By, Janice Lum MAT ’04
A 20-year-old dream of traveling to Israel tugged at my heart again last spring and my husband encouraged me to “just go.” It was on a whim that I checked the Northeastern Seminary website only to see that, in fact, a study trip was planned for July 2016. As God would have it, all things would pull together for me to attend and I was thrilled.
The preparatory work was intense as I carved out time to complete at least part of the map work that was necessary for a better understanding of all the places we would explore. While I was not taking the trip for course credit, I wanted to get all that I could out of my time there. I wasn't sure what the Lord wanted to accomplish and frankly, I had no agenda. I was just delighted to be able to take a trip of a lifetime, to walk where Christ walked, and to experience the Holy Land first hand.
The trip was nothing like I expected but everything I could have hoped for. I was challenged mentally, spiritually and physically. The course work was intense and enriching. It pushed me and allowed me to see the relevance of Scripture amidst the topography, culture, and climate I was experiencing. Physically, the trip was demanding beyond what I had anticipated. I came to the stark realization that I was severely out of shape, claustrophobic, afraid of heights and generally a fearful person—to the point that I took alternate routes on several excursions. During one of the devotional times Dr. Wayne McCown, dean emeritus of the Seminary, spoke about the practical need for us as spiritual leaders to be caring for ourselves physically during our middle years.
Then it struck me. The Lord was meeting me in the daily struggle of the physical and academic demands. I recall writing in my journal, “I feel it deep in my bones—that discontent that comes when I look to anything other than Jesus for my identity and happiness.” Tim Keller said something similar, “Disordered love always leads to misery and breakdown. The only way to reorder our love is to love God supremely.” I had come into the trip at a point of reframing my identity back home—God was reminding me that my focus must be on him. God is my redeemer, and in God I find my worth. Yes, there are the practical aspects of my life that need attention but without the lens of Christ I will be defeated.
Now back home life goes on, home awaits, and the responsibilities are still there. The pastorate still remains, my three kids still need homeschooling, and the chores need to be completed. However, I am indeed changed. The journey that began in Israel will take a lifetime to complete. It’s not a single event in time, but a trip that is a catalyst for a lifetime of change.
Janice Lum graduated from Northeastern Seminary with a Master of Arts degree in theological studies in 2004. She serves as pastor of young adult ministries at Calvary Community Church of the Nazarene in Henrietta, N.Y.