“What was it like to walk where Jesus walked?”
“Of everything you experienced in Israel, what is your single greatest takeaway?”
Questions like these continue to greet Shirley and myself after a five-week study tour in Israel. In many ways, answering these questions is like needing to determine which of my four children is my favorite, or naming the greatest moment in my thirty-three-year marriage.
Some questions cannot be answered because it reaches beyond a feeling or an experience. It even reaches beyond goosebumps.
While we were on tour, I recall getting to many holy sites and wondering when am I going to “feel it?” In other words, really “feel it”—becoming deeply moved or touched in a profound way while standing in these holy sites and places where Jesus certainly frequented and walked.
One week led into the next. I was still awaiting my goosebump moment. Everywhere we went I was very present and deeply engaged. Yet, a nagging thought began to occupy my mind. I began to wonder “what is wrong with me?” “Am I so unspiritual that I cannot ‘feel it?’” “Am I so disconnected that I fail to appreciate the holy sites in which I am standing?”
Meanwhile, I observed many of my peers in deep reflection and quietness, being deeply impacted as we experienced the sights, sounds, smells, and stones. But not me…no feelings, no chills, no goosebumps.
However, throughout our experiences, I began to observe Shirley and I were continually drawn deeply into what stood among the sights, sounds, smells, and stones throughout the Holy Lands. It was people—and their stories.
Through their stories, we heard the good, the bad and the ugly. We observed and experienced the holy and the unholy realities of broken humanity—present wherever humans are found. Among many of these new friendships, we heard stories from followers of Jesus who proclaimed and testified of deep faith in Christ even while suffering loss and enduring deep-seeded hatred rising from generations of racial and ethnic conflict. To see Christ’s abiding love and peace undeniably written on their countenance in the midst of their reality, touched us deeply.
Indeed, such moments became for us—goosebump moments.
Faith is more than a feeling, facts, or merely standing among sight, sounds, smells and stones. The gift we received was discovering and experiencing living stones…living among the stones.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” Luke 17:20-21 NRSV