“I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12).
The post below is the Introduction to my upcoming book. Whatever you are going through, I hope you will feel the presence of God beside you, comforting, guiding, and protecting you.
In the summer of 2009, my husband and I took a trip to the Holy Lands with our church. Filled with a desire to experience all this ancient land had to offer, I went equipped with a new camera, a blank journal, and a mantra that I would recite throughout each day: Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me.
The visit to the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem was the pinnacle of the trip. Not because of its historical significance, but because of what I experienced there as a Christian.
Built by Herod the Great to surround the Temple Mount, the Western Wall is considered by Jews today to be the holiest place on earth because of its proximity to where the Ark of the Covenant was last housed in the Holy of Holies. Our Jewish guide informed us of various ways visitors prayed at the wall. Some write prayers on little pieces of paper that they wedge into the seams of the limestone believing location to play into the fulfillment of their requests. Others stand with their foreheads against the wall to pray. Jews who revere the wall are known to sit and pray aloud all day with one hand in continual contact with the stone. We were warned to pay attention to Jews who were leaving the area because they exited backwards, bowing as they went, as if they were leaving the presence of a king.
(My husband took this photo from the Temple Mount near the Dome of the Rock.)
Honoring God was my top priority, but I wasn’t sure which approach would achieve this goal. Therefore, I decided the best thing to do was to take my lead from my husband. I nagged Greg all morning about his intended behavior at the wall; I wanted to know if he planned to look at it, touch it, or stick a prayer in it. Unfortunately, he hadn’t yet decided. So, before boarding the tour bus, I wrote a little prayer on a small piece of hotel paper and stuck it in my pocket in order to be prepared for every possible scenario.
When we arrived at the Western Wall, our tour guide reminded us of the rules: Be respectful. Cover your shoulders. Keep your eyes open, and move out of the way of individuals exiting backwards. Then he said, “Men line up over here; women over there.”
What??? I was being separated from my husband?? Why hadn’t I been informed of this earlier?
Gender segregation was established at the Western Wall in 1967 following the Six Day War that expanded Israel’s borders. A much larger section of the wall is accessible to men only. I joined the women on the other side of a fabric partition that obscured our view of the male side.
Walking slowly towards the wall, I took in the sights and sounds as I recited my mantra over and over again. Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me. I truly felt like I was walking on holy ground. For all I knew, I was standing where one of the disciples may have stood, or Mary Magdalene. Maybe even Jesus himself. But I was not a Jew and did not believe that the wall had any special powers simply because it was close to where the Holy of Holies had been situated. Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me.
Some women walked quickly to the wall, stuck their prayer in it, and turned around to leave. Other women kissed the wall before departing. Some Jewish women looked like they were camping out at the wall; they had brought chairs and, with nodding heads, recited prayers or scripture in Hebrew (I assume) as they wailed. Ah, I thought, this is why it’s called the Wailing Wall. I also took note of the Jewish women who were withdrawing from the wall, bowing as they took slow steps backwards. I did have to move slightly to the right to escape one retreating woman. Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me.
About eight feet from the wall I was overcome with a sense of panic. What was I supposed to do? How could I best honor God? I had to make a decision. I was so close! Struggling to decide whether to continue moving forward or not, I ran my fingers over the prayer in my pocket. Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me. Would God be offended if I stuck a prayer in the wall? Should I at least touch the wall out of respect? Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me. Open my eyes so I can see visions of truth you have for me.
And then I heard Him. For a brief moment, all other sounds vanished, as if I had entered a vacuum. The voice was clear and precise. Masculine, but gentle. “I am not here. I am among the living.”
My head snapped to the right, and then to the left. I was standing among women. Not a single man was in sight. I knew who had spoken to me; the voice was God’s. However, standing in Jerusalem, just feet from the Wailing Wall, I half expected to see Jesus. I stopped where I was and said a short prayer of gratitude. Then I turned my back on the wall and walked out.
This was not the first time I had heard God’s voice—but it was the first time I recognized it. During the previous six years I had taken intentional steps into a deeper faith walk, and I knew without a shadow of doubt who had spoken.
“The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:3-5).
I have had the gracious gift of hearing God’s voice several times during my life, and each time was a unique experience. I have also come to realize that God speaks to us in many different ways, often without language. In the absence of words, I have felt God’s presence, experienced his nudges, and heard him speak through others and myself. I don’t write this to boast, but to boast in Jesus Christ and his mysterious proclivity to speak into our lives in unexpected and creative ways. This should not be surprising, and yet our human nature pigeonholes our expectations of how God will reveal himself, if in fact he reveals himself at all.
And that is the crux of this book. Together we will explore how God has spoken to people in the past, how he speaks to people today, and how he may be trying to speak to you. As you enter into this book, set aside any preconceived beliefs you have about God’s voice and who he chooses to speak to, and open your heart to the possibility of experiencing his presence. Our God is a God of surprises who desires to speak into each and every one of you if you approach him with a willing heart and ears to hear.
May God bless your journey.
I would love to hear your God stories! Please consider dropping me a note so we can continue the conversation.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Word of God, Speak by Mercy Me
Lyrics: “All that I need is to be with You, and in the quiet hear Your voice.”