I’ve heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls since my religion classes in college. Like a six-year-old dancing before the family tree of unopened gifts on Christmas morning, I looked forward to seeing the oldest known manuscripts of the Book that changed the world.
Walking through the limestone archway entrance, I traveled back in time. Life-sized pictures of the Qumran caves beamed me around the world into a desolate mountainside that protected the scrolls for over 2000 years before a shepherd boy discovered them while looking for his lost goat. My fingertips rested within an inch of the sacred documents held within environmentally controlled plexiglass cases.
I pictured the Essene scribe, hunched over a table with only an oil lamp to light his work. He dipped his pen into a tiny bowl of ink made from iron salts and tree fungus. With painstaking accuracy, he copied the biblical text onto the goatskin parchment, his script only a quarter-inch high. How long did it take him to copy the books of Moses, the Psalms, Isaiah, or Daniel?
The tour ended, but my husband humored me to keep the experience going. We walked outside and one block to the green tent that sheltered a simulated Qumran archaeological dig site. I looked forward to troweling through sand to uncover my souvenir 2,000-year-old potsherd hidden there.
But, the doctoral student tour guide killed the moment. Ending his lecture, he said, “Happy to answer questions. And we’ve hidden over 20,000 pieces of broken pottery from Qumran for children to dig if they want.”
For the children? Hey, I want to dig. Can’t I dig? The website said, “The Qumran Simulated Dig Site lets visitors of all ages experience what it’s like to be a real archaeologist.”
Five kids grabbed trowels and headed for the section the student pointed out. We adults stayed planted where we stood. Instead, I left without kneeling over an ancient civilization. I walked away without yielding to child-like thrill of uncovering pieces of the ancient Middle East where Jesus walked.
Regret. But, I can’t blame the doctoral student. I let his words stop me. I couldn’t let go of the “stuffy adult” tapes in my head. The ones that said, “You’ll look silly. This is for those under 18 years.” I let adult rules rule. I acted the Pharisee, all educated and too sophisticated to let the child in me experience a kingdom moment.
On my way out, I reached down and grabbed a crumb of Qumran pottery lying at my feet. I will visit the exhibit again before it leaves. But next time — and praise God that He gives us “next times” — I will go with the innocence and openness of a child. Next time, I will dig in the past.
“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3, NKJV)
For more information about the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, I suggest you visit the website: http://seethescrolls.com/exhibit
©2012 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. e-mail.