Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. —Psalm 20:7
“Because those are the rules.”
These were the basics, Lord, of the discussion going on in my head, the first day of our group’s engagement in the land. It was pre-Shabbat Friday, our first full day in the city of the Great King and I wanted to feed on the energy I felt from these excited folks. They were ready and willing to experience all that Jerusalem had to offer, so we started early.
This was the day that we ran into Ron the condemning Rabbi. “You Christians are not welcomed here,” he proclaimed in front of the Christ Church entrance.
This was the day we learned of and saw the hidden room where you had been sequestered prior to your trial before Pilot.
This was the day when I saw the eyes of seven people who have not been to the land, opened with wonder and expectation for more. What better time to prepare for Shabbat.
You would think that might have been enough considering all were still adjusting to an 8 hour time difference. But not these sturdy folk, they were hungry to learn your history, touch your roots; encounter your people.
And we were just getting familiar with one another, so a family meal and study seemed a right next step. Some volunteered to cook and prepare while others offered to go get groceries and necessities for the gathering. At 1 pm in the afternoon, five of us set off to find the local grocers and load up. Oh, Lord: did I mention that as we had walked about the streets of modern Jerusalem that morning, on our way to the Old City, we saw much preparation on the streets for what looked like some kind of citywide festival?
We learned as we headed out from our apartment that the event was nothing less than the Tour D’Italy Bike Race, an international extravaganza which is held in a different country each year. This was the first year it was to occur in Israel and the crowds gathering along the sides of the pyloned streets testified to its significances.
This was not why we had come to the land, and it seemed an interesting sideshow to we weary travelers, nothing more. We were primarily focused on grabbing our goods and hustling back the 3 city blocks to our sanctuary where we might watch some of the goings on from our comfortable balcony above.
As we crossed the last major street before our intended target, the grocery store, I noted behind us that some official looking guards planted more orange pylons across where we had just trudged. No worries, I thought, we’ll be a few minutes and then hustle right back, they have to let us back across to get to our domicile. We found the store and stocked up on goods we anticipated needing for a portion of our two-week stay. Three cases of water, numerous can goods, many boxes of food and supplies later, we were ready for our trek back. By then, the race had officially started. We arrived back at the cross-street headed toward our apartment and gave a friendly nod to the pylon guards. They did not smile back.
“You will have to wait. We cannot allow passage,” said one fellow sternly.
“But we live just a block up on this side of the street, we need to get over there to prepare for our Sabbath meal,” I pleaded. We were politely refused, though not a bike was in sight. “Where can we cross,” we asked. There was discussion among the uniforms and one suggested we walk up the cross-street—a healthy incline without our totes—and that perhaps there would be a way to negotiate our passage at the next major intersections, a good half mile in the wrong direction. We were willing to do anything at this point in order to return to our waiting friends and so took the bait.
Lord, I forgive those guards because I suspect they knew it was bait—our departure from the encounter with them was their only intention. As we lumbered on we noted that others were as confused as we as they tried every means to egress the island we were all now trapped upon. One man tried to ignore the refusal of the authorities and their handling of him was equally aggressive and un-pretty. We chose not to follow his example. Finally arriving at the next junction, we were informed that there was no passage available, no tunnel, no bridge, and that we must wait until the completion of the repetitive circuit the cyclists must perform.
“How long might that take?” We implored. The answer was even less attractive as the handling of the rebellious man we observed earlier...
“—Three to four hours; sorry.” I did not hear sorrow in their voices.
What? Were they joking? We with our heavy parcels and backpacks full of sundries were not amused, but no one seemed to care. After sitting for a few moments and watching the occasional bike speed by, we all decided to head back down to our original crossing location to see if any options were left out. After an hour of inquiring and beseeching, we concluded that the only two possibilities seemed to be to wait-it-out, or circumnavigate a two-mile hike, up King David Street (in the opposite direction of our desired location), then over to the Old City, over across a bridge and try to egress through at an intersection at the starting point of the race. Maybe, just maybe the “head-officials” would be more understanding.
Nearly an hour, much
The competition did finally end and we were allowed to cross the street, access our apartment and enjoy our much-desired meal. I realized as we relaxed and reviewed the strange day that it is so easy to complain and get worked up about the uncontrollable, much as it is easy to argue against another’s opinion, rather than consider, observe and then seek alternative routes to the desired destination. The same might be said of our relationship, Lord God. How often do I try to plow a path of my choosing, when you already have prepared the best route for the best result—if I will just stop debating long enough to consider my circumstances from your point of view?
The Tour D’Israel bike race had far more impact on our trip then I realized at the time. In fact, the very next day’s itinerary was also impacted—but that’s another blog entry altogether.
“Because those are the rules.”
Yours, of course, Lord. I rest in the knowledge of your plan for me; a plan based on a much more significant future, unseen by me, perhaps filled with what I consider inconveniences, but with an extraordinary life-outcome by your design.
I pray for your continued patience with me as I continue to figure out the rules, how to trust you in that journey, how to Tour my own destiny…
—in you, Jesus.