When a wall is not a wall
I have reoccurring memories of people I met while in that part of the world and I am finding that prayer is a good response as I think of the new friends there and the ongoing story unfolding in that region. I read the news now with a much keener sense of the dynamics for the local people. It saddens me to see the peace process struggle.
|Selfie at the Western Wall|
There were, during the trip, a few surprises for me. Certainly one of the biggest came on the last Sunday before we left the country. We had been moving through the market tunnels of the old city of Jerusalem, clearing the gates and metal detectors as we went. The dark tunnels suddenly gave way to the bright daylight sun as we entered into a great square. The ground was stone and the walls reaching up around us were all made of stone, and as my eyes grew accustomed to the bright sun, I saw ahead of us in the near distance, a great stone wall. The Wailing Wall, the Western Wall.
This wall is apparently a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries. Some of the earliest sources mention Jewish attachment to the site as early as the 4th century.
|The Wailing or Western Wall. Men on the left, ladies on the right.|
I stopped and stood there sort of gazing at it like I do when I come face to face with a piece of geographical wonder that I’ve only seen in photos. You know, sort of like when I first came up out of the tube station and saw Trafalgar Square or when I stood at the base of the CN Tower in Toronto or saw the skyline of Chicago or when I first saw the Empire State building in person. There is for me a “Ahh” moment when I take the time to be present to where I am and what I am seeing. So it was for me at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Of course I took pictures, but then I wanted to, you guessed it, I wanted to touch it. I wanted to pray where millions have prayed. To call out to God, not out of a sense of superstition, but more from the place of my inner relationship with God, in this very outer, very prayed at place.
I entered through the mens side and selected an appropriate head covering, and started to walk to toward the wall. Thankfully it wasn’t a crowded day so there was room to pray.
Now, I have been in places that some people including myself, have experienced as “Thin places.” Places where heaven and earth seem to meet and the access to prayer and to God is almost seamless. Places or times when it seems like one’s heart is instantly drawn to prayer, and to God Himself. I have been in those sorts of places. This, was more open to heaven than many places I’ve been.
As I drew near to my selected place for prayer my spirit was already engaging and as I lifted my hands to lean into the wall, it was as if I was received into it in a most hospitable, gracious way. I leaned into it more as my spirit began to pray and my forehead found a place to rest in the rock. It was amazing.
Quietly and quickly the words poured out of me, words of conversation and connection with The Holy. Words and senses I did and didn’t understand. But my spirit was conversing with The Spirit.
|Me praying. (Taken by my friend John.)|
I knew that time was limited but I also knew I was in no real rush to reconnect with my travel companions. I stood there for what seemed like a mini forever and I didn’t want to leave. I pressed in and prayed further and there was such largeness to pray. Such room to call out praise and thanksgiving and to petition and to pray. Such a large space for my spirit to explore the praying and where I was, time stood still.
Finally, finally, after a season I began to pull away, as though I started to recall my spirit back into it’s container. Called it back from the wide open space and time. Called it back to the present with the same sense of “I’ll be back” as the children felt when they returned to the Now from Narnia.
I stepped back from the wall partly in awe, partly sad to turn away. Glad for the moments, wishing for more. What a gift it was to me. A promise, a future, a now.
And so I’ve been reflecting since then, was it just me? Was it the wonder of being in the physical place? Did I make that all happen in my head?
There are places and times when God is near and ready and open to conversation and connection. That’s the beauty of a two way relationship over and above a one way worshipping a God on a shelf sort of thing. It’s dynamic, it’s living. Others experiences there may vary. But it fits quite nicely with the God I’ve come to know, through Jesus, who as it happens, has prayed in the area too.
It was a grace to me and a reminder of so many things yet to come. Amazing things to see and hear and know. Amazing and wonder-filled.