Trip to Holy Land offers spiritual opportunities

By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor

My warm tears flowed down my cheeks as my heartbeat quickened and breath shortened. Rocks dug into my knees and I could feel the water soaking through my jeans. I was worried about the cold water lowering my already compromised immune system.

I was even more worried about missing my chance to become fulfilled.

I was given the opportunity to travel to Israel on the Dateline Jerusalem Reporting Seminar through the Philos Project and tour the Holy Land. Within the first 72 hours, I found myself on my knees at the Sea of Galilee crying out for restoration.

For me, that need of spiritual restoration came from my childhood.

When I was five, my father got the calling from God to start a church in Phoenix Arizona. So being faithful and intoxicated with the Lord, we fulfilled the call. We started Horizon Church right in our living room and raised it up as if it was our baby.

Growing up, I was fully emerged in the word and body of Christ. We would wake up early to set up classrooms and chairs. We’d stay late cleaning up and preparing for the next week. People would be at our house for Bible study at least twice a week and our door was always open for those who were hurting.

Yet, as I grew up, my prayers transformed from conversations with God into opportunities to impress others. And my desire to witness to others turned into a script-ed job. My worship changed from showering the Lord with praise into shining on stage. I fell into this rhythm of stagnant faith and unwillingness or desire to grow.

As I withdrew from the word and company of Christ, I began to blame Him for all the trials of life that started popping up in my life. Instead of making progress in a spiritual manner, I became a hamster on a never-ending wheel.

When I found out I was accepted by the Philos Project to go to Israel, the weight of shame and fear that began to consume me, made me feel like the circus ball elephants would stand on. I couldn’t pray without feeling like a hypocrite and I couldn’t attend church without putting on the “good Christian” façade.

I wanted to be excited about the trip when people asked me about it, but I couldn’t shake the fear and doubt I had.

In the days preceding the trip, I struggled with the thought of going. Am I Christian enough to go? Am I qualified enough? Am I taking away a better person’s chances of going?

I knew my family would be expecting stories from me about how I felt the Lord with every step I took, and I was scared I wouldn’t have those moments.

In fact, I remember going to Falls Creek after graduating and thinking this was my last chance to get that “high on the Lord” camp feeling again. That week passed, and I was no closer to Christ.

As the amount of days before the trip dwindled, the feeling that this was the last chance for a spiritual revolution began to rise in my heart and mind again, and the fear of what would happen if it didn’t.

The Sea was so calm while everything inside me was havoc. Inside my heart there was a war going on: a war between faith and doubt, shame and forgiveness, pride and peace. I had so many destructive emotions and expectations coursing through my mind that when I saw the Sea of Galilee my hardened heart finally broke and I fell to my knees.

I was stunned by the beauty and peace the Sea of Galilee exemplified. I could not differentiate sea from sky, love from lust, desire from duty. The white sky seemed like the light at the end of the dark, long tunnel of pride I had stubbornly walked into.

Within this tunnel I allowed my anger to grow like mold and my grudges to fester like a disease overtaking my heart and mind. Looking at the Sea, I felt as if I could swim across and right into Heaven, into the place of true peace and pure serenity.

Although I was battling a cold and knew the frigid water wouldn’t help, I didn’t want to miss my chance of feeling the Lord’s presence again for the first time in many years. As I walked back to the bus with my tear stained face and sea dampened pants, I felt lighter and ready to see where God would visit me again on the trip. But He didn’t.

With every stop and every lecture, I would pray that Christ would reveal himself to me again. Yet, I would leave unanswered. Even as I was getting baptized in the Jordan river I thought, he’ll come to me this time. But He didn’t. I had that one moment where hope hit me like a flash flood, but those waters receded.

I can’t say my faith was restored. Nor can I say I feel like a born-again Christian and that I walked with Him every step of the way. But I can say I felt that peace He can provide, and I caught a glimpse of who He is.

I felt a sliver of his compassion. I now feel like I can pray without feeling like a hypocrite or walk into a church without feeling like I need to put on a mask.

I can begin to seek Him without fearing not being answered.

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