By Jennifer Davis Rash
Executive Editor, The Alabama Baptist
It might have been the Sea of Galilee or the Garden Tomb. For some it was the southern steps to where the temple once stood. For others it was the Garden of Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa or even experiencing current-day work.
The locations varied, but for all 50 people participating in the recent Holy Land experience sponsored by The Alabama Baptist a moment happened. Jesus, our faith and life in general took on an all-new deeper meaning. Many shared how they were excited to read familiar biblical texts again just to watch them come to life in a way they never have before.
Even Acts 1:8 — “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” — has added dimension for me.
All the descriptions you have heard from believers experiencing the Holy Land are true. It is life changing to walk where Jesus walked. And as we begin reflecting back on the experience, I’m sure we will continue to gain new insight and grow in ways we never realized possible just because we were there.
But the key will be to prioritize the reflecting.
Just as with any out-of-town experience, it is easier to push the worries of everyday life to the background when away than when we are staring at them.
And as with any missions setting, focusing on God becomes routine during the days we have scheduled for that purpose.
It is when we return home that maintaining clutter-free focus on God as priority each day is difficult. It is hard to avoid getting caught in the ebb and flow of schedules, commitments and desires of others.
During our last afternoon in Jerusalem, I was reminded of how easily our time with God can be interrupted. We had been going strong for nine days, and we were set to leave for the airport that night. We were given about three hours on our own before we regrouped for the farewell events and then headed to the airport.
It was the one opportunity to truly be alone with God at one of the sites in the “holy city.” At first I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go back to the Garden of Gethsemane or the southern steps. Then I thought of the view from the Mount of Olives as well as the peacefulness of the Garden Tomb. They were all tempting and all good choices. I couldn’t decide.
As I was debating where I would go, I was invited to go back into the Old City to walk around and have a late lunch. I accepted the invitation and had a nice time. I was able to see first-hand just how crowded and chaotic it can be in the area as well as enjoy time with a friend.
But why did I bump my time planned with God so easily? Sure, I was having trouble deciding where I wanted to go, but I could have selected by using a factor such as the closest spot.
I do enjoy spending time with my friend, but that was most likely not my only opportunity for time with her. It was my only opportunity for time alone with God in the Holy Land (at least on this trip).
I can’t really answer why I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, but I do know God spoke to me through what happened. He reminded me I was only about a day away from walking back into the nonstop pace of life, and if I want to continually grow closer to Him I must guard my time with Him.
He also reminded me not to be discouraged if the quiet times don’t always come. I remembered how many times I connected with Him during the Holy Land experience, even though many moments were hectic. I was surrounded by scores of people and moving at a fast pace, but God was there teaching me and drawing me closer to Him — even amid the distractions and noise.