Last night I was reading in the book of Acts, and I think I have found new life verse. It hinges on the fact that the Apostle Paul and I, while I doubt we would have got along very well, have a shared experience. A bond even, if you will.
The story goes back not quite a year to the third of July, 2011. I was sitting in a Pizza Hut in East Amman with my college friends, Stephen, Michael, and Matt, rehydrating and scarfing down pizza. I had flown down from Beirut, where I was spending the summer, a week earlier, and after three days driving around in the desert skirting the Israeli border and consuming little but camel's dung tea and Bedouin food (which is amazing, but gets a little old), the pizza tasted good. After being away from everyone I knew for a month and a half and not even talking to anyone from back home in several weeks, it also seemed strangely wonderful to be with some people I had known before the summer's events and catch up with them.
As I was in the midst of the second or so pizza, my cell phone rang. I flipped it open, and it was a woman from the organization I was interning with at the time. While my main reasons for coming to Jordan were to first, make a video about the organization's work there and second, see Michael and Stephen, I was also ostensibly to be helping the media team there interview some locals and set up a website. The woman who called me was involved with that, so it didn't surprise me.
What did surprise me was that she was asking me if I was still going to come meet her. For the life of me I couldn't remember setting up an appointment. It had been a rollicking last few days though, and after all of the stress, excitement and heat-stroke, I couldn't rule out that I was just losing my mind (there was also the ever-present possibility that one of the arguiles I crossed paths with had more than just tobacco in it). So I said I would talk with my friends to make sure it was okay if I left them––and if it would be possible to find my way back to the place in West Amman where they were living by myself. They said yes, at which point, I called the woman back, and asked where she wanted to meet me.
Amman is divided into circles. Thus, when the woman told me the apparently prearranged location of our meeting––the place where she was at that moment waiting for me––and it was the same circle the Pizza Hut I was sitting in was on, I started to freak out even more. Maybe I was going crazy. Out of all the places in the city of Amman, we were less than a few blocks apart. I said I'd be right over.
Things weren't adding up at this point, but I was far too flustered to really see that they weren't. Fortunately, Matt suspected what the problem was, and suggested I call her back and ask her who she thought I was. I did this, and the reply I got was a rather incredulous sounding "Aren't you the Egyptian man?" "No, this is Andrew––the communications guy!" I said, at which point Stephen, Michael and Matt almost fell off their chairs laughing.
Apparently, when I had texted her my number several days before, it was at the same time that this mysterious Egyptian did the same, and the contact cards got mixed up in her phone. At any rate, this brings me to my point of Paul and I having a shared experience that not many people can claim.
As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city.”
(Acts 21:37-39 ESV)
Paul and I have both been mistaken for Egyptians! Given, the consequences for Paul's mistaken identity were probably a bit more severe, ie, getting arrested and almost flogged. But then, I was on the verge of having to meet someone for a meeting I knew nothing about and then fight my way back across Amman into the most conservative neighborhood in the city to a place I couldn't really remember with only a smattering of Arabic in a country where all the taxi drivers are sharks. So, really, we both stood to lose something if it turned out we were Egyptians.