Oh Egypt; land of pharaohs and no Internet. The group is back to the Jerusalem Center after our first big field trip and everyone is kissing the ground of this place for its potable water, Internet connection and big bowls of fruit that won’t give you the “[runs] like an Egyptian.”
Egypt was a bit of a disorienting experience for me. The only thing that was more surreal than being at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza, was knowing that it was not my first time there. There are people that dream their whole lives of going to the only surviving wonder of the ancient world and I’ve been there twice at the tender age of whatever. The overwhelming feeling of being so spoiled and not understanding why, detached me from about the first five days of our seven-day trip.
Being in Luxor improved things a bit. We went on a camel safari through a local village and for the first time got to see the real Egypt . The poverty blew my paradigms of this land. The dregs of the descendants of what was once the greatest civilization on earth were anything but.
There was irony in the fact these beautiful people came running out of their make-shift houses to wave at all of these American’s gliding by elevated above them. There was also stronger symbolism in the fact that the vehicle keeping the Americans elevated was a temperamental and unreliable animal; more unpredictable than riding a dinosaur.
Its experiences like that that make me feel like I’m not doing nearly enough to make a difference in the world and make me wonder where would I even start if I wanted to be a drop in the bucket for the making of a better world. So, the thing permeating my thoughts on the felucca ride back to our hotel was not an idle enjoyment of the day or even an awe at the beauty of the Nile , but the pressing thought that life is just hard. Their lives and the path they’ve been asked to tread, my life for feeling so inadequate and unable to help them.
Fast-forward four days, hiking up the steep and devastatingly boulder strewn face of Mt. Sinai at two in the morning and rather than noticing that I’ve never seen so many stars in my life or just trying to comprehend the fact that the Lord himself was here, I was distracted by my exhausted body and this pressing idea of the overwhelming amount of camel poop on the trail of life.
Hours of hiking did their job and I found a precariously comfortable spot to sit while we waited for the sun. Still grumpy, I acknowledged the beauty of the view, but no more then I would if I had hiked Old Rag in good ole Northern Virginia . I don’t know at what point the scene changed, but light increased on the horizon and in my heart and the perfect light of the sun finally piercing the dull haze of the almost morning and the dull haze of my pessimism. I went from being ungrateful and detached to being left completely dumbstruck by the beauty and power of this lofty mountain grandeur’ that I hadn’t even imagined when I had been trudging its backside.
It was then that I thought of a scripture in Hebrews that had made it into my study of late. “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.” If I had had even so much as a inkling of what awaited me at the top of that mountain no number of aggressive Bedouins or amount of camel poop on the trail could have been sufficient to keep me down.
That persistent prodding of life being so hard is put in perspective by being mindful of that country from whence we came out. It isn’t the time to put down my sword and just stop fighting for a better world, but knowing; really knowing that God is in his heaven and has a place for us there makes the things that are difficult to the point of stifling your sense of empowerment, just a passing detail in your journal; significant to time in your life, but ultimately just an accessory of yellowing pages and no-longer-important sentiments.