“How can you go to the Middle East right now? Don’t you feel like you’re not safe?”
“Do whatever you have to do to be ok!”
“Be careful where you go!”
“Avoid that neighborhood, it’s better if you don’t go there.”
Spreading like a big city roadmap from the point of impact, fractured lines spider-webbed across my view while the safety glass plastic bubbled up at the edges. There had been rocks thrown at the windows of the light rail just the night before.
A lot of rocks.
While we enjoyed the safety and peace of our little apartment in the gentle aftermath of a quiet Shabbat, chaos and unrest had rocked the Arab neighborhood a few kilometers away.
Next to the safety fence, beside all the sound equipment, I joined hundreds of others to enjoy the music of young boys in white sailor uniforms as they sang “I Will Survive” and some other folk songs to the pulsing techno beat and flashing spotlights filtering through a feeble fog machine.
Abruptly pushed to the side by a middle-aged man in casual clothes, I was surprised when he picked up an abandoned bag I was standing on and rifled through it’s pockets without a word before carrying it away.
Only as he headed off in an important rush did I see the translucent plastic ear piece and curled wire tracing a line of the protector’s network down his neck.
Bright lights, the laughter of families, and a crush of bodies intent on going home filled the train as we boarded. It was 8pm on Sunday night and we’d spent the day walking through the Valley of Hinnom, Botanical Gardens, an artisan’s market, and enjoyed lemonade at the Old Central Bus Station until we returned to Jaffa Market and lingered over orange juice and salads before heading up the hill toward our neighbourhood.
A voice, muffled and using unfamiliar words, crackled through the intercom and people complained while shuffling off the train.
We waited a few minutes and then it lurched forward to the next stop, Ammunition Hill, before the same voice barked orders and more people got off the train.
Confused, we asked someone what he said.
“There is a suspicious item on the tracks in the neighborhood up ahead. If you are going to Pisgat Ze’ev, you need to get off here and take the bus.”
We took the bus.
It was 12:30am. The boys had been gone all day at a youth conference and it was late.
We were tired.
“Where are you now?” I texted.
“On the 66. Headed home.” Came the reply.
But the girl with them had taken the wrong bus, it was really late, and she was afraid to be alone.
So, these tall, fresh-faced young men stayed with her, one on each side, until her brother could come and get her.
I fretted and raged at the lateness of the hour in the comfort of our place and the ease of an elastic waist on cotton pyjamas.
Then I wrestled with the stark truth that my children were out there.
In the darkness of a big city, beyond my reach, and I was unable to get to them.
Yet, while we were powerless to help them, they stood by this petite young lady, someone’s precious girl, while late night wandering men attempted to make awkward and inappropriate conversation and swore at our sincere and kind 14 year old simply for not being willing to take a selfie with him and for having the misfortune of speaking English.
Until finally, reaching home, they pulled her into the stairwell, behind the safety of a door, and waited with laughter and joy in place of the intimidation and fear that always lurks on the other side of that door.
“I could never do what you’re doing.”
“It’s just such a big thing.”
“I would be so afraid.”
“It’s just not safe.”
Off-duty IDF soldier sitting next to us. Playing a rousing game of candy crush while he carries an M16 and travels with his family – Jerusalem
You’re right, it’s not safe, this following of the Lord.
To quote Mr. Beaver, in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe,
“He’s not a tame lion.”
There are going to be risks and confusion, pain and uncertainty, unbelievable circumstances resolved in unimaginable ways, and all along, the opportunity to build intentional faith instead of feeding irrational fear.
Location is irrelevant.
Really, friends, it is.
Whether you live in Jerusalem, or Bend, or Los Angeles, or Pompey’s Pillar, or London: you will have an opportunity to learn to lean on God’s grace, faithfulness, provision, and protection.
At some point in our hearts, we know there isn’t guaranteed safety and comfort but our security in our identity as Children of the Most High God provides the only safety net we truly need.
We don’t serve a lump of wood or hammered metal formed into a shape resembling a man but powerless to answer us, rather, our allegiance is to serve the One who lives and intercedes for us, orchestrating situations and circumstances beyond our control.
We serve the One who can turn mountains to dust in a moment and yet keeps us, in our fragile human state, by His righteousness and His Word; a hedge around us.
When the rocks are thrown,
He catches the brunt of their weight and we are not harmed although the fracturing of our vision may need time to heal.
When the potential threat is right underneath our feet,
He intervenes and carries it away.
When the way ahead is filled with potential destruction,
He is the voice speaking to us, “Go another way.”
When those we love are too far away from us,
He walks beside them.
When we go the wrong way and end up far away from our destination.
He stays beside us to insure we are safe and secure until our Brother can come and take us home.
There is no place safer to live than in the center of God’s will for your life.
Even here, in the Middle East, no matter what the news is telling you.