Over the Edge

    She began hiking up the rocky hill. Although it had been chilly that morning in Jerusalem, it had suddenly gotten hot and dry. After all, she had descended to nearly the lowest point on the planet. The group was scheduled to repel down the mountains of Qumran within view of the Dead Sea. She had already been to Qumran once, when they came to see (from afar) the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Now she found herself climbing along those same hills. And, already, she was clinging to the rock wall side of the trail and not looking down. A little high.
     She's not afraid of heights. No, no. She simply respects them. After all, it's not the fall that kills you. It's the ground. It would be silly to be afraid of the ground, right? So she respects heights. They offer a great view. Too good a view to pass up.
    She was actually perfectly fine... that is until the guy started going over safety rules. Weird, huh? She pulled on the harness, a little nervous about its fitting, as she paid close attention to the instructions. Wait a second, we are doing it one-handed? Friction? How does that even work? He made it look so easy, but he was leaning at a 45 degree angle off a rock.
    The real fear started to come when she got close to the edge. It was a 130ft sheer drop to the unmerciful rocks below. "It's a 200% system. You have the harness and a safety rope. Nothing can happen to you." For some reason, this was not comforting as she thought about falling backwards over the edge... or, God forbid, slipping before any ropes were attached at all. During the rainy season, floods wash through Qumran, making the rocks smooth and even slippery.
    Her heart beat rapidly in her chest. It was her first time ever doing anything like this. Sure, she'd jumped off of like, maybe a 15ft cliff into water a couple of times. But this was so much higher. There seemed no room for error - even though they kept telling her she would be safe. She kept all of these things to herself. However, others voiced their opinion openly. They were scared. She admitted she was nervous too. The fear of the others was practically contagious... yet the reassurance of the more courageous were like a balm.
    I can do this. A strange peace settled over her as she encouraged a friend it was possible. They prayed for safety and steady feet. It's going to be okay. She certainly didn't want to leave the place not having tried.
    Her turn came. One of the leaders secured her line and told her to back toward the edge as he was on the phone. Up to this point, they were coaching people off the edge. "Spread your legs. Lean back. One step at a time. There you go. Good job. Straighten your knees." But now? Nothing. They were both on the phone. The phone! And she was about to lean over this cliff backwards?
    "Uhm... hey, is this right? Are my legs wide enough?" The man nodded quickly and waved his hand as a signal to continue. She took a few steps back. "Like this?" She leaned back, keeping a tight grip on the rope with her right hand, trying to get the feel of the weight and push-release effect. "Yeah, yeah, spread your legs a little wider. Go ahead."
    Slightly reassured, she worked her way down. Concentrate. Get the feel of the rope. Trust it. Lean back. That's key. Her lips trembled, but she began to enjoy herself. She even thought of jumping a bit, but was afraid to let the rope go too much and plummet too fast.. then panic. So she hopped a bit. Encouragement rang from below, "Yeah! Jump, Brittany!" She tried again and dropped a tiny bit. "I don't know how!" she laughed. Okay, grab back further on the rope and push off. Perfect! "Oh my gosh! This is the best!" She grew bolder and let the rope carry her down. The rush! More encouragement! Fear faded away in face of the sheer enjoyment and newness and victory. She could do this!

    When she reached the bottom, she looked back up the cliff she just conquered. She could hardly believe it. She had come down that? What a beautiful picture it painted of faith and trust, courage versus fear...

    All that fear mounted up right before going over the edge. All of the unnecessary fear because, in reality, I was always going to be okay. I had nothing to worry about. Not only was the lifeline secure, I also had a safety rope. I just had to trust the rope and harness to do their work.
    Sometimes I let the task before me scare me. I let it make me nervous and I doubt my ability and the tools God has provided for me. Then I look around at other people's reactions and I feed off of them. I fed off the fear, and it seemed rational. Wasn't dangerous? I embraced the fear and fostered it. But then I remembered who my God was. I remembered that He cares for me. The guides were in place and the proper tools provided. I just had to trust the rope and go over the edge.
    Courage - action despite fear. Perception had altered my view of reality. I thought the task dangerous, impossible... too big for me. Too high. I had never done anything like it before. And yet when I went over the edge, I found out that it really wasn't so bad at all. In fact, it was fun! And I had a whole crowd cheering for me, believing in me.

    I know it might not really be that huge of a revelation for some. It was just repelling down a mountain. But for me, I think I learned a great lesson that can be relearned again and again. I know this entry was a bit long, but there's something important to understand here.
    God is certainly going to ask us to do crazy things. Scary things. Irrational things. Things that tempt us to fear...and even those around us make us think we should fear. It's only reasonable to fear. But He always provides the tools necessary. He never gives you something you can't handle. So trust Him and step over the edge. You might find it to be the time of your life! And the view is fantastic.


Yad Vashem - Holocaust Memorial

Let not mine heart be hardened,
    nor my compassion stilled.
Yet I fear the knowing,
    my understanding filled.
To let the pain seep so deep
    would rid me of my joy.
Ripping raw my heartstrings,
    my peace it would destroy.
But no!
    Horror fills my lungs,
    Grief rips at my breast,
    Lament fills my throat,
    Saddness heavy on my chest.
There is healing in this mourning,
My whole heart aches to know,
And as my eyes fill with tears
My love begins to grow.
    My heart yearns their understanding,
       for eyes still blind to see.
    My soul burns to share the knowledge
       of Light and Hope in me.


Slow down for a moment and try to imagine.
"We do not mourn as those who have no hope..." [1 Thess. 4:13]
Yet still, we mourn.
Do not forget.


Shana Tovah!

    Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year! They are beginning (counting from creation) the year 5771. Rosh Hashanah is all about reconciliation with your neighbor to start the year off right. If someone feels they have wronged their brother or friend, the will go repair the relationship. It's the first of the High Holidays - a ten day repentance period also known as the "Days of Awe" - that ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah is also noted for its memorial by shofar blowing.
     Everyone dresses up for dinner, and usually they wear white. I will be experiencing my first Rosh Hashanah dinner tonight. One thing on the menu will be apples and honey, symbolizing a sweet and fruitful new year. The pomegranate is also an important fruit here in Israel. It's made up of hundreds of seeds. The tradition is that it has as many seeds as laws in the Torah.

     Since Rosh Hashanah is observed as a day of rest, most shops closed up around 2pm today. There were tons of deals when my friends went out earlier as the shops are all having their "end of the year" sales. Though anticipation is in the air and everyone is greeting well wishes of a good year ("Shana Tovah"), there is a solemness about this holiday. It is more serious than festive, which really makes you think. It is amazing how reverent the people here are. Sabbath really is quiet, a true day of rest. The holidays are similar. Though, the Feast of Tabernacles is up and coming, a time of celebration. Perhaps I'll yet see dancing in the streets of Jerusalem...

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