On the fourth day of our trip, I awoke to a toasty fever and blood in my urine, which suggested a bladder infection. It is very disconcerting to tell a stranger about abnormal bathroom experiences; however, a bladder infection did not seem to be one of those issues that should be left to secrecy, so I told our resident physician’s assistant. I admit that I may have downplayed the extent of my malaise. I smiled and kept my eyes wide as I explained that it really was not a big deal and that I did not feel too badly—just needed a tiny dose of antibiotics and I would be tip-top. She let the pastor know that we needed to get a round of meds, and just like that, my small circle of trust expanded. Within the hour, our leadership knew that I was having an issue, and that gave me an opportunity to defend my position that I should still be “allowed” to climb Masada. My plea was fervent and convincing, and admittedly, it bordered on manipulation.
After all, I rationalized, how could anyone deny me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of climbing up to Herod’s sky-palace? It was the challenge of Masada that had pushed me to climb over one-hundred fifty flights of stairs at the gym several times each week. It was the knowledge of a little date palm named Methuselah that inspired me to appreciate the modern promise of Masada. It was the connection to a people who were rebellious and committed to their freedom that drove me to ingest the historic nightmare that took place on that mountaintop. I had made in investment in understanding this place. I had trained for it physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I would not be denied. I had a vision of myself doing a dab pose at the top, perhaps even enlisting someone to take a photo of me in that silly stance (if you don’t know what a dab is, you just need to consult a teenager). I would frame it and prominently display it so that people would ask, “What are you doing in this photo?” Then I would tell the story of my climb, a climb made even more glorious because I was ill when I did it! Such willful determination reeks of pride and arrogance. My pride demanded that I climb a mountain even when I was peeing blood, and my arrogance convinced me that I had some sort of right to the experience even if I were a hindrance to the group.
God knew exactly what I was doing, and He was more interested in correcting my selfish desires than seeing me climb Masada. It was no coincidence that when our group was split into those who would climb and those who would take the gondola ride, I erroneously placed myself in the gondola gang. When I realized my mistake, I bolted to find the hikers, but not knowing the trailhead, I found myself at the bus-filled parking lot instead of my dusty path to glory. I felt a bit of panic knowing that the gondola was calling my name if I did not find my group quickly, and to me, soaring on the wings of eagles did not look anything like a saggy box of bodies suspended on a bouncy cable. I had to find my hiking buddies before I was relegated to that horrible gondola fate.
(to be continued…)