“Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
The words for Draw Your Lines were written on the heels of one of the most wonderful and nerve-wracking experiences of my life. Draw Your Lines is one of the last songs I wrote for Flight Metaphor’s new album, and even though I had a good idea of what I wanted to do with it musically by the fall of 2013, I didn’t have a single usable lyric until July of the following year. And it all came at once.
In the summer of 2014, I spent some time in Israel taking a historical geography course through Sioux Falls Seminary and Jerusalem University College. For three weeks, my classmates and I traveled throughout the entire country learning about the land and its history. I maintained a daily journal with photos from nearly every site we visited, and you can read it right here.
The timing of my visit was somewhat unfortunate, however, as tensions were rising between Israel and Palestine at the time. I arrived four days after the controversial kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers who would later be found dead. The event sparked an increase of military violence between Israel and Palestine, eventually leading to the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict. The program I was enrolled with did an excellent job of keeping students informed and adjusting our itinerary for everyone’s safety; while we were aware of the threat, it very much felt like we were isolated from any unrest. It was a reality tucked in the back of our minds as an unlikely worst-case scenario, and it remained that way for the majority of our stay.
On my final day in Israel, I was waiting to check my bags the airport in Tel Aviv, and I became very confused as a siren began to sound. Immediately the security staff on duty began ushering everyone towards the basement shelter. I stood up from my spot on the floor, looked out through the airport’s large front windows, and saw two white streaks in the sky:
Israel’s Iron Dome had shot down a rocket over Tel Aviv, one of the 25,373 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza over the past 15 years. On July 8th, 2014, the day I departed from this incredibly beautiful and sacred land, I came face to face with the violence that has plagued the Levant for millennia. While the threat was dealt with in a matter of minutes and the whole ordeal was over in less than an hour, it’s something that has stayed with me ever since.
One of the first things they teach schoolchildren in Israel is that they need to keep themselves within 15 seconds of shelter at any given moment. To them, it’s the equivalent of a tornado or fire drill. Is that the kind of world we want to live in?
Before I get ahead of myself, I want to make it clear that I’m not making a statement in support of or against Israel, Palestine, or anyone reading this post. I’m just finally putting into words what I’ve been mulling over for a couple of years now. Sharing this story has always been difficult for me, because I don’t want to come off as too sensational or too political or whatever. Any time I’ve tried to discuss it, I’ve found myself at a loss for words. At the very least, this blog post is somewhat of a catharsis.
The statement I do want to make is that war sucks, and it’s not what God intends for us. For several weeks before my trip, I spent hours upon hours marking up a set of maps for the class I was about to take. A vast majority of the markings dealt with war, conquest, exile, or occupation. As I learned about the land, it was necessary for me to also learn about its violent history. To be curt, in Israel, I believe things are as they have always been.
Yet in the midst of all this war and death, God’s people put their hope in an audacious promise, found in Isaiah:
“…There will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
– Isaiah 19:24-25
Despite the conflict that has plagued Israel since its foundation, the followers of Yahweh look forward to a day when all Middle Eastern peoples will live in peace. And if it’s possible in the Levant, it’s possible anywhere!
As a Christian, I believe this peace cannot be attained by the sword, but rather through reconciliation made possible by Jesus’ blood. In the face of political and religious persecution, Jesus Christ chose not to engage the broken system of violence with more violence. Instead, he disregarded the world’s way of solving its problems and gave himself over to the powers that be. The crucifixion was not only an act of atonement (although that would be more than enough); it was also a mockery of the world’s way of dealing out “justice.” When left to our own devices, we become so deluded that we believe murdering God is somehow justified.
So sure, Draw Your Lines is a war protest song, but not in the traditional sense. It’s over and above our petty conflicts, the lines we draw in the sand or on maps. It’s about the belief I have that one day, by the grace of God, all human conflict will be put to rest. People have been stabbing, shooting, and bombing each another for thousands upon thousands of years, yet somehow world peace has yet to be achieved. There has to be a better solution, and I believe that solution is found in Jesus. God has made a promise – even now it’s hard to imagine a “highway from Egypt to Assyria” – but if there’s one thing I know about my Lord, it’s that he keeps his promises.
You can read more about my time in Israel and Jordan here.
When the smoke trails stretch across the sky
In the hiding, we cannot forget
We are more than merely flesh and bone
We are body, mind, and spirit, all
There’s an ever-coming day
So much closer than before
When the borders that we draw
Are a distant afterthought
Draw your lines now, hope is biding time
Even hardened hearts can turn from stone
No one’s ever too far gone
Hope is singing her resilient song
And a highway in between
Bringing everyone to see
That we’ll finally live as one
Every daughter, every son