For the first time in four days we weren’t weaving in, around and through Jerusalem, but instead were drinking in the freshness of open and expansive spaces that the shepherds and famers dwell in.
After switching buses (the door on first bus was constantly beeping) at what was essentially a dirt parking lot with buses in it and Vern called the “Bus Barn”, we continued on our way to Benjamin. Our first stop took us off the highway on a dirt road, where we stopped in what appeared to be an ordinary hill surrounded by more ordinary hills.
Never have I been more delighted to be mistaken in my life than I was in that moment upon reaching the top of the hill. Below me was a sea of rolling, brown hills. Going on and on, twisting, swaying, and though stagnant, giving the impression of movement. Tiny, hazy in the distance stood Jericho. Vernon pointed this out, and told us this land was called The Wilderness. That’s when it clicked that I was staring at the region that the Israelites most likely wandered in for forty years before finally entering the Promised Land. In that mindset the Wilderness becomes much, much less appealing.
The most meaningful part of today for me was honestly when we sat down at the top of that hill with the Wilderness to our backs, and we read through about six different passages of scripture on the Wilderness, and the negative connotation it holds; it is typically representative of being in a barren, lonely, and abandoned place. This was applicable physically to the Israelites when they wandered for forty years, and it is a word we often use when we’re speaking of our spiritual state.
After discussing the negatives of the Wilderness, we sat in complete silence for thirty seconds. Then Vernon asked to describe what we heard, which was a whole lot of nothing. He then said we could view that as a positive aspect of the Wilderness. Here’s what we concluded:
1) No distractions
Next Vernon asked us to partner up with the person next to us and stare into his or her eyes. After a few seconds he told us to move in closer until we could see ourselves reflected in the other person’s eyes. At this point I was grateful to have been paired with a girl, because you have to be in extremely close proximity to someone to see that. Like, we’re breathing the same air, and I can see the pores on her face.
And then Vernon asked us exactly how close we had to be for this past exercise to work. “Extremely close,” he said. “Intimate and without distractions.”
I don’t think it was a mistake that I heard this message in a place where I was so enthralled with the beauty of the Wilderness before me.
I don’t find it coincidental that I heard it when I was running on two hours of sleep.
I think that God is using this trip to reach into the less noticeable parts of my sin nature that are so deeply embedded that I'm not even aware that they're there. He's showing me that there are still ridges in my clay that I haven’t allowed Him to smooth out, such as how selfish I am with my time, because of how precious I consider it to be.
Time spent doing
what I want to do,
when I want to do it,
how I want to do it,
with or without the people of my choice.
Granted, I’m pretty great at hiding this. I’m good at serving others, and if someone is seeming to waste my time, or resources, I won’t let them khow how greatly it frustrates me. But then that’s just like being a Pharisee, right? The outside of my cup is sparkling, but the inside is pretty darn disgusting.
How deep of a relationship can I be in with Christ if I’m being a control freak about my time, my stuff, and my happiness?
How can I be reflected in the eye of YHWH if I’m idolizing myself?
I’ll leave it at that.
J O R D A N | J E R I C H O | C E N T R AL B E N J A M I N P L A T E A U | G E Z E R
Throughout the rest of the day we got to see some pretty neat things, such as the Jordan river, and signs with warnings about mines in the area. Then we went to Jericho where we went through detail by detail why the Israelites had every reason to stay in Jericho. It provided consistent water, had great soil, it was geographically protected, and it was temperate year round. So why was God so insistent that they completely destroy it, killing everyone, and burning everything?
Jericho represented comfort- risk-free security. How dependent would the Israelites have been in the Lord if they’d stayed in Jericho instead of pressing on into the unknown, where they would have to do battle against many other kingdoms much more powerful than themselves? How quickly would their hearts have hardened toward the Lord if they’d intermarried with the pagans in Jericho? God new that in order to be intimate with him, His people couldn’t be anything but utterly dependent upon Him and constantly in communication with Him. I think that God led the people beyond Jericho because (1) He had better things planned for them than they wanted for themselves and (2), more importantly, because He knew He couldn’t achieve intimacy with the Israelites if they were comfortable.
He wanted to be reflected in the eyes of His people. And He still wants that.
What a prime example of what it looks like to truly live- close to God, letting Him guide you through the ins and outs of life as you gaze into His steady eyes, trusting Him to guide you into The Promised Land.