We started our adventure in Al Bad’a, a town located in what was ancient Midian, at The Well of Moses, where it is believed Moses met his wife Zipporah after fleeing from Egypt.
Next, we went across the highway to see some Midianite tombs that had been carved into the stone mountains.
From there a lot of rough and bouncy off-road driving up into Wadi Tayyib Al Ism (wadis are like valleys, or better, like arroyos) until we reached a point where the wadi was blocked by a row of significant stones placed to stop all vehicle traffic. No more driving.
Our group walked about 4-1/2 miles up the wadi, which was spectacular. The walls gradually became more vertical and closer together as we approached the Red Sea beach. The locals have referred to this wadi as The Eye of Moses for millennia.
We snacked, hydrated, played in the Red Sea, and took photos. Then we walked out, back to our vehicles.
By the time we got back to our hotel it was 7:00 pm; we had to delay dinner a bit to allow for Ramadan. We went to a restaurant recommended by a local, a young man I’ll call Bob (not his real name), and we took him to dinner with us as our guest. His favorite restaurant was called North Indian Food. Very appropriate.
Dinner turned out to be one of the highlights of our two weeks in Saudi Arabia. Our exhaustion from the day’s shared experiences led to delightful conversation. The restaurant staff took great care of us, smiling and bring out food, and more food. We laughed and ate. On and on.
When it came time to leave, we asked for the bill, only to discover the entire meal had been paid for by Bob. He had arranged to pay for all of it, either by speaking at the counter when we weren’t looking, or maybe in advance earlier in the day.
We felt guilty about Bob paying knowing his salary was minuscule compared to any of ours, but he refused to relent. He just smiled, beamed, and shook his head. He insisted on treating us.
When our objections finally ran their course, Bob said, “Before I met Steve (our tour guide) I was bitter and depressed. But he brought joy and hope into my life.” We finally stopped arguing and let him pay the bill. I wasn’t an easy surrender, but it was the right thing to do.
That night I dreamed of a Bible story from John 12, when a woman named Mary poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. It was a bold and costly thing to do, and she did it out of gratitude for what Jesus had done for her.
It occurred to me that Bob buying our dinner was never about money, like we thought it was, but about gratitude. He bought dinner out of thankfulness for a changed life.
It’s difficult to stand down and let someone take care of us. Especially when we’ve spent decades taking care of other people. Being willing to receive often takes more grace than giving to others.
What if we had pushed the point until Bob finally relented and let us pay? We’d have missed a great blessing, and a pure demonstration of gratitude.
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“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”
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