Masada (Part 2)


(continued from Masada (Part 1))

Imagine my relief when our Israeli tour guide, Ronen, suddenly appeared to whisk me away from the punishment. He called to both me and a young lady who had been accidentally abandoned in the bathroom when the group had departed. In our mutual distress, we shared how each of us had come to this horrible place called the parking lot. She and I were in the same boat by different circumstances, and we just needed to get to our fellow hikers before time ran out. Ronen knew that the minutes were critical, and he escorted us to the trailhead. Ronen took off marching at the pace of a wiry, young mountain goat. While my young friend surely could have kept stride with him, she chose to walk alongside of me. In her sweet kindness, she would not abandon me because she knew that I was not well. It was this very same compassion that prompted her to yell out, “Slow down! Mrs. S. can’t go so fast. She doesn’t feel well!”

Ronen spun around and stomped back to us, perturbed that he had not been informed that I was sick. In Ronen’s mind, illness was somehow equated with my not being able to climb a mountain; imagine the insanity of that! He yelled to me that I was not going to climb. “You’re not going to die in Israel,” he shouted. That seemed melodramatic, and I really did not see his point. I yelled back that Israel seemed like a fine place to die. After voicing his complaint that I was specifically not allowed to die on his watch, I emphatically explained that if I did die, he could simply dispose of the corpse in one of the many ravines ubiquitous to the area and no one would be the wiser. I mean, if my death meant that his job security was at stake, hiding the body seemed like a viable solution to the problem. For my part in the conversation, I was being perfectly asinine—this was partly due the illness, but mostly due to my pride.

Ronen, who perhaps possesses as much stubbornness as I do, won the argument. In my defense, he did have the upper hand. My group was moving further and further away with every remark that we volleyed back and forth. Before long, I found myself herded onto the gondola with my sweet young friend. We glided effortlessly toward the receiving platform, and I knew that I had not earned the right to a silly “I did it” pose that would be framed and ogled for years to come.

I had been denied, and I was furious. For me, frustration manifests as anger, and my anger broods better in isolation. The anger on this day was acute, not only because I was ill, but because I had spent too much time in the company of the group. As an extreme introvert, my ability to wisely vent the pressure which had been building was severely compromised. The circumstance of not climbing Masada was only a fraction of the overall problem. For days I had not had time to myself. I had not been able to process any of my experiences, which left me with nothing more than a blur of time and faces crushing into the folds of my mind. It was akin to a mental waste dump, and the only way to sort the clutter was to devote time and space to the process, and so I escaped my gondola prison and headed for the nearest area devoid of tourists. As I sat down to mull over my problem, I looked down the hill and saw one of our pastors (who had also taken the gondola ride) heading my way.

Turn back! I screamed in my mind, Imbalanced introvert! Do not approach!

Apparently, Pastor John is not a mind-reader.

He just kept coming, and when he reached me, I was ready to unload both my frustration and my side of the “Mean Ol’ Ronen” story. I realize that some people might believe that venting frustrations helps resolve issues, but in my case, I remain less than convinced. Yelling at the pastor that I would be leaving our church because I could not stand the microscopic control that they were exerting upon me was not really very helpful. I have been at the same church for nearly a decade, so it really was an idle, thoughtless threat. In response and clearly trying to defuse me, John said, “Look, Den, if you want, we’ll take the gondola back down, and I will hike this dang thing with you.”

(to be continued…)

Masada (Part 3)

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