Shabbat Shalom everyone! That means “have a peaceful Sabbath”. The sabbath started 22 minutes ago (at the time I began blogging) so I had to move to an internet cafe in the Christian quarter (not Jewish near the Wailing Western Wall) because the Christian ones don’t close for sabbath.
This year it is all about emotions
Today began with me feeling down. Since a few days ago I felt touched and challenged to care about someone again. Last year when I travelled I was stretched spiritually, but this year I’m being stretched emotionally, challenged to become open, challenged to face past hurts.
So I sat on the floor feeling hurt, but knowing that actually NOTHING in my life is in danger and I don’t have any actual needs. God has provided everywhere and if you read my daily blogs, you’ll know He even provides for the smallest things along the way.
So with nothing to actually feel sad about, I knew these were feelings from the past and fears of the future. To step out and love again, when you have my past, is a challenge… but I am 100% sure that God wants this for me. But I’m just flat out scared.
Not today Lord, ok?
So I got moving. Walking along processing how I feel. I’ve known since last year (when I was here) that I would be praying in the ancient valley of Kidron in Jerusalem to repent on behalf of the great evil and destruction done there in the past.
I really didn’t feel “up” to anything “spiritual” today so I thought maybe I’d go to the valley tomorrow Lord? But not to today, ok Lord, I don’t feel up to it. (Remember: Let’s go *this* way… but… He led me *that* way).
I checked email and headed out to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along the way my emotions just got worse and worse and I felt like I needed healing… or at least a doctor who specializes in hearts… or something! Having almost walked into the mosque and severe trouble (a tourist was stabbed near here last night!) I neared the Lion gate (and Gethsemane) and I happened to see the word “Bethesda” on the wall.
Peace at Bethesda
Something happened in me. I turned toward it and they were closing at 12pm. But the nun (from St. Annes) pointed to me and said “do you want to come in”? I said yes and went in not knowing where I was going.
Inside the area I felt such peace – like I was in the right place at the right time. I saw where Jesus had healed the leper and I cried and cried. I was alone, they had closed for the lunch time. They have a quote there, Jesus said to the leper “do you want to be healed?” and it was like it was meant for me. Do I want to?
Everything outside like Gethsemane would also be closed so God had made a lovely place for me to stay until things reopened. Or so I thought! Then I met a father who lives there. I talked to him and gradually became away that I had met him last year as well! We spoke for a while and he left – perhaps for lunch. He invited me to lunch with him the next day (sat).
I walked around, prayed a bit, went inside the church and enjoyed the coolth. There is a gorgeous echo inside and people are encouraged to sing in the church. I asked God for healing and at that moment the father walked in the door of the church and he invited me to have tea or coffee with him. We went into another room in their private area and supped together.
This time was wonderful and challenging – together. It was wonderful because he shared such wisdom and kindness and I learned a lot about myself and what I’m going through. But it was literally a time of testing too!
A time of testing
I listened to this very kind man talk about his faith and his experience of people. As a catholic father, he has worked in africa and elsewhere and seen such tremendous pain… I know I too will be living and working in those areas, so it was interesting to see my future in some ways.
But the testing came as he spoke about his catholic beliefs about the bible and how humanty is gradually learning about God and that the bible is not to be taken literally, God doesn’t really feel as is described in the bible, He isn’t a “monster” like that.
I had never actually understood the VAST CHASM that exists between my beliefs and his catholic beliefs. His logic was so enticing, so kind, so inclusive, so generous to people of all religions – and people DO need kindness and love!
I left at 3pm having had a wonderful time, feeling “put together”. (I don’t think I’m healed, but I’m one step closer to facing my past and getting up the courage to go forward again).
A decision to make
As I exited, I walked towards the Lion Gate and towards Gethsemane… I was rattled by his perspectives. It rolled around in my mind. If God’s laws are not really His exact laws, but our best interpretation based on our current understanding, if the OT doesn’t correctly describe how God feels about idolatry and His anger about it… then… well… then… how is this Christianity?
Do I believe in a “monstrous” God filled with violence and judgement? What do I believe? As I walked along I felt this question directly pierce me.
The chasm between his and my beliefs was enormous. But at it’s heart, I was faced with this fact: if God is not jealous of other “gods”, if worshipping another god is not a sin, if Jesus didn’t die for our sins… then the whole thing is a farce and there is no solution for any of the problems facing the world today.
Paul put it well:
if there will be no resurrection from the dead? If there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die!” – 1 Cor. 15:32
or in The Message version:
And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I’d do this if I wasn’t convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn’t be the end of me? Not on your life! It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live.
If there’s no resurrection, “We eat, we drink, the next day we die,” and that’s all there is to it.
But don’t fool yourselves. Don’t let yourselves be poisoned by this anti-resurrection loose talk. “Bad company ruins good manners.” – 1 Cor. 15:32
So I had a decision to make: to believe the bible (warts and ugly bits and violence and judgement and all), or to not believe and to take a kinder, softer, gentler approach.
I have been at this cross-roads before, each time another ASPECT of my faith is challenged, tested, sifted. Decision time.
Sin is a problem, it’s undeniable. I have seen Jesus set too many people free from sin to doubt. I decided to believe the bible “as it is”.
I have found that this is the one sure way to end a test or sifting. I wrote two popular posts on sifting: Sifted – when God goes silent (and things go nutty) and Surviving sifting and returning with a stronger faith – ready for ministry.
Yesterday when I walked out of the Garden Tomb (agreeing that I had died with Him) I felt different. While having bread and wine with Polish believers at the Garden Tomb (agreeing that what the bible says about His body and blood is true) I felt different. Again now after my decision I felt different. Sealed. Closed.
I walked along regretting not having a map to tell me where the Garden of Gethsemane is. Gah. Every road and every building in the area looks the same. Hmmm… and no one can speak Engish here. So I turn up a random road and there it is, first entrance on the right. I go in and look around. It wasn’t moving to me, but when I heard a voice say to me “I prayed here” as if the voice was pointing to these 12 or so olive trees (Gethsemane is smaller than I expected), then I took the place a lot more seriously. hehehe.
I walked out, around the top, looking for a way into the olive groves outside gethsemane. I found a guy who said to me to walk along and try the doors on the right, one of them will let me into the grove. So I walked up and along and trudged along in the lovely heat. Yum. I did find a door, I went in. I saw lots and lots of graves – a cemetary! Jews believe that those who are buried on the Mt of Olives will be resurrected first. I walked down the cemetary and then followed a path to the left which led me to an area that I felt was unclean.
Little did I know… I was in the Kidron valley!
Prayer walking the Kidron valley
I had wanted to go *this* way and He led me *that* way.
I lifted the area up to our Father and repented for the sins in that area and I lifted up Jesus, His Son, as full payment for this area. I lifted up the people trapped by the consequences of the sin. I walked and prayed and I felt like light was coming to the area. I prayed for the people, for Jesus to bring knowledge of Himself to them, I just walked and lifted up to Our Father what Jesus has done for these people.
This is called “standing in the gap” when you lift up other people’s sins to God and ask Him to accept the death of Jesus Christ, His Son, as full payment.
This whole area is in bondage because of the thousands of deaths and offerings to the false god Moloch in times gone by. As I walked I just kept hearing that repentance is the solution, so I kept repenting.
The valley winds around a bit and I sort of felt like I had gone far enough. I still didn’t know I was in the Kidron valley, I was just praying because I felt to. In the valley I couldn’t see the Old City walls to tell where I was. So I headed up.
As I surfaced up from the valley I found I was at the western wall. I had walked from Lion’s Gate around the corner to the Western Wailing Wall. That area is the Mt Zion, the Temple Mount… the mosque! I decided to find an internet cafe to work out where Kidron is – relative to where I had walked. The valley of Kidron goes from Lions gate to the Dung Gate entrance to the western wailing wall – exactly where I walked!
I am the blind man… and it’s ok!
I wrote here A lesson on the Holy Spirit leading us about how we’re blind and we need to accept that the Holy Spirit will lead us, even though He is invisible to us and what He does is unknown to us. At the beginning of today I heard “My ways are not your ways” as I thought about why He comes and goes like the wind… unknowable to us.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Is 55:8-9
Today felt exactly like that. I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t feel capable or ready inside myself, I didn’t realise I was being tested, I didn’t know where I was going or when it would be over… but He is the Helper, He knew, He guided unknown to me… I’m the blind helpless man… and it all turned out exactly right.