When I was a child, kids could walk or ride their bikes just about anywhere, and you didn’t have to be 14 to do so -not to mention – helmets. So from kindergarten on, I was always walking to school or riding my bike. However, there was one bridge that was hard to avoid. It scared me as I made the journey home – especially if I was walking. The bridge seemed ancient from my 6 year old perspective – although in hindsight – it probably wasn’t at all. Its wooden, narrow walkways were on either side of the car path that separated them; loose boards wobbled under the feet as you walked up and then down; not to mention the occasional missing board that reminded you just high over the railroad track this bridge was. In the mid-50’s, trains passed under this terrifying bridge several times a day. The bravest of us would often stand at the wooden railing and jump up and down as the trains approached. Me?? I ran as fast as I could – until solid ground eased the heart palpitations, and I could turn back to watch the train and wait for my companions of the day.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Is 41:10
Not sure where this fear came from. Others weren’t afraid, but heights have never been my friend even at the tender age of 6 or 7. Luckily, we moved in my 8th year of life to the (proverbial) other side of the tracks, and I didn’t have to walk home over that bridge anymore. My first real PTL moment. Instead, my new path primarily led me through Central Park and past our family church. I don’t remember when or why I started stopping at the church…maybe I was just curious…maybe it was when my first kitty (Tommycat) died…maybe it was after dad had his first heart attack when I was 10… What I do know is that I lost count – long ago – of how many times I open those huge, heavy, wooden doors to sit in the quiet of the of the holiest spot I knew. Gazing at the stain glass windows, the altar, the cross, became an important part of my life. One time our preacher found me stretched out on a pew and woke me. As we talked, he shared some of the things he found peaceful when he was in a church after he came home from a WWII prison camp. I like remembering the days when churches were never locked…in fact…I was shocked and sad when I first encountered such a church door after I moved to the city to attend college.
“And Abraham went [to pray] early in the morning to the place [MaKOM] where he stood [in prayer] before the Lord.” Gen 19:27
Jewish wisdom and traditions have been part of my faith journey for the past couple of years as I have tried to understand more about Christ. When tired, tested, or just needing the closeness of His Father, Rabbi Yeshua often retreated to the wilderness. Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets – all had their special places where they would go to feel that closer connection to God. It was their MaKOM. In Hebrew, letters have a numerical value as well as a language value. Without going into all the details (which I tend to find fascinating even though I hate math), Jewish wisdom says that if you square the letters of the word Jehovah, it equals the same numerical value of the word MaKOM. Get it?
We find God in His “area”. In other words, God honors us when we make the effort to come to a special place (area) to seek – to pray – to serve – to worship – Him. That is why the Jews make an effort to go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Is 55:9
God doesn’t make it easy on us. He didn’t make it easy on His Son, did he? He doesn’t want robots or blind, obedient children. He wants His children to choose to love Him. Despite the pain…the obstacles…the complacency…the fear…the doubts…or even the world, He wants us to choose Him…f.r.e.e.l.y. A new covenant that is enhanced by the older covenant – all comes down to our choice to commit. Do you have a special place where you go to feel closer to Our Father?
These days, church doors may have locks that keep us out, but there are always “areas” that beckon us to draw closer to God. It is up to us to seek them out. The Jews have an outer wall that surrounded their destroyed temple (Kotel ha-Ma’aravi). Christ had the wilderness. I have my shady garden and my writing desk. God is where you stand on hallowed ground and seek Him. Find your MaKOM and be amazed.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Matt 7:7