One month left in this land. That fact astounds me. The time that I have spent here has gone by entirely too fast, and the realization that these people aren’t going to be around next semester is beginning to set in. While that thought is true, this is not the reality that I would life to focus on. I have spent this semester in the Middle East. Before I left home, any time I told someone where I would be spending the next four months of my life they said, “wow, you’re much braver than I am,” or something to that extent. That truth has never been further from the truth. While yes, I am in the Middle East, there has been almost no threats of danger anywhere near me. There was the small riot things that happened a few weeks ago, but nothing huge. There was crazy tourists for Passover and Easter, but nothing crazy. But this week, the idea that we are currently residing in “terrorism land” became real. Don’t worry yourselves yet, I’m not in danger. A bunch of my classmates and I had been planning a trip to Egypt: to Cairo and a beach town called Dahab. This trip had to be altered upon terrorist threats to capture Israeli tourists coming into Sinai. While Cairo isn’t in the Sinai, Dahab is. Our coordinators here at JUC have told us that we cannot go to Dahab, but directly to Cairo we should be fine. This means that most of us will not be going because out trip was only planned for two days to Cairo and the rest in Dahab. It is not often in America we find ourselves hindered by terrorist threats. Our plans remain unchanged and flexibility never seems to be needed. Being in the Middle East that is almost the exact opposite. The people here are on constant watch and are always ready to make changes to whatever they have going. Our comfort of security in America is something that we take so much for granted.
Though this reality somewhat hit me in the face today, yesterday came packed full of a sense of clarity through a picture that was able to give full expression to the thoughts I haven’t been able to express for quite some time. It was a beautiful thing. Yesterday was our last day on our last field study with Physical Settings of the Bible (our core class). We were at our last stop on Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have looked into the promised land that he would never enter. Dr. Wright, our director, began to talk about our futures and our lives beyond Israel, beyond JUC. While it was one of the hardest lectures to sit through because we all started to realize our time here is almost over (though we still have a month left), it was also, for me at least, one of them most eye opening. The view was terrific. We opened up Deuteronomy 34 where God shows Moses the land and we pointed to where all of the places he saw were. We have seen most of them. We know the land, we know where things are. For the Israelites, they would have to travel down from this place into a bit of wilderness again to cross the Jordan to get into more wilderness before the finally reach arable land. They would mutter the words, “you brought us out of Egypt for this?” But they didn’t know what was coming. They couldn’t see Jerusalem. And, from Mt. Nebo yesterday, neither could we, because it was hazy, as it almost always is. Dr. Wright compared this to our futures. We come out of Egypt and wander for years and then just when we think we are getting somewhere, we enter again into another type of wilderness, and all we see in the distance is haze. But as we go along, day by day, whatever is in the distance gets clearer as we get closer. But we have assurance, because we know where we’ve been, and we have a God who goes before us. It says this in Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
For so long I have felt confused as to what the crap is going on in my life, what I am going to do with my future or even the next semester. But for once, with that picture engrained in my head, I have peace. Shalom (שלום). I know that I have a God who goes before me. So even though all I see is haze, there is a promised land out there, and regardless God is with me, even through what seems like wilderness. There are clear days few and far between, and those will give light to what is out there so that there is hope in the haze.
So with a month left here in the Holy Land, I plan to enjoy my time in the clear and beautiful place in front of me, with the people I’ve grown to love, and ignore the imminent haze.