When my wife and I came back from our trip to Israel, someone asked us if the trip had been “life-changing”? I was admittedly caught a little off-guard by that question. The trip had been absolutely wonderful, far exceeding my expectations. I would certainly describe it as the trip of a lifetime, but life-changing? I wasn’t sure I could go that far.
I suppose people who travel to Israel as a kind of spiritual pilgrimage might expect the trip to be life-changing, but I knew merely visiting Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or Jerusalem would not bring me any closer to God than I am here at home. I didn’t need to see those places to believe that Jesus really lived or that the Bible really is true.
If I had gone there expecting some miraculous mountaintop experience, I probably would have felt a little let down. While I did enjoy a few profound moments, those had to be squeezed somewhere between arriving at each site, visiting the restroom, listening to our guides, snapping a bunch of photos, and having to get back on the tour bus. That’s simply the reality of being part of a tour group. You might like to spend half an hour in prayer and contemplation at each site, but if you did that, there’s so much of Israel you simply wouldn’t be able to see. If you tour Israel in the hopes of having a mountaintop experience, be prepared to have it on the run.
When my wife and I arrived back home, we were still trying to take it all in. That’s when we were asked if the trip had been life-changing. At that point, it was hard to see it that way, but four months later, I can’t stop thinking about all the places we visited, all the things we saw, and all the insights we gained. They’ve inspired me to write a book, start a blog, and create a photo mural I’ll tell you about in a future post. I’m a little worried I may soon start sculpting my mashed potatoes into the shape of Masada!
So was visiting Israel life-changing? At this point, it would appear so. It was life-changing not because visiting pilgrimage sites helped fill some spiritual void, but because seeing the locations where biblical events took place helped me to connect the dots.
What do I mean by connecting the dots? I’ll explain that in my next post.