Five years ago this month, I was given the opportunity to tour Israel with a group of other journalists, as a guest of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Fully aware that this was a rare and rich blessing, I was determined to keep my eyes open the whole time, taking in as much as I could and processing the experience later. And there was a lot to take in!
Starting with the first day of our whirlwind tour, it was overwhelming. Everything was dazzling–from the gorgeous weather and blazing sunshine to the colorful land, the historical and cultural feast, and the wonderful food (for a burger & fries type, it might have felt like a cultural experience; as a vegetarian who never met a vegetable, fruit, or whole grain I didn’t like, I felt as if my tongue had come home). And the biblical sites soon left my head spinning. In Caesarea I gained a whole new understanding of the significance of the Roman occupation of the land. In Nazareth I was surprised to see a city sprawling along the mountainside, much larger than the small village of Jesus day but still boasting a small reproduction of what life may have been like during his time there. Jerusalem’s beauty, cultural contrasts, archaeological wealth, and repository of human stories nearly made my head explode. And everywhere in between, I was fascinated by ruin after ruin, layer upon layer, dating back thousands of years.
At each site we were greeted by warm, friendly people–Jews, Muslims, and Christians–who understood and acknowledged the depth to which faith has shaped the history of that remarkable place.
As we interacted with Israelis, I found myself contrasting life in modern-day Israel with my life in suburban Chicago. I found it amusing that in the U.S., we get excited about seeing our own historical artifacts, some of which date back three or four hundred years. Last year, on a trip to Washington D.C., I saw the extreme care taken to protect and preserve documents and structures that represent the founding of our nation less than three hundred years ago. Yet here were Israelis, literally walking on stones worn smooth by hundreds and thousands of years of human footprints. I found myself wondering what it be like to live in a place surrounded by evidence of thousands of years of history, by deeply holy sites, by reminders of great things God has done, by the markings of generations of God’s faithfulness and power, by places where he has so clearly intervened in human events.
Then I realized . . . I do. We all do. My life and my home are filled with daily experiences of God’s faithfulness and power. So is my family tree. The world around us bears constant testimony to who God is. Every single one of us is a walking love letter, a work of art that communicates volumes about the beauty and grace of one who would create such impressive beings. And his people–the church worldwide–is a living, breathing, baffling, always changing, and inspiring artifact. I myself am a series of minor miracles.
For the last 10 days, I have been in recovery from spinal-fusion surgery, a procedure that has been conducted for only about that last 100 years of human history. Its ingenuity is based on all of human history and the learning and innovation of each generation, using what God has placed in our hands to do remarkable things. And when I take a little time to think about what has been accomplished just in this one procedure (I am no longer squeamish to do so now that it’s behind me), it’s marvelous. I went to sleep and woke up with my pain–which had been constant for months and sometimes excruciating–entirely gone. Eventually, when the much-more-manageable pain from the surgery has faded completely (and I’m no longer wearing a brace that forces me into the regal bearing of Queen Elizabeth I), I will be left with nothing more than a small scar to remind me of my body’s incredible power to heal.
Like all of us, I have healed many times. And I have taken it for granted. Fifteen years ago today, I gave birth to a whole new person–and sometimes I take my children for granted. I have eaten good food, I have loved the best of people, I have laughed nearly every day of my life. And I have probably overlooked God’s goodness even more often. I have walked over it as easily as the stones in the streets of Jerusalem, bearing the daily weight of residents, soldiers, and pilgrims.
Well, today I’m noticing. And if my surgeon would allow it, I would bend to see it under my feet. I’m thanking God for healing–and for so much more. And I’m thankful that God’s fingerprint is so pervasively embedded in our world, where we make it so painfully obvious that we can’t quite get things right on our own. It can take a lot to get the attention of these amazing creatures, so accustomed to walking among miracles.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.