by Allison Taffet |  Rice University

Cloudy cover broke into clear blue, unveiling the ground ten thousand feet below. Resting my head back on the airplane seat, I watched the neat toothpick roads and meandering river. I reached for my water bottle, popping open the top to drink from the straw. Immediately, water exploded out due to the pressure difference. As I fumbled to contain the blue plastic geyser, water soaked the ceiling, the window, and me. My friends next to me burst out laughing, but the man sitting in front of me whipped around, grumbling about the affront as I handed him copious napkins and apologies. Trying to contain my own laughter, I took the paper towels that the flight attendant rushed to give me, at peace with the chaos I had caused.

I had expected to encounter God in a big, grandiose, revolutionary way during my time in Israel. I did not. At first, I was disappointed by this. Yet on my way home, wiping down the dripping plane with coarse paper towels, I realized that even though I did not have an epiphany, I had encountered God on His terms, the way He wanted me to, in the way that I needed to. I had encountered God not in a downpour or a deluge, but in the drips.

There was no lifeguard on duty, so we were not allowed to swim in the Sea of Galilee. Towels in tow and swimsuits on, we hesitated on the shore, disappointed, before coming to a consensus to just stand in the water. The shoreline was distinctly drawn by sharp, minuscule shells. I gingerly hopped over them but still landed on the last few. The water was shallow, barely reaching my calves. A group of people was playing a round of Ninja, flinging laughter with each sharp movement. I just stood there, watching the sunset in the misty distance, my feet prickling from the pointy shells. I did not hear God’s voice, but in that moment, I felt His peace. I couldn’t swim, but standing was enough. I knew that although I was not yet able to swim in the waters of God’s endless love and grace, I was learning to stand in them, even if only ankle-deep, even if it took an awkward jump to enter.

The game of Ninja finished. Someone suggested we head to dinner, and a glance at my watch confirmed it was time to go. I walked over, a stubborn film of sand coating my feet, but a fullness of joy in my soul. This moment was unimportant on paper, but this unobtrusive moment led me to an encounter with God: not in the show-stopping, but in the small. My alarm went off. I groaned and glanced at my phone: 4:35 a.m. It was far too early for me to want to be awake, but I somehow got dressed. Standing in the elevator, leaning against the wall with eyes closed for the 8-floor trip down to the lobby, I began to wonder if this was worth it. The sky was bright at 4:55 as we hopped in a taxi to the Old City of Jerusalem, trying to get to Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We had left plenty early, but our taxi driver, who spoke no English, insisted in driving us in circles around the Old City. I watched the minutes tick by and the cost count up. We managed to communicate that we wanted to just get out, handing him the shekels. We ran, disturbing the peace of the quiet Christian Quarter alleys, trying not to slide on the cobblestones and taking shortcuts that ended up being wrong turns. After stunted sprints in my long skirt, we finally arrived, found the side chapel, and slid unsubtly into a pew. Mass was in Italian; I understood very little. But I could not stop smiling. The beauty of being in that particular moment: at an ancient church at 5:34 a.m., running on three hours of sleep, listening to a language I did not understand, and sweating from our unintended run overwhelmed me. I had wanted God to pull me aside dramatically. But God did not need to. God’s infinite love and infinite joy was available to me, at every instant, and I just needed to choose to seek it out, or maybe just choose to let it find me.

God knew that I needed not to be deafened, but to hear Him in the little whisper. He knew that it would be all too easy for me to leave behind a momentous instant upon exiting the airport, or maybe turn it into a well-worn story until it shrank to a shell of its true meaning. But life is a tapestry woven from little moments, and so learning to find God in them, to stand in God’s love and the beauty of life as His daughter in the imperfect and unremarkable present, is a life-changing lesson that does not shrink but swells. It is life-changing in spite of its smallness, because of its smallness: a mustard seed, poised to sprout.

I did not change my watch back when I got home; it stayed in Israel time for three weeks. Changing it back seemed like letting go of the last piece of my journey. One day, though, I did not screw on the lid of my water bottle all the way, so when I drank, a parade of water droplets stole down the side, splattering on my wrist. I laughed, and without hesitating, set my watch 8 hours back. Keeping the time would not take me back to Israel, and that was not what I needed, regardless. I needed instead to live where I was, in God’s abundant love. I did not need to return to meet with God again. I just needed to remember to seek him daily, in each little moment, in life’s drips.