In June of 2017, I visited the famous Western Wall in Jerusalem. On this beautiful, cloudless day, the sky a brilliant blue, the place was packed with pilgrims who had come to pray. With my head covered out of respect for the traditions of this sacred place, I approached the women’s side to pray with a friend who had been there before. In my hand I clutched a list of people I wanted to mention to God.
I stood there watching all of the people. Some rocked back and forth passionately, while others bowed their knees at this holy site where countless millions through the years have raised their voices and rested their tears. Not wanting to disrupt those who were literally wailing as they laid their hands on the wall, I took a few steps back and began to pray silently. When I finished, my friend gently reminded me of the custom: you are supposed to touch the wall in order to “leave your prayer.”
I stepped forward. As I did, I noticed that many of those praying were young Jewish women, some still in their teens. When I saw some of them weeping uncontrollably, I felt the urge to pray that God might respond to their heartfelt cries. (I can recognize the emotions that come from heartache, deep pain and injustice.)
What happened next is hard to explain. As I reached out to touch the wall – the wall that the Jewish people consider the holiest place on earth – I sensed the presence of God. I have no way to describe everything I felt. Words are inadequate. I just know that I began to weep, too, all the deep anguish of my soul flooding up and over me. Shame from a broken marriage, the pain of a son born blind, numerous losses, and assorted failures… shame, shame, shame. In those moments, I felt all of these heavy burdens rise to the surface of my consciousness. Then I felt flushed, almost faint as the warmth of the wall traveled from my hands to my heart. I know no one else heard this voice (and you may say it was just me talking to me); however, this is what I heard:
“Remember, I am enough, and I have separated your sins from you as far as the East is from the West. Rest. In. Me.”
These words were from scripture. On this day, they were spoken from His Spirit to my soul. The words were true. And they were exactly what I needed when I did not even know that I needed them.
I did not want to leave that place, but it was another’s turn. So, I tucked my rolled-up list of prayer requests into a crevice next to all the other scraps of paper. By that act, I symbolically left my prayers – and the ones for whom I had been praying.