The freedom to spend time all day reading is truly a joy, and I did. Why does it feel so self-indulgent? Why does it feel unproductive? I need to let go of the need to produce, what compels me to have something at the end of the day that proves my worth?
I found myself surrounded by Americans and Palestinians tonight talking about cooking and politics. One Palestinian spoke about his large clan, originally from Beit Sahour (where I am staying) moving to Kuwait with many other Palestinians and then when the US invaded to push out Saddam Hussein, they moved back here. It is amazing to here of the Palestinian diaspora. He called to his cousin to come over from across the cafe. She lives in the middle of Indiana and is heading to Italy to do her masters in politics. I asked why Indiana, and she said when they were moving to the states it was voted one of the best cities. This family, this clan, who are Christians, has roots here of more than 2,000 years. He told me how his great grandfather, around the turn of the 20th century was involved in a conflict, with guns, for the control of the Church of the Nativity. I guess it was some sort of family dispute – this is what conflicts and wars are made of!
Another new Palestinian friend mentioned he was going to have a massage and I overheard him tell the practitioner that he was still sore after years ago being hit in the back by an IDF rifle butt. On our many conversations he never alluded to any kind of physical pain as result of the occupation. It made me think of how there must be so many scars that are hidden, silently borne forever. So now as I look around at others I wonder what other wounds people carry with them from protests or imprisonment or abuse at checkpoints.
Caves are all over this area (a few blocks from the shepherd’s fields), even in this cafe. As I sit in it, it feels very womb-like. I can understand the attraction for the hermits/monastics who would use them as their home to get away and live a life devoted to prayer and fasting. One feels protected, safe from the elements, cool, not overheated. It seems primitive and contemporary at the same time.
As I sit, I find myself removed of, stripped of what in life is most important to me, my life partner, my family and friends, the usual things that consume and I consume. It is both a void, base and sufficient, enough for me. It is renewing, like beginning again. Since I have been here, I have realised that as followers of Jesus, we find him first in a cave, at birth, and last in a cave, at the resurrection. From the cave, of all places, comes new birth, new life, the fulfilment of God’s intervention in the world. We are cave people, held and formed, wombed to new a beginning! Though I am surrounded in darkness, the light is within it. I pray that the comfort and gentle silence of the darkness will surround me as rise to my renewed call.
I leave tomorrow morning from here to drive to Nazareth. After a month here I think less about what I have learned and experienced, and wonder what I have missed, what I have failed to see or listen to. There is always something I have yet to know and understand.