During my semester in Israel, I learned a LOT. . . everyday. But some of those lessons stick out a lot more than others. On one particular day I received a great lesson in attitude. Fortunately, I chose to write about it in my Impression Report. I have to admit, it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve written. It is also convicting every time I read it. I’ve been thinking a lot about attitude lately, and decided to pull it out and share it. First, you have to know two things: 1) much of Israel in the fall is a dry, brown, barren, dusty place; and 2) our wonderful professor, Dr. Paul Wright, considered a 10-mile hike through rocky steep hills to be a relaxing Saturday afternoon. Oh, and this particular hike took place at about 7:30am, and Dr. Wright dragged us from the bus for “just a quick little walk” to see the Sorek Valley. In the second paragraph I turn into a Biblical sort of English and it gets stuck there. What can I say? It’s a journal entry.
Here ya go. . .
My truth came early, as we walked along the Sorek. Most of us anticipated a quick 5-minute walk,maybe 10, down the trail. We knew what would be said at the end, a Psalm or two, something that could easily be done from the parking lot. Not yet awake, most us didn’t really feel like walking very far. As we walked and walked and walked even farther, many of us (including me) began to feel somewhat deceived. This was no short walk. This was a long hike down only to stop, read a verse, and walk all the way back up. Fortunately, it was more flat than most of our other hikes, but slopey nonetheless. On the way back I was thinking some rather complaining thoughts to myself about not having water and not feeling well and just wishing I had stayed on the bus. Two of the guys walked past me, speaking my thoughts. My first instinct was to say “Don’t complain,” when I realized that I had been doing exactly that in my mind.
Which reminds me of a story I once read in the Book, a story of a people in Egypt who were told they were to go to the Promised Land of Canaan. And lo, they knew an approximate distance to this land to be a journey of about two weeks along the roads, for they had heard their masters speak of it. And following great signs and wonders they followed their leader, Moshe, out of the land of Egypt. For though it was a lush and beautiful and bountiful land, it was a land of bondage and slavery, and all the splendor of the land was wrought by their own labors and yet they enjoyed none of it. And so they set out to their Promised Land.
But they did not go the way they expected, through the established roads of the land, but by way of a sea. And when they arrived at the sea they despaired and said, “It is over with us!” But God divided the sea and they walked across it, and those who had kept them in bondage and exploited their labor were killed in His wrath. So the people thought to themselves, “Now we are free and will arrive soon at the Promised Land.” But it was not so.
And the people spent much time in the land which they expected to pass through quickly; yea, even onto forty years, doing little more than traveling in circles and living among the sands of the desert. And they grumbled and complained for water, for food, for lack of something better to do. And the pain of their past bondage was forgotten and what prevailed was the memory of the beauty they had once lived in, though they enjoyed it not.
As I pondered this story it occurred to me that myself and the two that passed me on the trail were liken unto the Israelites. For we had prior expectations of what our short hike would entail, and they were not met; indeed, they were surpassed. For we did not walk five minutes, or even ten, but nigh unto twenty five – and that only in one direction. And when we finally arrived at our destination it seemed the purpose simple and unnecessary, only to have to return again from whence we came. For these reasons it seemed appropriate to grumble against our instructor.
But as I thought of the grumbling hearts of the Israelites, I marveled not at a God who would give to His children the blessing of a Promised Land filled with pain and wilderness. For the Israelites noticed only that which they did not like, and appreciated not the manna nor the water nor any of the other good things which God had given them; and if God was to have Himself remembered among them He must give them something difficult, that it might be said “this is the gift of God,” and not “this is the good we have wrought by our own hands.” And I determined at that moment in my heart to no longer grumble against my instructor, lest the same sort of blessing be bestowed upon me.”