Wow! Forgive me for not writing for so long….life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately! Seven weeks ago, the Lord blessed me and my family with being able to move into our very own home!! We are so incredibly grateful and are loving our new stomping grounds. And just over eight weeks ago, we found out we are expecting our second child!! We are SO. INCREDIBLY. BLESSED. But see what I mean about whirlwind? =)
However, more on all that later! We need to do this in order. 😉 Let’s back up to about ten weeks in ago in the month of May…(how does that already feel like ages ago?) when Aaron and I had the unbelievable privilege of traveling to see the Holy Land! After returning from this Middle Eastern jewel that is so pregnant with stories and prophecies, so many people have been asking me what experiencing Israel is like….so I am going to try to tell you. But let me warn you – it is so hard to put into words….
Israel is beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. It is a desolate, sometimes barren beautiful, with countless caves and crevices dotting its endless mountains and breathtaking views around seemingly every corner.There are spots of green in the endless desert beige, each one treasured and tenderly looked after. This is evidenced by the brown irrigation tubes that accompany anything remotely green. The people of Israel planted almost every tree and plant in their country BY HAND and are apparently known for inventing the most brilliant irrigation system in the world!
Israel breathes story. Flashes of Biblical narratives would race into my head, and like playing with paper dolls in a real world, I tried to paste 2D characters into the 3D world before my eyes. It was kind of like someone took my black-and-white picture Bible and a box of crayons and began to spill color into lines.
One of the archaeological highlights of our visit was the ruined Roman city of Beth-Shean. Beth-Shean boasted a still-mostly-intact bathhouse and an open air theatre and intricate pillars – the sites took my breath away. Our tour guide only gave us 20 minutes to explore, but I could have spent hours there…
My other archaeological favorite was that of Masada, an abandoned fortress that whispers a most tragic story. A band of Jewish zealots fleeing the hands of the Romans escaped Jerusalem and climbed the perilous mountain to reclaim the abandoned fortress that King Herod left behind at his death. Fortified with its own irrigation system and high stone walls, the band of Jews held out for three proud years against the constant onslaught of the Romans. Finally, when it was evident that their downfall was imminent, the zealots elected to rather kill their families and each other than to suffer rape, slavery, and murder at the hands of their enemies. I felt a sick feeling settle deep in my gut as I tried to imagine such an impossible moral conflict. What would I have done? As I walked along the ancient stone walls and peered over the edge of the cliff at the remains of the Roman encampments still imprinted on the ground below, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was it courage? Or was it lack of faith?
The times when we were given time to sit and reflect were the most impactful times spiritually. One such time, we climbed aboard a boat and sailed on the Sea of Galilee, singing worship songs and learning a Jewish dance as the sun soaked our skin and the wind rippled the water – water that Jesus touched, water He walked on, water that He stilled with a word, water that heaved fish into nets at His command.
Another such time was when we got to visit the Garden Tomb. Though not necessarily the one where Jesus was buried, it was legitimately a 2,000 year old rich man’s tomb in a beautiful garden – so like the description in the scriptures that it gave me chills as I bent through the stone doorway and stepped into the cool, dark, EMPTY tomb. “He is not here, but is risen, as He said!” In an intimate little room carved into rock, just a stone’s throw from the tomb, Aaron and I then got to portray some of Jesus’ last hours with His disciples to our group (as part of Piercing Word ministry) and lead them in communion. What a sweet time of reflection and prayer as we soaked up Jesus’ last words to His disciples, right near where it really happened.
Yet I think the most impactful moment for me personally was when we were led to the Wailing Wall and given time to pray. As the Jews traditionally do, I scrawled a prayer on a scrap of paper and slowly approached the wall. The sound of weeping met me as I touched the cold stone and stuffed my prayer into a crevice of the rock. My eyes searched up and down, left and right – countless pleas to Jehovah were stuffed in every nook and cranny; the entire wall was dotted with crumpled prayers. I lowered myself to the ground, kneeling between two Orthodox Jewish women and tried to pray the words I had penned just moments ago. But I could hardly focus, my words were lost, lost in the sobs that filled my ears, swept away in the strings of Hebrew words that poured forth in such obvious desperation. My mind could not understand the prayers of my Israelite sisters, but my heart might as well have known every word. And suddenly my own prayer changed. Instead of pleading for myself and my family, I begged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to show Himself to His people. To set them free, to show them the truth – the truth that their Messiah has already come, that they have already been rescued! My heart ached with the desperation that sandwiched me in that moment. Oh Jesus, show Yourself to Your precious people…
And you know what? I think that was the part about this trip that I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect the main takeaway for me personally to be the simple fact that God used my experience in Israel to grow in me a heart for His people and His promised land. In a way, I never really thought someone could miss a country…but I truly do.