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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Heart of Gethsemane

My husband and I just returned from the most amazing trip to Israel. A trip I never thought I'd take but now cannot imagine missing. My mom and dad stayed with our children so that I could go...the whole experience was a gift on every level. As I've been home for a couple of days, getting back to my daily routine and fighting jet lag, I am so thankful. Today I'm putting away backpacks and finding spots for souvenirs and washing Galilean mud from my jeans. I'm imagining that the dust beginning to wear off from the bottom of my shoes is still there. It brought me such joy to stare at my feet as I walked where Elijah, Abraham, David, Peter, Ruth, Naomi, Mary, and Jesus all walked. To imagine their feet, bare or sandaled walking just ahead of me. 

It's a sentimental trip.

Already demands of family and ministry are overwhelming. Already I feel the pull to distraction and self-pity. The first day back from vacation is always hard for me; this trip abundantly so.

I am sure that my teaching will never be the same. When I teach about the idolatry in Hosea, I don't have to imagine the altars at the high places because I've seen one. When we celebrate Palm Sunday Way or imagine David's palace or Jesus' teaching outside the Temple my mind can recall the places my eyes have seen. My heart knows the Truth of these stories of this Word like never before. I hope to share more images and lessons from the trip here; but wanted to share this most important one first. 

On our first day in Jerusalem our guide started us at the top of the Mount of Olives and took us down tracing the path of Jesus on Palm Sunday.  He calls it Palm Sunday Way.  We stopped at the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. In that place your eyes are directly even with the holy city just across the valley. 

View from the Top of the Mount of Olives, where we started Palm Sunday Way;
where Jesus' feet left the ground when He ascended and will touch the ground when He returns.
As we moved down to the Garden of Gethsemane, I was awestruck. The olive trees are beautiful and ancient, a picture of resurrection themselves {a story for another post}. We had a small spot reserved for our group, where we read the account of Jesus there and then had our own private times of prayer. 

Now, for the few days before we had traveled and toured in Galilee. 

We had seen the synagogues in Nazareth, Capernaum, and Chorazin. All of them places where Jesus had either lived or invested time teaching and ministering and healing. All of them places that eventually rejected Him. 

With these images and stories fresh in my mind, I sat my tail down in the moist dirt under a tree in the Garden of Gethsemane and was completely overwhelmed with the rejection He experienced.  Rejection that got exponentially worse in the very place where I sat. I looked up and saw the walls of Jerusalem.  In the picture below, Jesus would've seen the temple instead of the dome; just behind the eastern gates now sealed.

In that moment I was so shamed by the things that I allow to discourage me. The imagined slights that I allow to turn into rejection in my head. The true hurts that I allow to linger and root into bitterness. Even after horror-filled heart-rending rejection Jesus chose obedience and loving service to the end. Who am I to demand anything else? Oh, who am I? Humbling thoughts in a mind-blowing place that tore open every heart-hidden secret spot. 

As Jesus agonized in Gethsemane, setting His course for our salvation, I wonder if His thoughts rested on His return or His entrance into Jerusalem through those very gates; called Beautiful, Eastern, Golden. And then it hit me...every single time rejection or misunderstanding seems to loom so large in my sight, I must remember the Eastern gates are easily seen from Gethsemane. When frustration or rejection overwhelms, the joy of His returning is equally within my sights.  And that changes everything. 

As these lessons were pouring from my mind and washing my heart I lifted my camera to focus on the eastern gates through a small gap in the trees. I clicked the shutter and went back to my thoughts and prayers without another picture. 

Imagine my surprise later when I was looking through pictures and found this....this picture speaks ten thousand words and I'll let it speak for itself.

"Lift up your heads, O gates, 
and be lifted up, O ancient doors, 
that the King of glory may come in! 
Who is the King of glory? 
The Lord strong and mighty, 
The Lord mighty in battle . . . 
The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory."
Psalm 24:7-10

Wherever you find yourself today or tomorrow, remember that the certainty of His return is always within sight of your struggle.  He went there before you and will return for you....and in the meantime He is with you.