I had no idea what to expect when I walked out of the Ben Gurion airport into the hot, dry Israeli air. I was eager to see the land that Christ walked on and interested in the country and the people who reside in it. I had no prior knowledge of the political state of Israel since I rarely ever watch the news. So my focus on this trip was mainly biblical, or so I thought.
A month or so before walking out of that El Al plane, I got saved. I had lived my entire life as a lie, telling everyone I was a Christian because I went to church, yet not ever feeling any conviction for the horrible sin I was living in. Heck, I was even going to a seminary in order to get a degree to defend the faith I didn’t even have! However, the Lord used a wonderful man and friend in my life, Matthew, to lead me to Christ, and I was walking out of that Boeing 747-400, into the land of my Savior, as a new believer.
My road to salvation was littered with a massive amount of potholes, ranging from the size of a plate to the size of a table. It took me, in what felt like an 18-wheeler carrying a full load, running over all these potholes to realize my lack of faith in Christ. My actions caused a great deal of pain to people I claimed to “love”. Even yet, by flying all the way across the world, the consequences for my sins still followed.
Israel was gorgeous. I was amazed at the beauty in what was supposed to be a dry and arid land. The bright, blue water of the Mediterranean portrayed to me the life that resides in Israel. The natural, sandy Jerusalem stone resembled the strength of the government and what Israel stands for. There was all this beauty: however, my mind seemed to always drift back to the pain I had caused so many people back in the United States.
The trip to Israel was definitely a time of growth in many areas of my life. I truly had to seek out Christ on my own and understand what it means to live for Christ here on the earth. I look back now, a few weeks later, and see how the Lord used my trip, it's timing, and location in a very specific and miraculous way. I didn’t fully understand who Christ was on the trip. I knew He had died for my sins. I knew He lived a perfect, holy life and became the perfect sacrifice for sins, my sins. However, I still didn’t understand my part. I didn’t understand love, compassion, forgiveness, freedom, mercy; let alone how to show all of those to someone else. It wasn’t until my group made our way to the Sea of Galilee did I start to understand, slowly, just who Christ was and how I am to live for Him.
The Sea of Galilee was not at all what I expected. I thought the sea would be surrounded by flat land. Instead, there were rolling hills and low, heavy clouds. The breeze offered by the sea was cool and calming. The many banana trees that crowded the hill country brought life to the area, while the tropical flowers seen on the sides of the roads were like an unforeseen kiss on every corner.
Visiting the towns that Jesus lived, performed miracles, and taught in opened my eyes to the way I read the Bible. I got to experience the beauty of the land of my Savior. I stood near where Jesus stood as he blessed the fish and bread to feed the 5,000. I sat under a tree on the Mt. of Beatitudes. I stood in the sea that He calmed and walked on. I knew the Bible was real and true, but now, it was right in front of me, and I was experiencing it firsthand.
One of the days I was sick, I went out to the beach to read and watch the sunset. As I read through the gospels, a sense of peace and understanding came over me. The Lord that I had cognitively known almost my entire life was not my spiritual Lord until about a month before. This was a completely new experience for me. I was placed in a foreign land, completely out of my comfort zone, and as a new believer. God was working. I was broken spiritually, mentally, and physically. How was I, a child of God but a sinner nonetheless, to be used by my Lord for His ministry? I was selfish, inconsiderate, and hateful. I kept asking myself, “What are you going to do?”
I realized it: I was still trying to fix my problems, sins, etc. my way. I was not seeking after the Lord and trusting in Him in the areas of life that I wanted control of. Yes, I still have to do my part. I can not “let go and let God”. I am responsible to act upon the convictions the Holy Spirit lays on my heart, yet I was not doing that. I was too busy focusing on myself, not those around me. I wanted what I wanted, not what was best for those I claimed to care for. I am not going to lie, I still struggle with this. However, sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, reading of the miraculous works of my Savior, and seeking after an answer through prayer and meditation on Scripture, I finally understood that I am the problem.
I was not expecting to come to Israel and have the Lord reveal so much to me. These were things I did not want to see for myself. My selfish tendencies and my hateful ways had done so much damage, and there is still damage being done. That night on the shore of the Sea of my Savior was just the beginning.