Three weeks is a long time to be away. Too long. That’s my considered view anyway as my holiday draws to a close.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s been lovely. Really truly lovely. And I realise looking back on the weeks, that without consciously doing it, I have continually sought out safety here in Scotland.
I needed the safety of solitude in the Highlands to sift through my thoughts. There I had long days to sleep and stare out at the river and the rain. I relished drives through wild, empty countryside. I began to read again, after months of being unable to pick up a novel because I simply couldn’t handle more words or drama or emotion.
I needed the safety of Stobo Castle spa (ok, I really needed the luxury of Stobo too, I confess) with a dear friend, where we put the world to rights over delicious food, good wine, and long sessions in steam rooms and hot tubs.
I needed the safety of Old Saint Paul’s — the quietness of a said low mass, the mystery of a sung high mass, the moments of peace in the chapels where I celebrated day in and day out — to restore to me the essence of my ministry and why I answered this strange call to priesthood in the first place.
I needed the safety of a long boozy lunch with someone who is friend, writer, iconoclast, mentor to discuss faith and doubt and the tumultuous relationships with God and institutions.
I needed the safety of hugs from good friends, the easy conversations and laughter, the jokes and gossip, the acceptance and unconditional love. (I didn’t need the side-effects from a vaccination that left me feeling sick and sipping water throughout most of the evening at the pub…)
I needed the safety of people who unexpectedly showed up at the pub to remind me that they are praying for me in their churches and ask what they can do for me and the people I serve (thank you, members of Dunfermline Presbytery!).
I needed the safety of conversations with people who speak the languages of multiple cultures, wanderlust, life on the margins, and most of all, who speak the languages of kindness, gentleness and compassion.
I needed all of that much more than I would have been able to articulate before I left. I needed to step away from the busyness of work and the intensity of life in Israel-Palestine. I needed a bit of the British keep-calm-and-have-a-cup-of-tea mentality.
But there is only so long I can stay where it’s safe. I’m not comfortable being too comfortable. And as great as it’s been to be back in Scotland, I miss Israel-Palestine. I’ve missed my wee church and congregation and celebrating communion. I’ve missed the people I have gotten to know a bit and want to get to know better. I’ve missed the communities I’m slowly becoming a part of. I’ve missed the vibrancy of the villages I visit. I’ve missed the Middle Eastern hospitality. I’ve missed the diversity of the land, the people, the cultures.
And I am also looking forward to what the next few months will bring. I have so many things I want to do, changes I want to make, people I want to meet, partners I want to visit. I want to discover more of the land and continue learning about the complex interweaving of history, religion, and politics. I want to make a real effort at learning Arabic. I want to get my Israeli driving licence and learn to ride a motorcycle. I want to go paragliding (I think… Justin’s definitely going because I bought him a flight for his birthday).
I have an energy and creativity in Israel-Palestine that I don’t have here in Scotland. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that I am in the right place at the right time doing the things I am meant to be doing… as well as the abundance of Mediterranean sun and food. But energy and creativity — my kind of energy and creativity anyway — also need to be balanced by the safety of beautiful places, easy companionship, and moments of deep solitude, so above all else, I want to be more intentional about seeking this out there, not only in Scotland.
This holiday has been everything I needed it to be. But now, I’m more than ready to return.