We have been home from our extravagant adventure for a couple of weeks already, but I am just now finding space and words to attempt to document some of the journey. Reentry into every-day life is always brimming with emotion and challenge following most vacations, but my transition from this particular expedition continues to press in on me with no sign of letting up just yet. ‘You will find yourself homesick for Israel,’ our guide had warned. The plane hadn’t reached JKF and I felt his words full and real somewhere deep inside. Homesick- for a place I only just met, yet one which felt familiar, easy. Homesick over more than simple geography, but rather the environment in which our pilgrimage cultivated.
Traveling in a group of nearly 60, we arrived in Tel Aviv mostly strangers- acquaintances- departing two weeks later bonded in a unique, eternal fashion. Touring the country by way of bus, boat and foot, we ate meals together, immersed ourselves in the study and revelation each site offered; We wept together in moments thick with understanding and laughed until we wept again in others. And while the near-constant companionship of a few dozen could at times exhaust any introverted tendencies, I spent the entire trip invigorated and inspired by those around me. Men and women of all ages, personalities across the spectrum, the lot of us as different and yet the same as could be. At some point it struck me how similar our experience felt to what Acts describes of the early church, in its youthful, wide-eyed days.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; (Acts 2:42-44 NASB)
Here and now, back in Tennessee up on our secluded country hill- a place I love to call home – the realization of our culture’s isolation by design shines bright before me against the horizon of my Israel experience. While the beauty and peace of this quiet acreage feeds me, I am Homesick for the bread breaking, the devotion to teaching, the fellowship. I am homesick for Acts 2.
But then again, aren’t we all?
The hunger for connection exists in all of us, though we often mask appetites with busyness, distract our pangs of relational starvation with social media substitutes, and attempt to convince we never cared much for the taste of community anyway. If we are honest, drop the independent facade for a moment, aren’t we all a little homesick for a meal around the table together?
Realism has enough of a hold for me to understand how far-fetched the idea of such a lifestyle is in our current society, and I wonder at what point in those days of the apostles did it cease. The Holy Spirit fell upon the Church and they lived in one accord, a glimpse of the glorious fellowship awaiting them for all eternity. In those infant days, persecution of the Church was a given, believers ridiculed and mocked for their beliefs; I imagine many abandoned by their families and friends in the blink of an eye. In the hard, the painful, the potentially lonely, the apostles and believers grew in strength together with a hope unwavering.
Several months ago I watched a compelling documentary about the worldwide persecution of the modern-day Church. One featured church in the Middle East was shown gathering together following their services to share pizzas and conversation within the safety of the church compound. Laughter and peaceful dialogue filled the small courtyard while just outside the walls, danger watched and waited. The pastor interviewed explained how essential it was for the young group of believers to not only attend service together, but to engage and invest in deep relationships. The attacks and persecution so real and heavy against Christians in that area of the world, having a group of people supporting them is vital. The coming together, sharing a story and some bread, is part of their very survival…And I can’t help but wonder when darker days here in the Western world arrive, will we be prepared to link arms or will we falter in hope and faith, because we were simply too busy, too self-sufficient, to imagine being created to fight the good fight as a chorus and not mere soloist?
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB)
Weeks have passed, and the ache for Home only increases. I go through my days- the cleaning, the meal-prepping, the child-rearing with a constant flood of thoughts, questions, conversation filling my mind. The excitement over what I saw and learned in Israel now mixing with what God continues to show me in His Word, and the daily tick of the world’s headlines, creating a deep desire to process it all with my people. But they are scattered, immersed in their routines as I am mine. While I have yet to uncover any brilliant (or even sub-par) answers on how to incorporate some of this aspect from my Israel experience, here in the everyday, it is overwhelmingly obvious as each day passes how far off the mark we are when it comes to depth of relationship and strength in community. I have a gratitude too deep to fully name for the opportunity to have shared a table with those 60 pilgrims for two weeks. The experience changed me in ways I am still discovering every day. I pray for more of that in my time on earth. Even if each gathering, every chorus of worship or laughter, only strengthens my sickness for Home.