Jerusalem Journal # 183
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is the subterranean marvel beneath Jerusalem’s ancient City of David. Judah’s king had ordered the tunnel be hewn through bedrock by two teams of construction workers as the Assyrian army advanced on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Using only the sound of pick axes on rock, the teams, starting at different locations, miraculously met in the middle, thus creating a conduit to bring the only fresh water source inside the city walls while closing off access for the enemy forces. It was a tunnel to life and hope for a future.
I remember the first time I went through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It was the Thanksgiving holiday season of 1993. I was nearly twenty years into a rocky and increasingly volatile marriage in need of healing, that in some ways seemed like a tunnel. My former husband and I brought our two daughters to Israel to experience both the spiritual connection I longed for them to absorb and the spirit of adventure their father envisioned.
We joined a small band of tourists at Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The winter rains had already begun. As we stepped down into the cold rushing water it climbed to my knees, sending a shiver up my spine. Like elephants in the circus, each of us grabbed hold of the waistband of the one in front of us and sloshed through the narrow stone channel, clinging to a flickering candle which leapt and danced then extinguished numerous times in the dank darkness of the gusty tunnel, the current sweeping us onward. Eventually victory was celebrated as we emerged into the light at the end of the journey. A collective family memory put another photo on the walls of our minds. We survived the tunnel!
Fast forward twenty-one years and I am now LIVING in Jerusalem, eighteen years beyond a broken marriage and now on a prostate cancer journey toward healing with Gary, my husband of nine years. Last July, upon getting the diagnosis of cancer in California, Gary and I sensed we were to return to our home in Israel and seek medical treatment in Jerusalem. Doctor consultations, tests, and many disappointing delays kept us on our knees praying. We awaited what other cancer survivors termed, “The Tunnel” of treatment.
Always the optimist, I suggested to Gary that God was going to make this tunnel more like a covered bridge that would get him from aggressive prostate cancer to full health. I imagined that covered bridge to have long open window spaces where he could view the beauty of the countryside as he journeyed over an abyss far below. Along the way there would be a variety of tables and chairs where we would meet new friends and sit to share stories.
In the midst of the treatment delays, Gary’s frustration and feeling completely out of control got the best of him. Driving from the hospital to our worship service after another delay, he found himself crying out to God saying, “I don’t even know if I am in the right place anymore.” We slid into the service late and as the pastor’s message began, Gary noticed something on his arm that was moving. It was a tiny neon green, black beady-eyed praying mantis! I whispered that it had come to pray for him. For the entire forty-minute sermon that nymph walked up one arm and down the other. At times it stood at the end of Gary’s fingers, peering at him in a prayer-like pose with those black beady eyes. We were in an underground auditorium devoid of plants. How did that praying mantis happen to show up on GARY’S arm and at THAT precise time?
I’ll admit that I am a bit mischievous and considered what might happen if I flicked it into the audience or placed it on the shoulder of a friend sitting in front of us, but the thought of a scream from that friend swallowed my mischief. Gary got up at the close of the service saying he had to find a plant for his tiny visitor who seemed so out of place.
A potted schefflera in the upstairs lobby welcomed the miniature messenger. As Gary released the tiny creature to a place just right for it, the Creator of the Universe spoke into Gary’s spirit. “Gary, you are so very worried about this little creature being completely out of his element. You know he belongs on a plant. Just as you are concerned for him being in the right place, so I am concerned for you and I have placed you in the right place. Trust Me!”
One thing I am convinced of is that tunnel journeys are faith-stretchers and faith-builders. Those tables and chairs scattered along the “covered bridge” have been filled with hospital staff and fellow patients hungry for laughter, friendship, and hope. Joy is contagious and we determined to bring God’s joy and light each day by learning people’s names, lavishing smiles upon them, sharing stories, and offering to pray for them.
We heard from a friend that a tradition in Houston’s M.D. Anderson radiation department is for the patient to ring a bell when they emerge from “the tunnel.” It is the sound of hope for other patients still sloshing through their treatments. We’ve brought that tradition to Jerusalem, middle-eastern style. We tied a scarlet cord from a small wooden sheep to a sheep bell to represent the Lord’s care for us, His sheep, and wrote a card with Psalm 100. So, with great thanksgiving for hope renewed and for all who prayed us through “the tunnel,” I rang the bell for Gary last week as he completed his forty-one radiation treatments. We will learn the results in a few months. Happy Thanksgiving to you in the U.S. May your every day be one of thanks.
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