If I were to meet you in Toronto, I could show you the hospital I was born in, the houses that I lived in, the church I was dedicated in, and the school I attended. They’re all still standing, though I’m a bit fuzzy on the second house I lived in, because I know it as number 21, but the municipality switched to four-digit house numbers on that street for reasons I can’t begin to fathom.
My kids situation is quite different, despite their obviously younger age. They were born in different cities; one hospital was completely razed to make room for a new one, while the other was renovated into a seniors’ complex. The school my oldest attended for kindergarten was torn down last summer and a new school, with a new name, was built at the other end of the property.
Sometimes you can go back, and sometimes you can’t.
There was a time many years back when it seemed like everyone I knew was taking a trip to the Holy Land. There is no end of ministry organizations willing to take you there — including some whose ministry would seem to have little interest in Biblical history — and if you miss one trip, there’s usually another one leaving a few weeks later.
At the time, I came to the conclusion that it was becoming the Evangelical equivalent of taking a pilgrimage to Mecca; something that you must do before you die.
Don’t get me wrong: I want to learn the backstory to those Biblical passages. I’m a huge fan of Ray VanderLaan and his “Faith Lessons” series, and in fact have taken many of his “virtual” trips to Israel via DVD. I just don’t want to see it “added” to the things that as a Christian you “must” do.
On the other hand, thinking out loud about my kids and their birthplaces, there is a value in these five little words:
“This is the spot where…”
Now I know they may not have it exact. It may not be the precise piece of geography where Jesus turned water into wine, or preached the Sermon on the Mount. But it’s the idea; the concept that our scriptures are not just a book of stories, but that all these things actually happened. You can go back and look and say, “It happened here.”
Maybe you don’t look at the maps in the back of your Bible, and maybe — like me several years ago — you suppress a yawn as people share their Holy Land tour pictures. Maybe — also like me — history, political science and current events weren’t your longsuit growing up. Perhaps you still struggle with news stories — or even shut them out — when you hear words like Palestine, Jerusalem, West Bank, or even Middle East. Your frame of reference may be that’s all just heat and sand and men wearing tunics.
But it’s good to know your roots. It’s good to know you have roots.
As the book of Acts reminds us (26:26), all these things didn’t take place “in a corner,” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far away.”
Compared to eternity, it all happened yesterday. Shalom.