When I was growing up we took a cross-country family vacation every year. Mom and Dad in the front seat with Mom in charge of snacks and Dad in charge of car games. Like Alphabet and Twenty Questions.
In the back seat were me and my two brothers, Cris and David and we were in charge of…Well, let’s just say we were in charge of surviving the road trip without killing each other. We were kids, so to that end we would draw imaginary lines across which the sibling sitting next to us couldn’t cross. With a toe or an elbow or a pinky. We each had our own 3’x3′ “kingdom”. Only kids would do that, right?
Not so much.
We’re still traveling in the Middle East and a theme seems to be line drawing.
Thursday night, John and I had Turkish coffee with a Muslim refugee family who have been living since 1948 in the U.N. refugee camp next to our hotel. Their home looks much like a simple apartment except for the fact that they still have the key to the home they had to flee. After coffee the father walked us through the darkened streets, showing us the different places where friends and family had been killed, one shot by a sniper shooting from the roof of the hotel where we were staying just a block away. A line has been drawn between refugees and Israeli settlers.
Saturday night we celebrated a Shabbat service with a Jewish community to welcome in the Sabbath. The women had to sit separate from the men, a line and a partition down the middle of the worship space. On the other side the men recited prayers and danced and sang while we women felt a bit like marginalized on-lookers. A line between men and women.
Yesterday morning we visited the Old City of Jerusalem, again divided by lines – the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter.
And within the old city there’s the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, commemorating where Jesus was crucified. It too is divided and certain religions can only worship at certain times. There were so many crowds of people, shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along, jostling for a place to get close to a “holy site”. And I kept thinking of Isaiah 53:6 – “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to his own way…”
But then after all these lines, there was Nadia, who we met after driving to the border of Jordan. A border with six distinct lines, each with a different requirement we had to fulfill before we could move to the next one. I half expected them to say “Now do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around, cuz that’s what it’s all about!!”, but these guys definitely weren’t playing games when a guard raised his gun to John who tried to walk where he shouldn’t.
Nadia is a Muslim Israeli from Nazareth who spends one whole day every week traveling and crossing the border so she can attend school the following day in Jordan, working towards her doctorate. She crossed every line – religious, cultural, language, and nationality to reach out to us and gently guide us through each step of the crossing, including paying for the cab we were required to take the last 100 yards.
Nadia got me to thinking about the lines we drew as kids and those we draw as adults. Or just miss seeing. Invisible lines I may be neglecting to cross, even out of apathy.
Am I actively watching with Jesus, for the foreigner, or the outcast so that I can cross lines like He did instead of drawing them? What about you?