“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him and departed leaving him half dead.” I was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho today and though my eyes were going blurry because I was getting inexplicably carsick for the first time since I was 16, a fool could see that the endless rows of craggy stone surrounding the winding road was a prime spot for someone to fall among thieves.
The destination was St. George’s monastery, a hallowed spot built on the side of the cliff. I secretly hoped we’d have to take donkeys down some devastating rock face to get just the right photo of it, but it was a long shot. As we ventured deeper and deeper into the sandy haze that the wind was kicking up, my Mom discussed the idea of our own lives being like that of the man who fell among thieves, stripped of our identities and left to traverse the world wounded and alone. It was a vivid image of myself to have crop up in the midst of this stark and very real terrain.
We reached the spot and there waiting for us, just as my Dad predicted there would be, were four burros, saddled and ready, for the four passengers in our Israeli rental car. We took a quick perusal of the camel-bone necklaces that the donkey owners had for sale. They were beautiful, and I’m not going to say we caved and bought some, but we caved and bought some.
The sweltering heat of the desert was drowned out by the almost stifling, but somehow peaceful silence of the hills around Wadi Qelt as the vendor sorted out our purchases. I would have been satisfied to just sit and listen to the nothing all day, but time was running out until we had to be back in Jerusalem and the asking price for the donkeys was high enough that we’d decided to take a quick excursion on foot before hurrying back to the city.
Arab vendors have been called many things, but quitters they are not. As we walked down the hill the necklace guy followed us, grabbing his donkey and dropping the price of a ride with every step. His friends followed with their donkeys and soon we had a whole caravan venturing down this hill; four stubborn Americans followed by three very desperate Arabs. We repeatedly told the men that we didn’t have the time for a donkey ride and that we were just going to take a look, but they followed us anyway. When we finally got to a place to turn around and come back, one of the men said, “The problem is not the time, my friend, it’s the price.”
Whether he was right about our reasoning for rejecting his donkey ride is unimportant, but I was struck by the profundity of that statement. As I hiked back up the hill listening to the pounding of hooves echo into the valley behind me, I realized the aspects of my growth as a person that feel the most stunted aren’t such because I don’t have the time to fix them, but because I am not willing to pay the price.
There are so many times that I see someone else display a talent or gift that I’ve always wanted to cultivate in myself and I internally say that I never have the time to work on that.’ But I have the time to nap the day away and eat leisurely lunches and reread random books and watch the same movie eleven times in two months, so time is definitely not the issue. The price of progression sounds so expensive; it will take my energy and full mental capacity and yet it will pay me back tenfold and, unlike the Arabs, my talents and gifts that are waiting to be developed won’t follow me around until I turn around and pay the price to make them a part of me.
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” We are the recipients of a kind of compassion that is unsurpassed and Someone took the time and paid the ultimate price so that we could be rescued from death and be given a second chance at taking the time and paying the price ourselves for the kind of development that will be essential when the time comes for us to play the good Samaritan to somebody else.