When the Holy and the Human Meet in the Everyday

DSC_7524Years ago, when we traveled through Israel, we spent a day driving from Jerusalem to Galilee. As we drove, we followed the path of the Jordan River for some time as it snaked its way through the desert. Somewhere along the bank, in the middle of the desert sits a designated area set up for baptism, presumably it’s the place where John baptized followers with water.

We asked the kids if they wanted to be baptized that day, and the older two agreed they wanted their Dad to dip them in the murky water. We’d discussed it for weeks beforehand, leaving the decision entirely up to them. We pulled into the parking area, surrounded by sand and empty watchtowers. The kids slipped on white robes over their swimsuits and walked down the bank of the Jordan, while I stood with our youngest trying to record the scene with my phone. I wanted to be in the moment and I wanted to record the moment, which made for two opposing desires pushing and pulling me in different directions.

The heat radiated from the desert floor, but I could see them shivering as soon as they entered the water. They shook in white robes surrounded by brown water while the sun pressed down. Reeds grew up around the banks, and ropes with netting cordoned off the baptismal area. I wondered what hid behind the thick grass rising up on either side, what secrets the water held, and how many people rose from the water a new creation.

Across from my children, on the opposite bank, a few men banged hammers at wood slats on a small pier. In the middle of the pier, sat a soldier with an assault rifle strapped across his chest. He sat a few feet away in Jordan, casting a lazy stare across the bank to Israel and the white-robed worshipers. While we experienced one of the most profound and holy experiences of our family’s life, a few feet away the world broke in with hammers banging against the hum of hymns sung by pilgrims.

We speak a lot of God breaking into the world, small pockets of mystery, or moments where we sense His presence breaking through from the other side. But I do wonder if God looks at His vision, the future He is continually creating, and sees where we, the world, continually try to break through to Him. We try to break through the veil of the holy with our jealousies and petty differences and man-made heartbreaks. We try to break through, rather than dwell in it because we don’t know any better. We don’t know how to be more than human. His is the place where I want to dwell, where I want to spend myself. Not trying to break through with my own version of the world, but trying to fully inhabit his. I want to be fully in the moment without forgetting that I am dust and breath.

It is a hard thing to straddle these two worlds of the holy and the human. It is a hard thing, but not impossible. As we drove away from the Jordan river with full hearts, and the kids sat with wet hair dripping in the back seat, my husband asked, “Do we have everybody?” He ran through the checklist of names, and when he said my son’s name, my son replied, “He’s not here anymore, Dad.” Children instinctively know what we adults struggle to put words to–my son left the old behind in the reeds and mud of the Jordan, he rose from the water, dripping, like new. He broke through.

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