One aspect of this trip has been well-nourished without any choice in the matter: That of intellectual stimulation and fresh experiences. Those were scheduled and booked; all I needed to do was show up!
But another portion of this trip is quite different. It is the finding of space to breathe. It is quiet and stillness. It is what differentiates between a journey and a retreat. To be sure, this experience has been a rich journey, as I knew it would. But my soul came needing the other as well. And this weekend has provided enough room to carve out just such a spot.
Today and yesterday featured less-than-full schedules. In fact, yesterday I awoke after a longer-than-sleep to realize that it was the first morning I really awoke refreshed and ready to go. And I wasn’t going anywhere—and I was just fine with that.
Both of these days featured a lecture at some point in the day, with a conversation sometime in the night. Beside those two parts, everything was negotiable. So with myself, negotiations began. And within ten seconds, we had consensus. I would catch up on my journal and blog, I would be in touch with Shannon, I would read some, I would sleep a bit more than usual, and I would embrace the quiet and peace of this unique place called Tantur. And I would do all of this while resisting the inner pressure that I should be “doing something else”.
Yesterday, our afternoon lecture was about Judaism: Ancient and Modern. The fellow presenting has scheduled the lecture earlier-than-usual in the afternoon so that he could get home to his family to help with Sabbath preparations for sundown. As he left, he said, “Shalom.” We replied. Then he corrected himself with, “Shabbat Shalom,” the typical Sabbath greeting, which wishes to its hearer some taste of the Shalom (peace) of God that is to be sampled on each Sabbath.
This weekend has been a Sabbath, and I have tasted some of Shalom.
The planned pieces of the weekend involved a lecture on Judaism (mentioned above), an evening conversation with Timothy & Lisa Lowe, the new rectors of Tantur Institute, and a morning lecture on Biblical Geography. Tonight, we will also visit a pasturing Palestinian couple, who live in Bethlehem, on the other side of the security barrier.
Suffice it here to say that the lectures were both quite interesting. Both presenters were excellent, though some of the “everyday”, practical applications for here on may not be easy to spell out. But interesting and educational? For sure.
On the other hand, the conversation last night with the Lowes was particularly encouraging to me. One strand woven throughout their lives was that of not always knowing where they were going. In fact, this was true that their lives looked at times, even to them, like a smattering of completely unrelated pieces. Yet now, those “unrelated” pieces have come together in a downright shocking manner. Religiously and personally, their paths have been colourful and varied, sometimes risky, sometimes more stable. But their story was so real. It resonated with my frequent feelings of, “Where am I going?” And it reminded me of a simple truth that I forget too easily: God knows.
And that made my breathing easier last night. And I think it walked me into my current taste of Shabbat Shalom. And that’s one reason why this weekend has been for me perhaps “just what the doctor ordered”.