Another early rise this morning but not as early as 3am. It was a 7am start with lots to see and do in the day ahead. The itinerary was jam packed with activities and not a moment to spare. Once we dressed and got breakfast we set off through the streets of Jerusalem. The theme of burnt orange cobbled stones continued through the winding streets; making everything feel so ancient and authentic.
Today we were to visit the Western ‘Wailing’ Wall in what was about to be the biggest culture shock of all. The morning sun rose early, illuminating the narrow streets which dipped downwards towards our destination. Some struggled with the walk, understandable considering the age range was 28 to about 80! We got there all in one piece to be greeted once again by this sea of black clothing; tall hats and ringlets. This is where the Jewish people come from all over the world to pray for the saviour they believe is yet to come.
Before we visit the wall, we go underneath the city to the original ancient city roads preserved at the foot of the temple. Down through the tunnels we learn all about the history of Jerusalem, the meaning of the wall, how the city fell and was re-built. At this point I was tuning out feeling I needed to read a book to take it all in. Of course, those in the group more in tune with the Bible could keep up.
We went to the innermost part of the wall where it’s said to be the closest spot to where ‘the Holiest of the Holy’ once stood. It is the place with most meaning. The road we walked upon was 2000 years old and may have been the same route Jesus walked along every day to get to the Temple.
Stopping to appreciate the significance of this place, the cultural differences struck me. There I stood in whatever funky dress I was wearing, free to value the moment. While all along the wall stood women covered up with their heads wrapped in scarves; not as conservative as an Islamic woman’s hijab but covered up nonetheless. They stood with their Bibles pressed right into their faces, so close I imagine they must know the prayers off because they couldn’t possibly read the words. As they rocked back and forth chanting they pushed themselves so far into the wall. It was as if their prayers were willing them to go right through the wall and into the temple. The extremity of it made me feel uneasy, like they were almost prisoners of their own faith.
Going outside to the Wailing Wall didn’t make me feel much better. Hundreds of these women stood blinded by their Bibles, forcing themselves into the wall. They recited their prayers over and over as they pushed and cried and wailed. The segregation between the men and women was astounding; a barrier down the middle showing each their place.
This total subversion in prayer was fascinating to watch. They idolise God and dedicate their lives to the saviour and the glory they will bring. I felt sympathy for them as I felt this blindness to their prayers meant they missed out on the real glory of God in life and the world around them. To me God is all around us in life and love every day and while they were pressing their faces into these Bibles, they were missing it.
We moved on to the Temple stairs which were really well preserved and amazing to walk upon. We sat here for awhile and learned about how the Temple was made by massive stones which were carved and carried and put in place. He spoke of the young men who fulfilled their dreams to become preachers, workers of God, only to be given jobs building the Temple. Chiseling stone.
This hit me immensely. It felt so in line with my current situation of studying and working towards a career I always wanted only to be knocked aside into something I didn’t love so much. Something not so honourable. The message is we keep chiseling away, building a temple even though it’s only slightly related to what we want to do. We also received the message that has stuck with me in a massive way, “do not let your job become your identity”. This is what I had done. In my mission, I was so fixed on building my temple I had forgotten why I had started. I had also left out the most important part, the Sabbath; the rest, the reflection.
The other key takeaway from today was if you should go to church to worship God. The answer being, there is nothing you should do because God will love you regardless. However, if you praise God and worship him you will receive blessings along the way. If you don’t take in God, you miss the blessings.
Lessons from today
- There is nothing in life you should do. God will love you no matter what. But whatever you do, do it with great love and faith and you will receive blessings along the way.
- You may get your dream job to find it’s a long slog that you hate. Just keep chipping away until you find something truly worth honouring you.
- Don’t allow your job to become your identity.
Reflections on the day
Maybe changing the course of action is a better way than changing the dream. I may have had to build blocks to build the temple in order to become the preacher, but building blocks is making me tired and miserable. The dream has not changed, I was just getting there the wrong way. I want to be a writer, I don’t want to work in social media marketing. I need to go back and change direction. Of course no forget to rest.
Maybe I’ve already built the temple and now I’m ready to enjoy it.