Miriam had pointed it out earlier that morning. We were standing on the plain below the Church of the Beatitudes. She pointed forward, toward a range of mountains, one with a rocky face on its edge. "See that tree waaaaay up there?" she asked me.
I said that I did. It was hard to miss, in spite of being so tiny against the gray of the early morning sky.
"That's Arbel," she said. "Tonight, at sunset, we'll be up there."
"Will we drive?" I asked, already aware that for all the walking I'd done for exercise, it obviously hadn't been enough for treking all day in Israel.
Miriam laughed (or maybe she sighed...). "We will drive part of the way."
For the rest of the day, I kept my eye on that cliff, excited to know I would see the sun setting from its heights. Finally, the end of the day began to descend around us. Miriam and I were in the car, whipping around curves on roads leading upward. Along the way she pointed out various sites and places. After arriving, we parked the car near several others -- apparently being here at sunset was a popular thing to do -- and then began to walk the steep backside of the mountain. My heart pumped pretty hard. Every so often I had to stop. But, not wanting to miss the sunset, I kept pushing myself upward and onward.
The climb was worth every moment once we arrived! The sun was a fiery red and yellow ball, dropping lower, casting pink hues over the countryside, the Galilee. Families stood in clusters. Lovers hugged and kissed. I dared myself to look down. Miriam said, "Along here we can imagine the path Jesus might have taken as he walked from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee, toward the discipes and his ministry."
Wow! I'd never thought in terms of Jesus getting from Nazareth to the Galilee! I don't know how I imagined him getting from A to B, but walking along the way, wasn't it. Sure, I'd pictured him walking from the Jordan to the desert, from Galilee to Jerusalem ... but I'd never thought about those miles between home and heart.
As I thought about it -- as the sun contined to set and families continued to gather and lovers continued to hold each other close -- I contemplated my own ministry, recalling the days in which I prayed to God, asking him to open the doors for me, should it be his will. I remembered the day I, as a 12 year old 7th grader, told my class and teacher I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and how I'd been laughed at. I thought of the days as a church-going teenager who wore her faith on her sleeve (in spite of her shortcomings) and about the sneers and jeers I received time and again. I thought of the often rocky road I'd walked as an adult -- a road not unlike the one below, stretching and curving from Nazareth to the sea. Somehow I'd always known, deep down, that God would bring me here. To this ministry. To this place. To this cliff.
"Miriam," I said. "Take my picture." I handed her my camera.
Miriam aimed my Canon toward me. Joy flooded over me. I threw open my arms -- stretching them as far as the east is from the west (or at least in my heart) -- and grinned as wide as the land behind me and the sky around me.
As the camera snapped my photo, I thought, "This is one of the happiest moments of my life."
And it was true. So very true. The climb had been worth it. Has been worth it.
Will always be worth it.