Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
— Psalm 107.23-30
In a few days I will be traveling to Palestine and Israel with a group of representatives from the Scottish churches and Christian Aid. It was in the summer that the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Global Partnerships Committee invited me to be the SEC rep, and I could hardly turn down such an opportunity (though I was convinced for months that it wasn’t real, that they would change their mind, that the trip would fall through — ever the optimist, I am). The hope is that this visit will strengthen ecumenical work with various organisations in Palestine and Israel and also that those of us going will, on our return, continue to raise awareness within our churches of the daily struggles of people living in the midst of occupation and under threat of terror.
But as the time draws near, my emotions are swirling and churning. Perhaps that’s understandable given the rising tensions in the region, though I received an email today confirming that the trip will go ahead but that our itinerary will constantly be under review to reflect the ever-changing situation.
It is taking a disproportionate amount of energy to tidy up the tasks that need to be done before I leave. My heart just isn’t in it, and I am restless.
I have been walking Judy more than usual, just to get some of the nervous energy out … and because walking is prayer for me. My prayers have taken on a desperate intensity that they rarely have, but I am not sure I could actually articulate what it is I’m praying for.
I don’t feel anxious, but I have been having strange dreams for the past week. Dreams of disaster and destruction. Of giant waves and stormy seas. Of fear and fleeing. But always they end with a sense of calm. The words above from Psalm 107 keep coming to mind. There’s so much in those few verses that seem to resonate at the moment.
I am present, I keep hearing as I pray. I am present where there is peace. I am present where there violence. I am present in the storm. I am present in the calm. I am present. I am. As we approach the start of Advent, the season of anticipation, and prepare to celebrate the Incarnation at Christmas, I hope, I pray, I yearn for this to be true, and for this truth to be known.
If I can find the words and the time, I plan to blog throughout the trip. Part of the reason I’m going is to listen to stories (which we all know is my favourite thing to do) and then tell them, to give voice to people whose voices are often silent or unheard, to let their words challenge assumptions, inspire love and compassion, and lead us in prayer and action. I hope to do this in a way that preserves the authenticity and integrity of the original stories, though what I write will of course be refracted through my own experience and will include my own reflections.
As I prepare to leave, please pray for all of us who will be travelling and the people we will meet. (And please, may I ask for special prayers for this introvert who is far more nervous about spending two full weeks with PEOPLE than about encountering violence.)