When I was working on the itinerary for the women’s trip to Israel, I started with the 2010 itinerary. I marked each location or experience as “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” Because most women who go on the trip are visiting Israel for the first time, there are some essentials to keep on the schedule. For those who have visited Israel before, there needs to be some variety. Israel may be small in size, but it is packed with possibilities. Why do the same thing over and over when there is so much to experience? I want others (and myself) to experience the Israel of today as much as the biblical history. I want people to get involved, talk to people, serve people, and invest in the nation.
So, when I asked if there were any places or activities that might not be on my radar that the touring company suggested, I was surprised but thrilled to hear the question, “Would you be interested in an archeological dig?”
We spent a morning at the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Truckloads of earth, containing centuries of artifacts, had been taken from the Temple Mount and carelessly dumped. Archeologists usually take great care in uncovering layers of civilizations, but all the strata were dumped together. Now, it needs to be sorted, studies, and categorized, one bucket at a time.
We learned about the project, archaeology basics, and the process we’d follow, then we got started. An archaeologist and regular volunteers were on site to help. (Who knows what valuables we would have tossed aside without them!) In preparation for our arrival, they had placed scoops of dirt, artifacts included, in buckets and added water to soak off some of the dirt. We worked in pairs, choosing a bucket, pouring its contents over the sifting frame, rinsing everything well, then sorting…every single rock and remnant.
It was tedious, yet exciting, because at any moment, we might find a treasure. It would be among the rubble. We might not be able to easily identify it, but we anticipated the possibility. We had to learn what was important and what wasn’t. We looked closely and asked a lot of questions. We relied on people who knew a lot more than we did. And we celebrated when we found something.
It’s like spiritual growth. Willingness to grow requires training and a tedious process that seems unproductive at times. It’s messy. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re looking for and think we’ve found treasure when it’s just a common rock, or we set aside something important without realizing it. We have to ask questions along the way, checking with God to gauge whether or not we’re focusing on what’s important. And when the time is right, we get to celebrate that one small gem we uncover. We work alongside others, some who know less than we do but others who are much more experienced at discerning value. And just when we think we are done, we turn around to find rows and rows of buckets still left to be sifted.
We’re not done. But we’re also not on our own.
Let someone sift alongside you, and always trust God to supervise the process.