The morning brought with it abundant and life-giving sunshine as well as one of my favorite sites of ancient ruins thus far – Bet She’an.
Our group somehow had a stolen hour to ourselves in this fascinating ancient city which lies at the junction of the Valley of Jezreel and the Jordan River Valley. And according to 1 Samuel 31, this is the very location where Saul’s body was hung on the wall by the Philistines – probably on the wall surrounding the Tell (the great mound in the middle of the above photo).
We wandered through the excavated streets and structures from the Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, and more. Because we wore ear pieces allowing us to easily hear our guide describe the vast history of the places we visit, I was able to venture just ahead of the group most of the morning and truly take in the life that was held on these very streets over the centuries – scenes from the memory of this site seemed to flood my seneses as I imagined what I would be doing as a 24 year old female during the life of this place – the various roles I would have played as an Egyptian, a Roman, etc. My favorite part of traveling is trying to tune into the unique rhythm of a place – if you listen, you can feel it – and no other place will move you in quite the same way.
A few of us couldn’t resist being invigoratingby racing to the top of the Tell and overlooking the valley of ruins.
Fun trivia for you – a portion of Jesus Christ Superstar was filmed here in Bet She’an, and they left a remnant from their filming on the Tell.
After enjoying the endorphin rush of the climb, we loaded the bus and departed for Jordan – I again had a bit of trouble crossing the border as they kept making calls about my passport, but all ended well. Kimberly had told me that the contrast between Jordan and Israel would be apparent upon the moment of crossing the border – and it was. Israel is truly a land flowing with milk and honey, whereas Jordan is much more sparse and impoverished. It was reminiscent of Kolkata and Uganda in some respects, yet with a dusted tan backdrop of vast, rocky mountains.
But what struck me most was the women – there is this quiet and beautiful strength I have noticed about the face of a woman in an extremely male-dominant society – the same realization hit while again in Kolkata and last year in Syria – and the memory was brought to the forefront of my mind upon catching the glance of a woman with captivating brown alomnd-shaped eyes while peering through the bus window. The quiet strength is an almost indescribable trait with which I cannot empathize and only notice – and yet it is somehow an unspoken bond between the women of the land.
We journeyed through the rocky and barren terrain up to Mount Nebo – and I must confess that the drive alone challenge my spirit and nearly left me sick to my stomach – I truly could not imagine wandering through that land for 40 YEARS with Moses!!!! It was a big check for my spirit to begin to question whether I would remain faithful and trusting of the Lord’s promise to Moses or if I would have added to the chorus of complaints.
And with this terrain in mind, the veiw from Mount Nebo was even more powerful. There was a slight haze in the air and visibility was therefore not as clear as some said it can be – but it was breathtaking to see the land gradually become more smooth and reveal a valley of fertile land.
I kept trying to imagine the emotions Moses would have felt upon finally approaching this summit. One of the pastors in our group encouraged us to remember that the man who stood on top of Mount Nebo overlooking the Promised Land was the same man overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy while standing before the burning bush. And yet because of one act of disobedience, he was only able to view the Promised Land and would never dwell in it. It was overwhelming and impossible to imagine what filled Moses as he stood at the very place where my feet were at that moment – perhaps a mixture of relief that it was over, grief over that one act of disobedience, awareness of what Joshua would face as he would then lead the people, amazement at the scope of his life and how God had fulfilled His promises that must have seemed absurd at the time, peace that He had continued to press on and lead faithfully even when He knew He would never set foot in the lush land, joy that His descendents would finally taste the fruits of the land flowing with milk and honey…
Pastor Lyon also reminded us what a cost is attached to leadership. This notion urged me to pick up a rock for myself and a couple others who feel called to be leaders of The Church – it is only a rock, but it symbolizes much to me – it symbolized the importance of never forgetting what saying Yes to the call entails, it symbolizes that God will fulfill His promises, and it especially symbolizes the realization that I may never actually walk in the Promised Land but I must remain faithful to it – it reminds me that my obedience matters not because of what I may get out of it, but because of what it may prepare for God’s people that I may never (and probably will not) see this side of Heaven. I pray that at the end of my life, I would be able to see a glimpse of what a life of obedience could prepare – however, that must not be the goal – the goal must not be for some satisfaction just for myself – it must ultimately be for the glory of God and His people – it is easy to say, but much more difficult to allow to sink into the core of your being – but it does fuel me to keep pressing on and keep telling the people to ‘go forward’ (Exodus 14:15) as Darlene Zschech urged the listening lead-worshippers at the Hillsong Coference a few years ago. It was all sobering for me in a necessarily holy way.
With a full heart, our day’s journey ended in a Bedouin hotel in the outskirts of Jordan – only after watching Indiana Jones on the long bus ride to get us ready to explore the ancient city of Petra the next day!😄