I’ve just returned from a pilgrimage in Israel. And while I’m sure that my “soul moments”and insights from the trip will trickle out for awhile, What’s on my mind today is our “rest day” side trip to Petra.
Let me set the stage. My folks, siblings and our spouses set out at 3:30 am for Petra, a 6 hour drive from Jerusalem. Our driver was auditioning for the Indy 500 and we made it to the border by 7:30. Nour walked us through the Israeli exit process after which we walked through the few hundred yards between Israel and Jordan. Very surreal. I felt a little like a refugee in this moment. We reached the Jordanian border where we were met by our guide, Hajj. Hajj walked us through the entry process to Jordan like a pro and it was on to Petra. On a side note, having guides to do all that for us is the only way to go!
It was a 2 hour drive to Petra during which Hajj told us about Jordanian life and history. Hajj is Muslim and we visited on the first day of Ramadan. This gave us an opportunity to ask more about the Muslim faith. Much of the foundational history of the Muslim faith is similar to Christianity, with their forefathers including Moses and Abraham. They also believe in Jesus, as a prophet, not as the Savior as in Christianity.
He told us how Muslims and Christians live together peacefully in Jordan. Which is different than how I have thought about the Middle East. He served as such an Ambassador for his country, and for his faith. I say that because he spoke openly, at least it seemed that way, and non-judgementally about the differences between his Muslim faith and Christianity. What Hajj shared with us layered on what I’d already been thinking about, noticing, during our trip. Each one of us is different, but we’re the same.
It’s so easy to spend time looking at how we’re different and miss out on the ways we’re the same. In our rush to “size someone up,”to label them, we can miss the fact that we’re a bunch of people who are often just trying to fit others into the mold that fits our narrative. On the pilgrimage, we met people like Hajj, saw women at the Wailing Wall (women are separated from men at the wall and at any Jewish holy site), I watched little Jewish boys in their school uniforms walking across the plaza at the Wailing Wall, people shopping in the street, Bedouins along the road, selling their scarves, beads, just to feed their family. In each of those situations, it would be so easy to label and judge if you were not careful. Their lives so different.
But why? What’s the point in that? And is that really what we’re called to do? I think not. This pilgrimage, our time with different people, those we met and those we experienced, they moved me, shifted me. When we look at others as people, as actual people, not the label we give them, our hearts are more open. And the same goes for those we may not agree with, just people. When we humanize someone instead of putting them in a box, it does wonders for our hearts and creates bridges to relationships.
I think those relationships are part of the authenticity journey. Showing compassion, love, and genuine concern for others, that’s part of it too. It requires shutting off the fear based voice in my head, the one that yells STOP – that’s different – instead of pressing forward with openness and heartfelt love for others.
Getting back to Petra for a minute, all I can say is WOW! If you ever have the chance, go. It was fascinating, beautiful and the history is so interesting. You can live your inner Indiana Jones, as my brother did, or just simply be amazed at the ancient architecture.
You’ll hear more from me about this pilgrimage, this search into my soul, but today I have a challenge for you. Love each other. Think of it this way, as different faiths were described to me by a woman on the plane. Take a tree and look at the trunk, that’s the core of who we all are. The branches are the ways we are different, but all stemming from same base. I loved that analogy and am running with it. Do what you will with it, but have your own moment today, loving each other.