Something in my heart has changed. I don't know how long it will last but I hope it's permanent.
All my life, I've lived in the Bible belt and for most of my life, I've been a state employee and fairly conscious of what is politically correct and what isn't. Plus, my basic temperament is such that I hate to hurt anyone or cause any type of conflict. And all those things are still true.
But during our two weeks overseas, some things changed for me. It's taken me a couple of more weeks to process it all and I may still be processing it for some time to come. Basically, I lived among a people who are smart as a whole, energetic, hard-working, and outspoken. Very generous and very family oriented. But not the Bible belt. I didn't hear Amazing Grace being sung on every street corner, so-to-speak and at times I felt called on to defend my faith, which I think I did very badly. I was not prepared. I think I know quite a bit of the Bible but I wasn't able to apply it at critical times. As I've already indicated, being at Yad Vashem was tough, as I knew it would be but I had no idea that my faith would take a nose dive momentarily as I looked at one wall after another of larger-than-life cruelty on a scale I've never seen personally and never hope to see. On a much lesser note, sometimes traffic in Tel Aviv was scary - even when we were on a huge tourist bus. There were some times in traffic when my heart was in my throat and I was praying every second, literally.
And then there were times of acute homesickness. I loved being with my sister, getting to see unusual sites in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Caeserea - so many opportunities that I hope will come again but which, realistically, may not. So I tried to savor those moments as much as possible. But simply put, I really missed my husband. We'd never been separated for more than a week and sometimes I would tear up after a long day of site-seeing when I'd just hear his voice over the phone. At those times, when I was tired and he was just a dis-embodied voice coming from 6,000 miles away, I could momentarily bottom out. I just missed him. Seriously.
And I missed church. I just wanted at times to be with a group of believers. No, that's not accurate. I wanted to be at my church, to be sitting in my Sunday School class or to be in the balcony listening to our pastors and singing songs that I know by heart.
The Bible and a Corrie Ten Boom book, Jesus is Victor, were a tremendous help. But when I was too tired to understand what I was reading or too weak to have faith - as at Yad Vashem - I literally felt the presence of God. What I'm saying the best I know how is that, at critical times, I failed Him. But He didn't fail me.
I first believed in Christ when I was 8 and I've been in church all my life. I probably should be acutely aware every day of how Jesus saved me from the power of sin and from eternal separation from God. But honestly, I'm not. It's been so many years since I first understood and felt the fear of dying without Him that I don't spend my days being grateful for what He did on the cross for me.
And because I've always been in church and I'm what Corrie ten Boom would call a "decent sinner" (meaning I haven't murdered anyone, cheated on my spouse, etc. ) I can "get it" that I'm not perfect but inside I can feel like I'm pretty darn good, like I'm reading my Bible, trying to help others at times, trying to follow the teachings of the Bible... And inside I may be thinking actually about how much better I am than so-and-so over here or how I deserve for God to do x,y,z for me b/c I'm basically a "good girl".
But over there, in a heated discussion about faith, I was not a "good girl". I was offended and to my surprise, gave as good as I got, trading insult for insult. (I guess the school teacher came out in me!) That night, as I lay in bed going back and forth between nursing my sense of grievances and confessing my sins, God brought a verse to mind that I would never have thought of in a million years. As I lay there, these words flowed through my mind and heart: Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake... (II Cor. 12:10) I don't ever remember memorizing that particular verse although it's possible that I did hide it in my heart back when I was in my twenties. But I really doubt that I did it even back then - it's just never been a favorite of mine. As soon as the words began to filter through my mind, I understood that God was convicting me. Intellectually, I knew that He was telling me I had not been willing that day to graciously accept an insult or two for His sake. But the amazing thing was that while I was being convicted, I felt nothing but total love, total acceptance. Acceptance like I can't ever remember experiencing before. Ever.
He brought me through all of that - the culture shock, the tiredness, the homesickness, the times of doubt and discouragement. (And here again, He didn't have to bring me through the many good times! Please keep that in mind!) And by He, I mean Jesus. He brought me through my fears and touched my heart when no one else could. When I was scared, I didn't care, honestly, if it was pc to plead the blood of Christ. I just silently did it and if the traffic had gotten any worse, I probably would have done it out loud!
This morning I was reading in John 1, NLT. And in the margin I started listing all the things that Jesus is:
1. He is the Word.
2. He is eternal - existed in eternity past.
3. He is the creator - everything was created by Him.
4. He is the life-giver.
5. He brings light to me.
6. He is stronger than the darkness in the world and He always will be.
7. He is acquainted with rejection. (Also in Isaiah 53).
8. He is the One who gives us the right to call God "Abba".
9. He is God who took on flesh so that He could live and walk among us.
And then I got to this verse (1:14b). He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And I thought, "No, He is full of unfailing love and faithfulness." And He showed me that every day of my trip and has been with me every day since as I sort through the many memories and impressions.
What would the trip have been like without Him?
And what do I owe Him?
Ask me and I'll tell you. For me, it's not about being pc anymore. It's about a real and living Jesus who made all the difference in my life and continues to do so.