My friend Steven Sawyer caught my eye this morning with his post “Are you a sea of galilee or a dead sea believer”, and I started to think about what kind of believer am I anyway? Well, of course I also started thinking about my trips to Israel and Egypt; how could I not after all as the first trip was entirely to reconnect with my spirituality and faith.
I have a higher degree in Christian Education and counseling. The path to that degree took me through Theology, history, philosophy, ethics and a multitude of other courses designed (it seemed) to confuse me. I survived the courses and graduated but lost quite a lot of my faith.
Somewhere between ancient history and the writings of Josephus, et al and the New Testament writings, especially those NOT placed into the Bible as we know it today whittled away at my religious beliefs until I could no longer identify as Christian.
I really wanted to find my childhood faith. I missed it. I missed feeling joyous at Christmas over the birth of my savior. I missed the heart wrenching agony of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and the extreme joy of Easter. And I felt a total hypocrite counseling people in heartfelt pain with Biblical principals I no longer truly believed.
So, following some strange instinct, I went to the Holy Land. I went to find God…whoever he/she might be.
I walked the Roman roads through Nazareth and around Kinneret,
through the hills of northern Galilee; I sat in the synagogue in Capernaum and Gamla
and closed my eyes the better to see back into the first century.
I wandered through Jerusalem and walked from the Mount of Olives
to the Via Dolorosa
amidst worshippers recreating His walk to the cross. And felt NOTHING. Hot, tired, thirsty..but no emotions to speak of.
It wasn’t until Qumran in the “wilderness” that I felt anything at all.
Standing on a cliff looking across at a cave and thinking about the scrolls found due to a shepherd attending his lost goat. I felt both peace and horror. There was a moment, just a passing second where I wondered what it would be like to step off the cliff. Would I fall or be caught? And it occurred to me in that instant that Jesus must have had close to the same kind of thought when Satan was urging him to break free of the Father’s influence.
I suddenly felt my Father gently holding me back. Oh not physically, but somewhere deep inside. And I thought he’d been with me through all of my doubts and all my despair. I just hadn’t been paying attention.
I didn’t suddenly revive my faith. I didn’t suddenly decide that Jesus was a third of God, separate yet the same. Sorry, I don’t buy that at all anymore. But I understood how we are all of us part of God.
So, I still don’t know how to answer Steven’s question, but I don’t need to.