Well, here we are again (barely). So much for technology! My i-Pad died and left me high and dry, right here in Israel. So now with a borrowed laptop in hand, we can pick up where we left off.
One of my favorite things to do is to walk the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. But it has to be at the right time: around four in the afternoon, before the streets are flooded with folks heading home after a long day at work. This is the time when I have the streets to myself.
I am not talking about one of the streets in a major city in America. No, the streets of Old Jerusalem are more like narrow corridors, maybe big enough for one car to pass (at least in some places). And at four p.m., Jerusalem’s streets are quiet (except in the Muslim Quarter which is alive with its street merchants hawking their goods and wares). But in the Armenian, Jewish, and Christian Quarters, it is quiet, especially a few days ago in the Christian Quarter. I mean really quiet. Quiet enough to hear your own feet hitting the pavement, like a private dance between you and God: foot, cane, foot, God. No, better: God, foot, cane, foot. He is determined to lead!
So God leads me on. First through the New Gate on the northwest side of the Old City, into the Christian Quarter; then another 100 yards or so and it’s a right turn, heading around a half mile southeast toward the Jaffa Gate, mostly down hill (thank God). Now the joy begins. Walking through the Christian Quarter is like moving through a maze: you walk about fifteen yards and then turn right, not knowing what awaits you just around the bend. Another twenty yards or so and you turn left, what surprise awaits you–only God knows. As you make your way along one “holy” corridor after another, looming church walls, to your right or to your left, rise up into the skies. For the most part, the church gates are locked up, barring one from an “unholy” intrusion. But God never bars us out, does He.
But one need not walk alone in the streets of the Old City (nor in any other city). For God walks with us. But walking the Old City makes His presence easier to sense. Maybe it’s the solitude (i.e., the empty streets). Too much noise can drown out the voice of God. And when God’s voice is drowned out, it’s hard to talk with Him in any personal way. Maybe it’s the mystery (i.e., the unknown twists and turns). Too much structure can squeeze out the surprises of God. And when God’s surprises are squeezed out, it’s hard to see Him for who He really is.
There is nothing like solitude with God. For that’s when His mysteries appear. Try it sometime. You don’t have to be walking in the Old City. But it does help.