I’ve become very familiar with the word, “Schwei,” which is an English transliteration of an Arabic word that means “a little” or “a very little”, or perhaps, “slowly.” That is, if I understand correctly. When someone asks me if I speak Arabic, my response is an apologetic, “Schwei, schwei.” For many, it is equivalent to how much English they speak, and for others, they are gracious in making up for what I lack in the way of language. Somehow, we get by.
Today I got a photo of a young pomegranate tree, which has the beginnings of fruits on it. Can’t seem to load the photo, which is too bad because it’s very CUTE. But alas, also not edible. I love pomegranates, and one sadness about coming in May is that these fruits will not be ready while I am here.
I’m struck that the fruit we wait for in our lives often comes little by little, slowly. This is frustrating when we want the fruit to be ripe now. When people are hungry now. We want all sorts of solutions to big problems to come now, in a big way comparable to the bigness of the issue, perhaps with a big announcement or fireworks or in the wake of the arrival of a famous personality. But these kinds of big events, while they draw our attention, generally do not solve our biggest problems. The Pope may visit the Holy Land, but when he leaves, the issues remain. And the Pope knows this, which is why he has invited the principle politicians to come and pray with him. Generally speaking, solutions to big problems come “schwei,” slowly, like ripening fruit. And meanwhile, the need continues.
From the Mount of Olives, where I am staying, I have the view to the east of the Dead Sea and, closer in, Bethany. Jericho would be to the north of what I can see from this vantage point. Tradition in these parts says that it was near Jericho that Jesus faced the temptations of Satan, one of which was the temptation to make a bid for celebrity with a big memorable event. “Throw yourself down,” the Devil said, “and God will save you.” In this way, Jesus could, perhaps ,quickly make a name for himself. Fame would surely help him with his programme of salvation; why not?
But Jesus discerned that the way forward was not the meteoric rise to stardom, but instead, it was the insignificant way, the slow way, the way not strewn with accolades but rather, with relationships. With questions. With troubles. With insights and healings too. Seeing the great need, He must have wanted to make a big difference, but he was led in a way that met people’s needs one at a time, step by step.
Little by little, later in his life, he made his way from Jericho across this desert landscape, traversing the dry wilderness where he had been tempted, on his way to Jerusalem. He had an intuition of what awaited him there. Yet he continued. Schwei, schwei, even in darkness, he continued to walk the path God set before him.
Schwei. What I want is the fruit. What I see is its beginning. What I want is fireworks, a big blast, but what I get is the candle. So, I have been lighting candles in anticipation of the coming of daybreak. They are little lights, but their steady flames await the coming dawn.