Finding God In Jerusalem Was Not What I Expected

Finding God In Jerusalem Was Not What I Expected

I told everyone I was going to Jerusalem so that "I could walk where Jesus walked!"
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Today marks my thirty-eighth day of living in the most spiritually significant city in all of Christendom: Jerusalem.

I absolutely love being here. I never thought I would feel so at home living on Mount Zion right next to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a 1 km/square mile city brimming with life as it is home to over 30,000 people: a city with Jews, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Atheists and Agnostics all living separate, yet overlapping lives. This is a city that God calls His own, and to think that I live only a mere half-mile or a 10-minute walk away from the very spot Jesus proved his unconditional love for humanity on the Cross... Is so surreal.

However, I will admit that I came here with the expectation of reaching a “spiritual high.” I wanted to pray on the Mount of Olives and hear God speaking to me! I wanted to walk the Via Dolorosa, the traditionally upheld route that Jesus took when walking to the Cross, and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for God’s amazing grace. Most of all, I wanted to arrive at Golgotha, the very foot of the Cross and fall on my knees in complete awe and surrender of all that Christ has done. After all, much of my life has been greatly influenced and shaped by Jesus - His death and resurrection!

It was not until I arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the location of Golgotha, that my dreams of fostering a deeper connection with God in Jerusalem were shattered. Instead of falling to my knees, I found myself trying to quickly snap a photo before squeezing past a group of loud tourists in order to get a breath of fresh air outside.

I then started feeling guilty for not feeling anything.

When I went to Bethlehem the following week and touched the rock that supposedly Jesus was born on, I tried to psych myself up emotionally, telling myself, “Jasmine, JESUS WAS BORN HERE.” Still, nothing.

This was when I had a conversation with a friend and classmate of mine, Jenn. She told me, “When you talk to [Christians], they tell you that you’re going to fall in love with the Holy Land instantly and spend the rest of your life trying to go back, but I didn’t feel that way at all when I first came here.”

I had to agree with her. The more we talked, the more we came to the realization of one thing: that Jerusalem is just like any other city in the world. I came here expecting some type of awe-inspiring, heavenly aura and did not find it. In fact, if it weren't for all the stone buildings and religious sites, Jerusalem's dry landscape, warm weather, and heavy traffic make it almost feel like I'm back at home in Southern-California!

This beckoned me to start asking myself the question: Why did God lead me to come all the way over here then if I wasn't going to experience His tangible presence at all of the holy sites?

That's when I stopped trying to feel anything, and then I got my answer: I haven't "felt" anything because God is trying to show me He is more "real" than a passing feeling. His Infinite Presence is not limited to Jerusalem's city walls. He is my reality and His Word is my Rock - not the feelings from which I am trying to base my faith.

So while I cannot say that I somehow "found" God walking down the Via Dolorosa, standing on Golgotha in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, sitting on the Temple Steps, or even on the Mount of Olives, I am glad I didn’t – because that would have reduced God to a mere feeling and experience that is momentary and bound to come to an end when I return to the States in December.

So, I have resolved to stop trying to "find God" and just allow Him to find me.

That is when I started to actually experience God... in the most unexpected places. I felt His love when I was running a 10K race in Jerusalem last week and was sure I could not finish strong until an older Jewish runner stopped to encourage me and ran with me the rest of the way so that I would not give up. I felt His peace in the morning as I read Psalms 91 to the hum of sparrows at dawn. I felt His protection as I walked around the Old City Walls. The gates still pelted with bullet holes from past wars, seeing how God has kept this place still standing despite the fact that it's been fought over for thousands of years. I felt His compassion as I prayed with hundreds of people at the Western Wall. I felt His heart break as I drove past the tall walls and police checkpoints separating Israel from Palestine. Sweetest of all, I felt His grace as I sat in a public bus with people from all walks of life. I was able to see through His eyes, how He looks at every individual as His creation.

Now that I look back: God was in all the simple moments that I had been overlooking because I was too busy trying to "find him" in all the glitzy, loud, "historically/spiritually/geographically" significant places.

In short, I hope you visit Jerusalem one day. Not with the expectation that you'll find Him more real than He is back at home. God is not more "here" than He is anywhere else. He is neither here nor there. He IS. Which means He is with you wherever you are, no matter the place or the circumstances you face. He is with you regardless of whether you feel Him or not. His love for you is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Cover Image Credit: Jasmine Kolano

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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The Ultimate Going Abroad Guide For The Upcoming Fall Semester Travelers

Here's everything you need to know before you pack your bags and travel the world.

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Studying abroad is argued as being one of the best parts of the entire college experience, and this fall, I'm going to be able to see if this statement is true. I can't wait to be able to travel all throughout different countries in Europe with my friends, where we'll be trying new things, visiting cool places and landmarks, and making some of the best memories. Although it's still only a few months away, preparing to go abroad is essential because you want to have the right things to pack, ideas on what you want to do while you're abroad and much more. So if you're going abroad soon in the Fall, here are some tips on what you should try to do while you're there.

1. Do your research 

Find multiple reviews and suggestions online on landmarks to visit, restaurants to dine at, and things to do while you're abroad. That way, once you're there you'll have a less stressful time figuring out all of things that you want to do and will have a concrete plan.

2. Start saving up now and throughout the summer

Studying abroad is anything but cheap, so if you want to enjoy yourself and have fun while you're abroad, start saving your money now so you aren't limited to doing certain things. It also might be beneficial to get a credit or debit card before leaving.

3. Set goals for yourself

Do you want to learn a new language, or travel to as many places on your bucket list as possible, or maybe even learn how to be more independent? Make a list with a few important things you want to accomplish while studying abroad so you go into the experience with an agenda that will essentially keep you driven and focused.

4. Document. Everything.

This is probably going to be the only time in your life where you can say that you'll be living in another country for a few months, so it's important that you try to document all of the fun memories you're making that you can look back at later in life. Whether it's pictures on your phone or with a journal, find a useful and consistent way to snapshot all of the fun things you're doing and learning.

5. Keep an open mind and try new things

It's often common to go into a new country with a few pre-conceived stereotypes in your head, but instead of doing this, try to open your eyes and mind and embrace the culture you're immersing yourself in. Learn more about the culture, interact with locals, eat new foods, and so on. You'll most likely find that some of the stereotypes you originally believed were incorrect and will leave with a different perspective.

6. Plan a consistent schedule for when you'll contact friends and family

Remember that you'll be in a different time zone than all of your loved ones, so try to find accommodating times for everyone where you'll be able to talk to everyone back home. Having this consistent schedule will help combat any feelings of possible homesickness and will help you be prepared for when you go abroad, since it will give you something to look forward to each week.

7. Don't forget to travel

While you're already going to be in another country for study abroad, there are also so many other places that you'll have the opportunity to visit. Make plans with friends and discover which other countries or cities that you want to travel to during your time abroad, since there's always so much to see and do when you have free time and aren't in class.

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