from water to desert…

the day we left the Sea of Galilee area was a powerful day. it began early for me and my roommate.

we sacrificed sleep to watch the sun rise over the Sea of was worth it.

i wonder how many believers through the ages have stood on the shores of Galilee as the sun arose, and praised God for how beautiful his creation is…

our first stop of the morning was at the Jordan River.  a number of our travelers chose to be re-baptized there.  i already wrote a bit about that.  it was a tender moment.  another one in which i felt gratitude to be present with those who had that intimate moment with God. from that moment, we moved on to a more fun experience….floating in the Dead Sea.  people told me that you cannot really describe it.  they were correct.  nothing i write here is going to explain to you how much fun and what an oddity it is to float there.  i think you need to go and find out for yourself.  as most of you know, the Dead Sea minerals are known for the beautifying and healing properties.  and, most of those minerals are in the mud.  so….

yes, it came out of my hair...

i think they gave us a gift in that fun moment.  a much needed break from the history and intensity that is the pilgrimage experience.  as my cousin says, “you can’t help but laugh when you float in the Dead Sea…”  so true.

after we all were clean, our day took a more somber turn.  we had a number of stops to make.  however, the two that merged together and had the most impact on me were our stops at En Gedi and Masada.

En Gedi is the place in the Negev Desert that is a bit of an oasis.

En Gedi is also the place where David chose not to kill Saul even though Saul was pursuing him to kill him.  short version is this…David and his men were hiding in a huge cave.  Saul came in to that cave to take a leak (yes, i’m serious), and instead of killing him, David cut off the edge of his robe.  Saul didn’t know he was there.  our guide made it clear to us that the corner of his robe was the corner of his “mantle” and it would have been the worst thing you could do to a man in that time period.  the most disrespect.  i wish i had a bigger word for that.  when david realized the weight of what he had done, he came out of the cave and yelled to Saul.  he told him he wasn’t going to kill him, and that he was sorry.  for a moment, Saul’s heart softened and he cried and told David he was sorry too. didn’t last.  later Saul continues to pursue David to attempt to kill him.

Masada is a fortified city on top of a rock/mountain in the Negev.  we had to ride a cable car to get to it.

can you imagine trying to get up to this place?!

Masada was built in the mid 30’s BC by Herod the Great.  he wanted a fortified hiding spot if there was a revolt.  after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem around 70 AD, the 10th Roman legion eventually found their way to the Jewish remnant who were living at Masada.  they encamped around the bottom of the fortress for 8 months building a land ramp which would aid them in eventually breaking through the wall to reach the Jews inside.

an excavated encampment down below...

the view of that encampment was chilling.  all i could think about was the mommas watching their babies over those 8 months knowing that the siege was coming…and there wasn’t much that they could do about it.  1,000 Jews against the 10th Roman legion.  they had to have known.  so, instead of being taken captive or being killed, they chose to kill themselves.  those mommas and daddies had to kill their babies.  that’s what i couldn’t get out of my head.

this tree describes how i felt at the top of Masada...

that day, having heard about David and Saul at En Gedi, as well as the deaths at Masada, my heart continually came back to one idea…

is my heart like David’s or Saul’s?  like the Romans who took Masada? or like the Jewish mommas?

i’ve gotten angrier as i have gotten older.  i know more about the world now.  i hear a lot of awful things in my daily work.  i don’t watch the news anymore.  my heart has a difficult time with the pain of it.  so, that hurt, sadness, and fear move toward anger and set up camp.  add into that my own issues, and deferred dreams…and i find that joy isn’t comfortable in my heart.  that’s who Saul was.  that is the heart of the soldiers who wanted to kill a bunch of Jews.  anger becomes more anger.  just like love becomes more love.  now, i’m not saying anger is bad.  it’s not.  it is an emotion and it is necessary.  however, when it becomes the greater percentage of a heart, then that heart starts to die.  that’s what happened to Saul.  he chose to let self-focus and anger lead him and it eventually drove him crazy.  and, i wonder what happened in the hearts of those Romans when they saw those mommas laid dead next to their babies.  my hope is that a couple of them felt pain.  i doubt many of them did.

i’m not hiding in a cave as the king of my country is trying to find me and murder me.  i’m not sitting on top of a mountain waiting for the largest army i’ve ever seen to kill me.  and, i’m thankful for that.  however, i do battle anger and feelings of wanting to be more powerful.  it was painful to be faced with extreme examples of what it looks like when we as humans allow anger and power to take control of our hearts.  people die.  hate grows.  joy flees.

i don’t want to live like that.

2 Responses to “from water to desert…”
  1. emily says:

    Could it be that in your heart is a both/and? That it is both like Saul’s and like David’s? And isn’t it that the beauty of David’s relationship to God was not necessarily in WHAT he held in his heart but in HOW he authentically held his heart out to God?
    I’m not a placater–you know that about me–so you know that when I say this, that I mean it: I believe your heart is different from Saul’s because you authentically open yourself up to it. You are aware of what’s in it, and that is how you are a woman after God’s own heart.

  2. phil says:

    Thanks for this amazing story. I am planning a trip to the negev to get closer to God. I want to go to that cave but am glad to know that there are tours!

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