Looking for God in the Wrong Places

On my trip to the Middle East, I didn’t find God in the places I expected. Frankly, most of the stops on the traditional ‘Jesus’ tours are just tourist traps.

Huge ornate cathedrals have been built over the places where Jesus ‘might’ have been born, ‘could’ have preached,  ‘maybe’ was crucified and ‘perhaps’ was buried. These places are gaudy, ornate shrines packed with hordes of sightseers often surrounded by noisy, crowded souvenir shops. IMG_0766I figured Jesus would probably start to cry or else get angry if he could see the way greedy entrepreneurs are taking advantage of him to make a ‘quick buck.’

john the baptist souvenir shop bethlehemYou have to get off the beaten tourist path if you want to have ‘holy’ moments in the Holy Land. I had one in the Negev desert.  We took a camel trek out to a Bedouin camp to spend the night in a tent there and I woke up just before dawn. dawn on the negev desertI went to the edge of the camp to watch the sun come up over the desert. It was totally quiet and I waited in almost breathless silence as the sun slithered in a golden slice over the hills and then bathed the barren brown landscape around us in a shining orange light.

wedding at the church in canaThe church in Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine could have been just another tourist trap but they were actually having a wedding there. We arrived just as the newlyweds were exiting the building surrounded by smiling relatives and friends. Everyone was laughing and clapping. One of the wedding guests happily chatted with me and told me all about the bridal couple, their families, their jobs and their honeymoon plans.

children in palestinian refugee campI had another ‘holy’ moment in a Palestinian refugee camp as I watched three dark haired little girls playing a version of hopscotch. The children were surrounded by walls  topped with barbed wire and riddled with bullets but they were having fun- laughing and skipping together.

Perhaps all too often we look for the ‘holy’ in the wrong places. God might not be in a fancy cathedral or at an historic site.  God might be waiting for us in the quiet moments just before dawn, in the smile of a bride or the innocent play of children.

God if I can’t find you maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

Other posts about Israel……

Gender Inequity at the Wailing Wall

The Pool of Bethesda- Personal Connections

Dead Sea Beauty Treatment

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