I imagined only great trials leading to great change until I made loving-kindness a priority in meeting the nagging everyday exchanges. In the smaller acts of dying to self, I discovered transformation waiting on the other side of confrontations, rubbing against ego like sand and water on a rough stone and masking life.
A few years ago, my husband and I spent the Christmas holidays in Israel. When we arrived at Bethlehem’s gates, Palestinians waited as Hannah got off the bus. Since Bethlehem was under Palestinian jurisdiction, our Israeli Jewish guide could not enter.
Day after day, Hannah had respectfully pointed us to Christian scriptures appropriate to each site we visited. Now, we were in the very place of Love’s incarnation, watching her step off the bus surrounded by armed Palestinian guards.
As we waited in Church of the Nativity, to see the birthplace of Jesus, a priest approached me and angrily said, “Get your butt out of the holy place.” Apparently, my derrière was pressing on the rope that separated the crowd from the holy place. I quickly moved, an abrupt reminder of my uneasiness.
After taking a deep breath, I wondered how the priest would define his calling. I also wondered what he needed to shift from his current agitations, to seeing this privilege of ushering people into the birthplace of Infinite Love?
Refusing to meet him in his rudeness was an act of dying to self, for he was in a place that refused to respect both Hannah, because she was an Israeli Jew, and also women, in general. Though the invitation was masked by a stiff confrontation, I chose life when I walked into the refining fire.
I bowed my head and closed my eyes, in reverence of the Sacred within. Though there was no silver star surrounded by candles, marking Jesus’ birthplace inside of me; nothing could spoil the holiness.
In that place, I am priest. There, I can welcome Hannah and the memory of all her people that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, memorializes.
In that sacred space, we can open our shared Old Testament scriptures and in mystical union participate in Midrash. Perhaps we will even welcome the disgruntled priest.