By Amy McClelland
Prior to my Holy Land pilgrimage, the Dead Sea – by virtue of its name – conjured images in my mind of murky black water, fish bones and shell fragments littering the shoreline, and desolation. Given that framework, the grace-filled moments I experienced there were most unexpected and profound.
Not originally on our itinerary for more that a drive by, our pilgrim family was blessed with an opportunity to stop and explore the Dead Sea. Also known asYām HaMélaḥ, or Salt Sea, it is actually a lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and Palestine to the west. It is long and skinny, measuring about 34 miles in length and varying from 2 to 11 miles in width. Situated more than 1,300 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on the earth. The water is heavily saturated with salts and minerals; it is more than 26% solid. That is why no plant or animal life can survive in it.
This unique sea is fed by a number of incoming rivers, including the Jordan River. There is no outflow; and the exceptionally high rate of evaporation due to high temperatures and low humidity produces a dense, rich cocktail of salts and minerals. These are extracted and exported throughout the world for use in medicine, agriculture and industry.
Upon arrival, I saw that the Dead Sea was flanked by mountains to the east and by the rolling hills of Jerusalem to the west. The sky and water were lovely hues of blue. I was awed by the dramatic, lively, beautiful landscape. It was suddenly easy to comprehend this as home to Biblical cities like Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zebouin, and Zoar. Its ethereal quality reminded me of ancient visitors, such as King Herod the Great and Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, who are said to have luxuriated here.
Moving anxiously across the sand, our pilgrim family was reminded that the mineral density of the Dead Sea would make us buoyant. The science teacher in me found this perfectly logical. As I approached the water and stepped into the rich black mud, my instinct was to swim. I kept trying to kick my legs and pull myself through the water. I was momentarily frightened because I could not control the water, then I looked up to the sky. I closed my eyes. “Okay, God… What are You trying to tell me?”
“Let me carry you.”
I let go and floated on the water, utterly at peace. It was now God’s hand cradling me, protecting me, surrounding me. The gentle rays of the Jordanian sun became the light of His Son. The warmth of the water was the fire of the Spirit. How indescribably and joyfully free I became when I allowed God to carry me!
I think often of floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on earth. Whether I’m at my highest or lowest, my strongest or weakest, God is there. In times of clarity or haze, joy or sorrow, peace or anxiety, God is there. He is always there. With a nudge from the Dead Sea, I am His child – floating, trusting; certain my Heavenly Father will carry me.