I was up front in letting you guys know that I was processing my trip to Israel a little slower than I had anticipated. There was something deeper happening than just a rad trip with amazing people to a place that most only dream of seeing in person. And that something deeper is starting to rise to the surface.

When my husband and I were invited by our good friend, Annie Downs, on this trip, we were beyond excited. It was a dream trip with people that we were close with, had familiarity with, and didn’t know at all. Plus it was to Israel, a country that had graced the pages of our yearly “Dream Lists” for some time.

The problem was, as we got closer to leaving, I started having a lot of anxiety about the whole thing. I was leaving both of my little people in the (very capable) hands of my mom and sister, but I had never left both of them for that long before. I had also never left the country without them before. The thought of being more than just a quick plane ride home if there was trouble was unsettling.

Yet there was a little voice in the back of my head that kept whispering, “Go.”

I began to pack my suitcase and could feel the makings of a panic attack rising in my chest. Tears fell from eyes in silent succession as I again thought of all the negative things; how so much could go wrong for both us and potentially with our kids. I wanted to bail. I wanted to run.

“Go.”

I packed my suitcase, headed out the door, and the tears still fell. The panic in my chest not dying down. Somewhere between Detroit airport and Newark airport, I started to feel my stomach flip and flop. And not in a good way. I felt like I was going to be sick.

“Go.”

Shortly after arriving at our hotel in Newark with the rest of the team, I spiked a fever. I felt like I was coming completely unglued. I wanted to pack up, get on the first plane back to Nashville, and lay in bed. Nothing in me wanted to get on a 10 hour flight. Nothing.

“Go.”

Eventually, my fever went away despite feeling worse than before. I got on the plane headed for Israel and cried on and off on the flight while feeling miserable, genuinely asking God what in the world He was doing to me. He had told me to go and He was the one who allowed me to feel like trash. So what the hell?

“Just go.”

I landed in Israel, spent the first 48 or so hours still feeling a little iffy, but I was there. I had gone, just like I was supposed to. I had planted my feet and not run away. Right there in the land of Jesus, I opened up my clenched fists and said to God, “Okay. Let’s do this. You wanted me here, now show me why.”

“Community.”

Community? Really? What in the world does that even mean? You wanted me to travel halfway around the world to hear you say “community”?

As we headed into Jewish Shabbat, basically Sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, I started to get a glimpse of what that word was for. Over 30 of us sat around the table of a very kind Orthodox Jewish family and experienced and were educated on Shabbat. The idea of taking 24 hours to do nothing and just be. The idea of turning off the rest of the noisy world and spending time with family and friends. We celebrated with dinner and wine and began to toast the things we were grateful for. We laughed together. We shared pieces of ourselves with each other. No phones. No Snapchat. No perfectly shot Instagram photos. Just us. 

I walked out of that dinner with my world completely rocked. I was suddenly seriously discontent with my life in Nashville. I realized that even though I have friends and family here, I am not in true community with many of them. Most don’t know my struggles, my dreams, my passions. Some of that is on me. Some of that is on our fast-paced American culture.  Some of that is on them.

Suddenly I wanted community. I wanted to feel known. I wanted to be able to turn off my phone for 24 hours and just be. I wanted to not feel like I was missing out because the pseudo-social world that I was engaged in was beckoning me back into nothing more than fear of lost “followers”. Do those numbers even mean anything?

“Community. I dare you.”

I sit here at my desk with tears in my eyes because I want so much more. I have holed up and have been drawn into myself out of fear and busyness; out of the idea that being on my phone somehow has me connected and in relationship. There is so much inside of me that longs to know and be known. To experience life outside of a screen.

{{{Sigh}}}  Now join me. 

After returning from Israel, the first thing those of us who went from Nashville did was to set up a Shabbat-style dinner for us to be a part of. The kind where we came together, turned off our phones, and just listened, challenged, and encouraged. We are diving deeper as people and as community. The hope is to start up other Shabbat dinners with other people, and I challenge you to find the time with your people. Take a night and gather, sans phones and televisions, and have a meal together where you ask real questions and learn about each other. Don’t feel like those nights need to be blasted all over the socials because quite honestly, those socials aren’t your true community. The people sitting in your home are.

I promise that the end result will be something that you can’t get enough of. Not to mention those friendships will be so much more than you could have imagined.

 

{{{Cover photo : Esther Havens}}}

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