It is hard to write about such a profound experience as traveling to Israel. Especially because much of what I felt when there was not a big splash of sudden knowledge. I didn’t get blindsided by a “new” message from God. Sure, there were many interesting facts that I learned about the land, people, and historical events–that was all new, but the times when I heard God the loudest were in the smallest, most seemingly ordinary times.
Sitting in the rubble of an ancient city, I felt God’s whisper. Not a cold splash of water, “Aha!” moment, but a deep welling up from within, a place long dry and parched in my heart began to be filled.
We walked through a mountain forest in the northern part of Israel. Much different from the dry and sparse landscape of the desert, this was a beautiful natural area…lush trees, undergrowth, shade..and water. This area, near the ancient city of Dan, contains a spring- living water- one of the sources of the Jordan River. It seems so strange to look as such a little, insignificant stream of water and think that it becomes a river…running through the land, through time, always moving.
Arriving at the ruins of Tel Dan, we see the walls. Climbing up, (it’s pretty steep, but all good cities are built on hills!), we came to the “courtyard” of the city- inside the city walls. Our guide gathered us there and asked us to sit- she was going to do a teaching, tell us a story.
Although the cities were named after the tribe leaders- Dan, for instance, the word “city” in Hebrew is feminine noun. “Why?” she asked us. She told us to imagine a woman walking along a dirt road with her young children. A stranger, or perhaps a dangerous beast comes upon them….the children are afraid, where do the go? what do they do?
The children run and hide behind their mother..they wrap themselves in her skirt.
The city is the mother, and her daughters- anyone who lives outside the city walls (the outskirts)- the ordinary people–run, run to the skirt, the gates of their mother, for protection, for comfort.
I think our guide may have continued talking after that, but I am not sure. I was drowning in a flood of emotion. Welling up from deep within my soul, tears filled my eyes.
“Where would my children run?….Would my children hide behind my skirt?”…..I wondered. “No,” I thought, “they would not run to me.” Although I had worked on my anger and tendency to yell at them so as not to be the “scary thing” in their lives, sitting there within the walls of this ancient city, I realized that I had merely removed something scary, but had I created a safe place? Had I built walls that were strong, a place they saw as comforting? protecting?
These questions, and the uncertainty of their answers would stay with me for the rest of the trip. Although God had been slowly working on my relationship with my children, a small stream of His words calling me gently to pour into my family, this moment right here…as I sat in the ruins of this ancient city of refuge, I felt like God was saying, really repeating, what He had tried to tell me all along. “Create a home of refuge for your children, for my children…for anyone seeking sanctuary.”
There is much more to this story and, in many different ways, God continued to show me what it would mean to build a place of refuge in my home, to become the mother of comfort, security, and peace. I will share more of that on another day, but for today, I want to end with Psalm 100- a beautiful portrait of what will happen when the stranger on the road is not a scary enemy, when we look and see King Jesus coming toward us. We, the ordinary people, living on the outskirts, will come running- not in fear, but in joy…we will enter with thanksgiving.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.