If I had to describe my recent trip to Israel in one word, it would be overwhelming. While there, every part of my being was overcome with stimuli – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. From the time we arrived until we departed I struggled to get my bearings on what I was experiencing.
Previous journeys I’ve taken out of the US have been to South America, to which travel time was short with minimal change in time zones. I had no idea how physically taxing a trip around the world is. Sitting on an airplane for 16 hours prompted neck, back, and leg soreness which I tried, in vain, to alleviate by frequent trips to the restroom.
I left my airplane seat for good once we arrived in Tel Aviv at 9 am. Our hotel rooms would not be ready until the afternoon, so we made good use of the day in Joppa (also called Jaffa). We walked and walked, ate some lunch, then walked some more. By early afternoon, I could no longer keep my eyes open. Thankfully, it was time to check into the hotel and I took a nap. Little did I know then that I would fight to keep my eyes open nearly every day of the trip.
We covered hundreds of miles by bus and on foot while in country. My shoes collected mud from Mount Arbel. I wiped sprinkles of rain from my face in Capernaum. Fierce wind atop Mount Carmel blew my hair into a frenzy. My legs felt the gentle sway of the Sea of Galilee. My eyes witnessed place where Jesus was crucified and the empty tomb where His body had been laid. My heart skipped a beat upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane. From climbing the southern steps to tunnel navigation through the City of David, our bodies were physically challenged every day.
Our tour guide made sure I was mentally challenged each day as well. Her understanding of the history of Israel and the Jewish people and how they both have Biblical relevance was astounding. I willed my mind to recall what limited Old Testament knowledge I have, but was frequently lost in the details. As if drinking from a fire hydrant, my mind was overloaded with information at every stop. Methodically trying to download as much as my brain could handle, I vowed to read my Guide to the Holy Land book later that evening. Yeah, that never happened.
Perhaps the most overwhelming part of the trip was the emotional roller coaster we road. Each day invoked a variety of feelings ranging from anticipatory happiness to sobering reverence. I imagined the excitement of those who saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey via the Palm Sunday Road. Sadness settled in my spirit as I sat under an Olive Tree, remembering the time Jesus begged for an alternative to the cross. Peace washed over me as I envisioned Jesus on a hill, teaching the people of God’s care for the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and for them. Love swelled my heart as I began to understand the Lord’s sovereignty for His people.
Last, but not least, was the way my spirit was overtaken during my time in Israel. On more than one occasion, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as chills covered my body in response to the Holy Spirit. His presence gradually pealed back layers of callus built up on my heart from years of trying to pretend I have it all together. Day by day, my heart softened to the truth of His love. On the southern steps of the Temple, I came face to face with a clear picture of the way God sees me – a priceless, beloved daughter worth dying for. I was undone by the weight my sin and the price He paid for me to have eternal life. It was then that I realized how nothing I do, nothing I say, and nothing I accomplish or fail to accomplish influences my position as His child. His love overshadows all offenses made against me and compels me to forgive others as He has forgiven me.
Jesus didn’t just walk the streets of Israel two thousand years ago, He walks them still today. His footprints have left an indelible mark on that land and because of that, I will never be the same.