You know how you can get into a car and drive, then arrive at your destination with no memory of the journey? That's how I felt when I landed in Israel. I have no idea how I got here.
A few months ago Kathy said, "We're going to Israel, and we want you both to come. Will you?" For two people who read the Bible, watch the news, love history and love to travel, Pete and I were shockingly uninterested in Israel. I always assumed that if I went, I would go in my 60's--I guess because most of the people who go to Israel seem to be in their 60's. But who would be crazy enough to pass down a free trip to Israel? We said yes immediately.
A couple months after that, Pete interviewed for a new job. The person he was interviewing to replace was leaving for a two week missionary evaluation, and the company informed him that they wouldn't hold his job for two weeks. When Pete brought up the Israel trip during the interview, his soon-to-be boss said, "We might be able to get you one week off. Possibly. Maybe." Our flights were already booked and the trip was nearly three weeks long, but not taking the job wasn't an option. He took it.
As our the trip approached, we started to look at our finances. It dawned on us that we weren't going to be going on a free trip; we were going on a trip that cost three week's wages. The timing was rotten. We were preparing to pay nearly $4,000 in taxes, after which we would be officially broke. Suddenly we were going on an extravagant trip to a place we weren't very excited about, and Pete didn't even have the time off work.
It happened this quickly:
One week before the trip, Pete's boss managed to bring in an out-of-work instructor to cover Pete's students.
Five days before our trip we had our taxes done, and we found out that our tuition credits added up to an $800 refund, not a $4,000 payment.
We got on a plane.
On our overnight stay in Galilee, our little group lingered over dinner and talked about the journey leading up to this trip. Pete and I talked about the time off work and taxes, and what a miracle it all seemed on this end of it. Then Jon said something that I've been contemplating ever since. He said he senses that God is calling people who have no agenda for Israel to come to Israel. For the first time, I felt like I understood why I'm here. I came with absolutely no agenda. You can call it prophetic ignorance or a nuanced view, but I have very little opinions about Israel and its politics. I didn't come to minister to Israel. I didn't come to bless or be blessed by Israel. I guess you could say that I came to experience it, but I didn't have any expectations about what I would experience. A few days before we departed, Kathy had asked me what was on my list of things to do in Israel. No such list existed.
Everything about this trip is so far removed from how I typically travel and anticipate travel, which makes it easy for me to believe that God really did invite me here. I didn't choose to come. I don't even know how I got here. God brought me here without an agenda, and he wants me to listen for His. This trip has been the single most important (and timely) lessons in missions and life that I have yet learned: Listen. Listen, listen, listen. If you get the invitation, by all means, go! But then sit and listen. Experience and listen. Ask questions and listen. Pray and listen. Ponder what it means to listen until the word 'listen' has lost all meaning, and then listen some more. It's a discipline to perfect yet never achieve. Listen.
The other night Pete and I were in bleachers watching a basketball game between the Orthodox Club and the Muslim Club. Pete leaned in and asked, "So, do you want to move here?" I said yes, immediately. Maybe we'll move here someday, maybe we won't, but our ears are more open now then they were before. God can take me anywhere now, and I won't be surprised when I land and say, "I have no idea how I got here."