The Day I Won the Lottery

Another bittersweet visit to Israel was winding down.  My husband had completed several client visits and some machine upgrades.  The boys and I stayed with family while he worked, and did some sightseeing on his days off.   It had  gone well enough, but the tension between my Israeli dad and I was thick.  My relationship with him had been strained at best since we established contact during my young adulthood.   Often there was hostility, more often, silence.  The gulf between us was wider than the geographic distance between Israel and the States.  We both wanted the relationship to work, but both of us were scarred in different ways by the separation.  Our progress toward healing had stalled out almost as soon as it began.

My feelings for Israel were bittersweet too.  I love the climate, the landscape, the food, the profoundly beautiful and deeply conflicted people.  Although my family has welcomed me, Israel has remained inaccessible in important ways.   I’m a citizen, yet I can’t get papers to prove it or to permit a longer stay.  I don’t know enough Hebrew to really be part of society when I am there, and I can’t stay long enough to learn more.  We only make it there about every 3 years, and stay for 2 -3 weeks.  Inevitably by the time we leave  I’ve remembered all the Hebrew I’d forgotten and learned a few new words.  My faith makes me an object of suspicion and contempt.   I’m at home, but I’m on the outside looking in.

On this particular day we were in the process of a particularly tense goodbye.  We were leaving my Dad’s kibbutz and going to Tel Aviv to pick up my cousin.  We hoped to go to Jerusalem together and proceed down to Ein Gedi.  My dad was vocal in his disapproval.  After avoiding us the whole time we had stayed with him, he complained that we were cutting our visit with him short.  I’d had enough and was ready to leave and never come back.

As we were packing the car to make our get-away, my dad’s neighbor came out to say goodbye.  He’s a Brooklyn (or is it Boston?) native in his 70’s.  He’s friendly in his way, but he keeps to himself.  So I was slightly taken aback when he made a point of coming out to see us off.   He looked me in the eyes and took my hand in both of his.  He said he wished us all the best.

Then he said, “I hope someday you win the lottery”.

And I said, “We already have”.

And then we were gone, literally driving off into the sunset.  As the colors sank along the horizon, the truth of my statement sank in.  All my life I had seen myself as someone to be pitied.  When the kids at daycare asked why I didn’t have a dad, I had told them my dad was dead.  It wasn’t true, but I didn’t know that.   Growing up, not knowing was the hardest part.  Then when I met him, new opportunities to feel sorry for myself arose.  The ” If only’s ” of my life had swelled and crashed over me relentlessly for 3 decades.

And then, a comment from a man I barely knew changed my life.  In that instant, I realized I was not that pitiable little girl anymore.   I had been deathly ill, now I was healthy.  I had been lonely, now I had an amazing husband and 3 beautiful sons.  I had been fatherless, now I had 2 fathers, and family that loved me on three continents.  I had left Italy the first time in defeat.  Now I had a job which afforded me the unique opportunity of being home with my kids more than 90% of the time and get paid to travel to Italy multiple times a year.  In spite of the painful end to our time in France, it was a beautiful opportunity, one that many people only dream of.   In exchange for our traumatic experiences as young church planters,  God had given us a  richer understanding of what church could be.  In spite of 8 years of delays, we did  finally record an album.   Everyone I knew was envious of at least one aspect of my life.  When I shared my epiphany with Erik  he agreed, but none of it came as a surprised to him.  He knew how blessed I was, and how oblivious  I had been.

God permanently changed my reality that day.  I have had sorrows and disappointments, and I have tasted and seen his goodness again and again.  Sometimes wealth is valuing what you have.

How about you? When did you realize that you had “hit the jackpot”?  What parts of your life are particularly rich?


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