I opened my Bible to 1 Chronicles 17. I normally hate reading the Old Testament because I find it less familiar, harder to relate to, and frankly challenging to get through. When trying to get through the Bible in a year, I am required to read the difficult passages in addition to my favorite gospels. However as I look over the top line of divinely inspired words, I can’t help but to allow my mind to wander into the calm blue waves washing against the sand right outside of my hotel window. Outside, I see Cuba’s beauty.
I take a break to close my eyes. I listen to the variety of noises seeping into my room like darkness over a sunset. Languages representing multiple nationalities find their way to my ears. Some I can understand, and others I don’t even recognize. Blenders chop and ice is tossed at the bar to satisfy the thirsts of all passing by with the green, all-inclusive wristbands. Alcohol is cheaper than water here, which allows for the plot arc of the day to proceed with constant entertainment. The sound of rolling suitcases and shuffling feet remind me that Cuba is dependent on tourism, bringing a constant shift of money inflow. I struggle to comprehend what it’s like to rely on such a transient and unpredictable industry. A juxtaposed entrance of clave, voice, and guitar distracts my train of thought. Without even looking, I know the rhythmic movements and joyful smiles that always seem to accompany the strings of notes. Through the electric variety of sounds from my towering hotel oasis, I see Cuba’s beauty.
I force myself to break from Cuba’s colorful trance and return to the black and white pages in front of me. I make it through God’s words to Nathan without much thought or insight. When I get to David’s prayer, which finishes the second half of the chapter, I am suddenly more invested. I begin to read the passion behind David’s words to the Lord. David is the hero of Israel, elected by God to rule over the country after fighting with the Philistines. Mysterious despite being so well known, David has been given the challenging task of leading a country after extreme heartbreak and forceful domination. David gives praise with overwhelming gratitude for the journey on which he and his family have suffered. David describes his low status through the lens of his newly found promotion in God. Shockingly, David is starting to remind me of Fidel Castro. Fidel is a passionate leader given the challenge of ruling over a country after extreme anguish. He was chosen not by God, but rather by his people to lead Cuba after the Revolution. From my interactions with Cubans throughout the country, Cubans seem to take pride in their equally low statuses. Fidel is raised above the rest, similarly to David, because of his vision and promise for the country. For all that David received in money, recognition, and power, he gave it all back to his people. The many state-sponsored advertisements on roadsides, glorifying museums in every city, and t-shirts on nearly every Cuban body suggest that Fidel gave back to his people in a similar fashion. Because of David’s heart and service and its surprising relation to Fidel Castro, I see Cuba’s beauty.
Reigning in my focus, I return to the powerful book in my hands. David continues in his prayer to ask for sustain of God’s promises for Israel. He wanted to be able to promise increased stability, improved quality of life, and unbreakable presence of God. Once again, I am undoubtedly reminded of Cuba. The Revolution brought seemingly unending streams of promises about anything from political redemption and economic strength to bettered education and accessible healthcare. Because of the past, neither Fidel nor David knew for sure that these visions could be carried out. Even now as Cuba is being opened back up to the United States and the embargo is being lifted, the domination of communism and socialism is under question. The struggle for identity is strikingly similar as well. Israel has experienced a constant movement of leaders and gods while Cuba has been battling imperialist rulers and exploitation since 1492. Judging by past behavior, both David and Fidel seem to be rightfully terrified of their ability to serve in the position in which they were slated. This fear does not deter either leader, however, from continuing in combat for what they believe for their country. By the relation of Cuba and Israel through struggle, enslavement, and heartbreak, I see Cuba’s beauty.
I closed my Bible and lay in my bed, allowing the cross breeze to cool the sweat on my body. I figure I have to wait until I get back to America before I read these passages again because all I can see in the text is Cuba. Amazed, it occurs to me that 1 Chronicles 17 taught me more about Cuba than any museum guide or travel book. Sometimes it is through everyday activities that we experience purpose and understanding. I never thought that David could teach me about Fidel. I certainly never expected for Cuba to relate to Israel. But it is through these revelations that I see Cuba’s beauty.