My friend Joyce and I have known each other since we were seven years old which makes her my oldest friend, not because she is really old, like 65 or anything, but because our relationship spans…well, a long time. We were classmates from second grade through university, even graduating with the identical major. We attended each other’s weddings and gave birth to children at similar times. In an unusual bit of coincidence, our children are now distantly related through our husbands.
There are certain benefits to having an oldest friend. Joyce has memories of my childhood that I seem to have forgotten, probably intentionally. She remembers the deprivation of my childhood and celebrates the restoration that God has done in my life. Joyce is as close to a birth sister as I will ever have, but the truth we aren’t blood relatives because I wasn’t born into her family.
As I grew up, I watched Joyce and her family engage in something completely foreign to me. As full-blooded Norwegians, they were embraced into a larger Scandinavian community where they shared common foods, culture and a love for the homeland. They got excited about delicate, buttery krumkake, the Danish town of Solvang and the color blue. They uttered strange phrases like jeg elsker deg, called each tante and bestemor and donned their brightly colored costumes on Norwegian holidays. This heritage provided Joyce with a sense of history and belonging, a unique identity larger than herself. As a non-Scandinavian, however, I wasn’t part of this community. Despite relishing a flaky krumkake once and a while, I just couldn’t relate to all this love of Norway. It wasn’t my heritage. In fact, I wasn’t sure I had one.
Some time ago Joyce and her sisters traveled to Norway and posted pictures on Facebook of aunts, uncles and cousins. As I reflected on her trip, it reminded me of my childhood memories of feeling like an outsider, as someone without a heritage. I had no larger community to join in with, no special costume or foods that reminded me of a homeland. My ancestors landed in America on the Mayflower. None of their British culture survived the descent to the present, except perhaps a tendency toward stoicism.
Several years ago, I traveled to Israel. Lying in the warm sun on the deck of our Galilee boat, I gazed up at the steep cliffs of Tiberius and imagined the winds whipping down, stirring up the devilish storm that threatened to drown the disciples. Looking east toward the area known as the Decapolis, I remembered how Jesus searched for two lost sheep that Satan had held captive. Jesus found them, just like He did me, and set them free. Finally, we traveled from the area of the humble Jordan River up to Jerusalem for our first glorious glimpse of the Temple Mount and celebrated the Lord’s Supper.
For me, visiting Israel, seeing the beauty of the Galilee, eating of the abundance of the land, and visiting with the Jewish people left me changed in a way that I didn’t expect. I realized that throughout my own journey with Jesus, I had been tucking pieces of Israel into my heart. Now, in Israel, those pieces merged seamlessly together as I saw Israel with my own eyes.
Visiting Israel brought my heritage to life.
But how can that be? Even though I love falafel, challah and the color blue, I’m not Jewish. The reason Israel is my heritage is because I have been born into the family of Abraham through his seed, Yeshua Ha’Mashiah, which makes me related by blood.
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:7, 13)
So as it turns out, I have been grafted into an enormous family and embraced by a far larger community than I could have ever imagined. We share a common culture, connecting instantly because of Christ. We share a common food, the bread and the wine, and we share a common love of the homeland, the land of Israel, where one day we will gather and celebrate our King.
This is a heritage worth celebrating!
GENEVA CHINNOCK is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection. Geneva has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master in Business Administration. In her spare time, Geneva loves reading, eating bacon and attending live theater. She lives in Southern California with her husband and blogs about matters of faith at TreasuredbyGod.com.