There is a word in the Bible that is a paradox in itself. CLEAVE means “to stick; to adhere; to hold to” as in “My bones cleave to my skin,” Psalms 137:6 or as in “to unite or to adhere with strong attachment,” like the scripture in Genesis 2:24, “A man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” The paradox comes with its other definition, “To part or divide by force, to split or rive; to open..” as in “The mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof.” How can something unite and split apart at the same time?
I have found that the highest spiritual insights come in paradoxes (exaltation through humility, strength through weakness, receiving through giving, living through dying, etc.) …which is why I suddenly packed a bag and left for Israel when everything told me not to go. It was a paradox. The timing was beyond horrible, the money was tight, but the Spirit told me the exact phrase, “You need to go to Israel.” Four weeks later I was walking through Jerusalem toward the Muslim-controlled Temple Mount.
I do not know why I have to go on pilgrimage in order to find something out about myself. It’s my quirky personality. I have to cleave – separate myself from all that I know in order to bring me back together. Like Dorothy, I have to go to some place far away in order to find the answer which was in my own backyard. This trip was a pilgrimage to me. It was a stepping stone in my journey to find my Savior. I imagined Him every where I went in Israel – being born in Bethlehem, sailing on a boat on the sea of Galilee, listening to Him speak on the Mount of Beatitudes, walking through the bustling streets of Jerusalem, blessing at the pools of Betheseda, and kneeling in pain in Gethsemane.
When our tour group went into the area of the Temple Mount, I was deemed immodest in my t-shirt and long pants and had to wrap a borrowed scarf around my body. There was a strange feeling of unrest in this vast area of stone. Four Jewish women were sight-seeing. They were accompanied by two Israeli soldiers with weapons drawn. Muslim women were following them as they walked and surrounding them when they stopped to look at something.
They were yelling and chanting a phrase. I asked someone what they were saying and she said, “Get out! Leave!” Those Jewish women were also going into the unknown in order to find an answer that they needed for themselves.
I started wandering. Our tour guide said we had fifteen minutes only to sight-see and to meet back at a certain place. He warned us in no uncertain terms to be careful how we act when we are in this area. When the time was up I went to the meeting place and my group was no where to be seen. Had I arrived early? I waited. Had I arrived too late? I fretted. I was alone. Perhaps I had become disoriented and went to the wrong spot? I wandered and made some loops. No. I returned. Should I approach a guard? No. There was enough masculine leering going on that made me feel very vulnerable. I decided to look like I knew exactly what I was doing. I walked around again as if looking at all the architecture, but my heart was pounding. Time passed. I would go back to the meeting spot and wait for a while, but no one familiar was ever there. I had been CLEAVED from my group and my heart was being CLEAVED in my chest. Could I find my way back to the hotel on the outside of the city walls? Did I have enough money with me? After some time, I realized that I needed to go to my God and that my own devices were not working. After all, isn’t that why I came to Israel in the first place? I felt like a lost sheep among wolves. Where was my guide?
“Lord, I am lost and separated. I am starting to feel frightened. Please have someone recognize that I am gone and come and find me or tell me what to do next.” I waited as my eyes swept over the people.
“Melonie!” I heard my name being called within a minute of that prayer. I turned to see my old tour guide walking quickly toward me. I started to run to him in relief and he put out his hand and said, “Do not hug me or touch me.” (Sound familiar?) I stood in front of him with tears coming down my cheeks. I’d been found. I was CLEAVED to my guide (both the one in front of me and the one who heard me). I cleaved to my tour group from that moment on. I had to separate in order to be found. It’s a paradox.
I’m leaving in three weeks for another adventure to follow in the footsteps of Christ (between the ages of 12-30) and his supposed time in England with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. I am going with some of those same people I met in Israel. According to my Guide, I need some more cleaving.
What are some of the pilgrimages you’ve been on? What are the paradoxes in your life? What did you have to cleave? What did you have to lose in order to find?