I’ve tried and failed twice already to write about my trip to the Bible lands. How do you capture a two-week experience that’s pretty much entirely new in a short post? What do I include? What hits the cutting room floor? I wish I’d taken the time to write more while I was on the trip; I could have broken it up a bit and captured more of the almost overwhelming processions of columns and arches, olive groves and wildflowers, theaters and temples and forums. But it turns out when you only have 14 days to cover almost the whole west coast of Turkey and pretty much all of Greece, not to mention get to know your fellow-travelers, you don’t have a lot of down time. We dashed from one sight to the next, sometimes seeing as many as four in a day, spending hours every day on the tour bus, rarely spending more than one night in the same hotel. It was a whirlwind. But it was worth it. I’m not sure I’ll travel that way again–I would have loved to be able to go at my own pace and soak it in more–but I appreciated it this time. It was worth it for all of the information we got, that vast number of sights we got to see, and the camaraderie that came with it all.
I guess there were two things that really stood out to me being over there. The first was how skewed my perception of time is. America is such a young country. Our birthday was a mere two hundred(ish) years ago. The sights we were visiting were over two THOUSAND years old, some even older. That kind of time scale is to vast for me to comprehend. I mean, these countries have a continuous history dating back that far, they can trace their own roots back to the Bible times as beyond. Two thousand years. Long enough for entire landscapes to change, for empires to rise and fall and rise again, old religions to die and new ones take their place, for thriving cities to weaken, die, and be lost. I mean, we visited several ancient ports (Ephesus and Miletus, to name just a couple) that are now miles from any body of water. The harbors simply silted in over the years. The site of the famous battle of Thermopylae, the “hot gate” that forced the massive Persian army through a narrow pass between the mountains and the sea, now stands in the middle of a tranquil meadow. There are no cliffs nor sea to be found. Many archeological sites have yet to be excavated because they are buried under four meters of dirt. FOUR METERS!!! Thats about thirteen feet. How long does it take for the elements to casually cover a city with thirteen feet of dirt?!
The second was how passionate Paul must have been. Being over there and walking where he had walked, seeing (the remains of) the cities where he founded churches, it made everything a lot more real. I can picture now the scenery he trekked through. (Newsflash, it’s a lot less like desert that I imagined. In fact I would go so far as to call it lush.) I know a bit of what the cities must have looked and felt like when he was there. And it just makes me more in awe of Jesus. Because the one who inspired that kind of devotion and passion must have been truly truly amazing. We covered well over two thousand miles all told during our trip, and Paul covered all that and more. On foot. Several times over. He took his life into his hands every time he preached. And he was a person. It wasn’t just easy for him. He wasn’t magically reckless with his own life. He probably had to deal with fear. He probably had to stay his mind every time he went to speak so he didn’t start wondering if this time it would all catch up with him. If this would be the city where he finally pushed someone too far and got himself killed. It was a very very real possibility (as evidenced by the fact that eventually that is what happened). But he had met someone so beautiful, so worthwhile, so GOOD that he couldn’t rest while all the world didn’t know him. He was driven to tell everyone he could possibly reach, to spend every last moment, every single heartbeat, spreading the good news that Jesus had come to make us free. I want to get to know Jesus like that. I want to love him like that. I want to be that passionate about him…I’ve got a long way to go. But at least I’ve got a start on the journey.
Anyway, there was so much more. A lot of laughter and fun times and great discussions and AMAZING food (olives all the time!!! Yeah!) and beautiful, amazing, breathtaking scenery. So I’ll leave you with some pictures. Just a couple, but enough for a small taste.