I am probably the only person you know who would choose to procrastinate about a writing project by writing something else. But here I am. And even though the rest of my time today will be devoted to finishing my first ever exegetical essay, part of my mind is thinking about travelling.
Everyday when I sit down at my desk, I have in front of me souvenirs from some of my most memorable and formative trips…my bear who stands on his head acquired on a Thanksgiving trip to Berlin, my bear with tree from Madrid (the symbol of that amazing city…I think a theme is developing), my miniature Arena from my summers in Verona, a commemorative tile of the many Aidas I saw there, and my two favorites — a beautiful single blue and white tile decorated with images of dancing whirling dervishes and a small replica of Christus Pancrator from the Chora Monastery, both remembrances of my trip to Istanbul two years ago this Thanksgiving. A lot of my most memorable trips happen over the Thanksgiving holidays, and I’m about to set sail (so to speak) on another one in just a few days.
I am, after 30 years of waiting, going to Israel.
I have a lot of complicated feelings about this trip. The timing is inconvenient, I have a lot going on and a lot of obligations to complete. I don’t really feel like travelling…I have a lot of work over the next month…I like to have the holidays at home…I’m going to miss my dog…I’m going to miss two weeks in a row at church…the list goes on and on and on.
And then, I look at my whirling dervishes and my fake piece of fresco…and suddenly I am standing in the middle of the Hagia Sophia with the bright lights and the smells and that feeling of eternity that comes to me when I stand where so many before me have stood in worship.
On my worst days, those days like today when I don’t know why I am doing what I am doing and when my sense of faith and connection seems a distant memory, I remember those moments and I hold on because I have stood where other Christians have stood in faith and I have felt their presence. I have worshiped alongside the memory and spirit of the saints who have come before me. And remembering that history and those traditions is a large part of my living faith. As quoted in the introduction to the book Walking Where Jesus Walked: Worship in the Fourth Century Jerusalem (by John D. Witvliet and published by the Calvin Institute), former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams once wrote: “…there is a sameness in the work of God….We are not the first to walk this way; run your hand down the wood and the grain is still the same.” I find great comfort in that thought.
The time will never be right. There will never be a clear enough space in my schedule; there will probably not in my life time be peace in that part of the world. And something deep in my soul says that no matter how tired I am now or how much I have to do, I can no longer wait to make this pilgrimage.
The time is now. It is also time to finish my paper.