Appointment by the Mediterranean Sea
Before you begin here, read part 1 of this story: Disappointment by the Mediterranean Sea.
Before our Shabbat meal, my mind turned like a rock polisher full of too many rocks, and my legs felt the weight of a week’s walk. As we poured the wine and clinked our glasses together, as we tore the braided bread, dipped it into salt, and passed the plates around, as our host sang a haunted and powerful welcome to Sabbath, “Shalom Alechem,” I began to hear every word like a molasses invitation to close my eyes. It was all a blanket, and the food was rich, and all I needed was a bed, but we were at dinner, and the host was talking.
My finger tips were curtain ties for my drapey eyelids. That night the young, energetic ladies stayed up late and bonded, but I? On our last night in Israel, it was Shabbat, and I couldn’t help it. I slept.
The next day we learned about war. Rockets were the back-drop for a man speaking of war. He had revenge like big splinters deep inside him. My heart was so tired and desert-weary. The barbed wire and the wall and the tunnels that come from Gaza Strip into Israeli land, these were glooming my tired heart like a darkness that might not go away.
We dined well before we were to head back to the states to try somehow to ingest what all is happening and has happened to Israel and Palestine. Remind me to tell you in person about the settlements. The tangle of religion and land: what a formidable, abstract thing to perceive. It was like trying to wrangle a 5,000-ton slippery ghost with a destructive tail. How will I ever really tell you about it?
But then I was nudged by a gentle thing, a soft, fast hand. Was it a man or a sneaky child? Lord knows, but either way, my wallet and passport were stolen from under my nose, and I snapped awake into the presence of God, because I knew He alone would lead me from there.
How numbly and blindly I had given in to the safety of my own wallet. How many decisions do I make personally to keep myself safe that way? I will pat my pockets to make sure all is well with me and either ignore the state of the world or let myself get swept into confusion about it. How many of the issues I witnessed are created by numb nations patting their pockets?
Just like that, my crutch was gone. One minute I was numbly crutched, and the next minute I was wide awake, keenly walking with my Shepherd, full of attention to invisible things.
So when I woke the next morning alone in a hotel room with only an inkling of the order of things, I woke in a sudden whip of adrenaline. I checked my email, and Seth had indeed found a copy of my passport. I dressed and ran downstairs for coffee and a chocolate croissant.
I let a thief in the night give me a lesson on waking up, so as I stepped into the morning light, I said, “I thank you God for this most amazing day, [for the] blue true dream of sky.” I couldn’t see the sea from my hotel, but I knew that to get to the police station to file a report, I had to walk toward the sea and hang an hour-long left along the coast. I prayed and could feel the open expanse beyond the buildings, as if the moon pulled me to shore.
If disappointments are invitations to see God’s appointments, then surely I would do something great that day. This is what I thought, and then I turned right as I felt the breeze tunnel at me in the street. The Mediterranean Sea was just ahead.
I waited for the streetlight to change and stood next to an older man I ignored. We crossed together side by side, and in the middle of the road, he turned his neck and spoke straight into my eyes. “I sing,” he said. I noticed then his filthy shirt and pants. His shoes had burst open. He was carrying a grocery bag that didn’t hold groceries.
And then he began to sing. Straight into my eyes, not even an arm’s length away, he sang to me in Hebrew, and it was the sound of child-taught and fully believed religion. He sang to me like I was his mother, and he was my child. He sang to me like he loved me. For two blocks, he sang.
It was time for me to turn left, and he had to turn right. Right there was the sea, and the gulls perched beneath the gentlest morning blue sky. The old man put down his bag and spoke in Hebrew as he opened his huge arms very wide, and I only had one choice to make in that moment.
I opened my arms back to him and we embraced so fully that he could have carried me away. Instead his kissed my left cheek at least seven times, and then he moved to my right cheek. He grabbed my right hand and put it to his face, and he placed his other hand to my face. He said, “Israel is I love you. Israel is I love you. Israel is I love you,” and then he dropped my hand and walked away.
I turned left and cried. That was the whole reason I came. It wasn’t that I would do something great. It was that I am loved. I had an appointment with an angel that morning, and he told me I am loved.
And that was the whole thing. I had an appointment with the police, and it was easy, and then at my appointment with the embassy, a met a frequent visitor to Arkansas. He stamped “emergency” on my paperwork and had me a new passport in five hours total. The American dollars the girls had given me were just enough to buy my passport.
I had an appointment after that with a cappuccino and 2 meringue cookies that I promise Jesus made by hand. I had an appointment on the shore with the sunset and a beach cat. I watched the birds and the people, and I was with my God. It finally hit me how two days before I had been on the Sea of Galilee. I was basking.
That was the whole thing, to love him and to be loved by him.
As I hopped in my cab for my real ride to the airport, I checked my pockets again and realized I had spent shekels on coffee and cookies like an irresponsible child. I thought I had more and knew the cab ride would cost more than I could find, but I had an appointment with a cab driver who assured me he was content with what I could do. The girls had stuffed my pockets with the exact change I needed to make it home.
So here I am on my comfortable couch trying to understand who I am here now with the knowledge of tear gas canisters on playgrounds abroad with markings that say “Made in the USA.”
Someone stole what I thought was my identity and my safety, every access to money and every form of identification. If Seth didn’t have copies of my passport, who would I have been then to the police or to the embassy?
I would have told them I am the daughter of a great revolution, a daughter of a sprawling Scotch-Irish and native line. I would have told them my maiden name, my consuming identity.
And they wouldn’t have cared. Who would I have been then?
A powerless way to fight for justice is to address the evils abroad without addressing them first in our own lives, and how can we walk freely in wisdom when we hobble on the crutches of our nationality and our fleeting money and the color of our skins. These are identity, yes, but these are not the deeper truths about who we are. These are things that sidetrack us on our rights and blind us from seeing the hands of mercy that have held us all along. These are things that can blind us from the souls of others and can lie to us of what we merit. These are what make concentration camps and enslave people to ghettos. These are what make us think we’re the better kind.
Tell me who you are.
I met a low-down, Hebrew-speaking man from Israel, and no one cared for his position. Yet somehow I had no identity until I met him, until he sang over me and opened his arms wide for me. I know who I am, adopted daughter of Eve, loved like a child in a garden.
I want to filter the world like this. I want to keep this fast from false identity. I want to embrace and thank a merciful God who reminded me of my weakness, because that is exactly where his power rests.
If we fast and take up right identity, we will loose the bonds of wickedness and undo straps of yoke. We will let the oppressed go free and break every yoke. We will share bread with the hungry, bring the homeless in our house, and we will clothe the naked.
And only then will our gloom rise as the noonday.
We all have an appointment here.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
I really want you to hear Seth’s Recovery Room piece this week. It’s a talk about fasting that is helping me make a much needed shift. Listen here!