I am traveling in Israel this week with my husband and an amazing group of people doing research, going deep with our Lord on His home turf and scouting out scenes for my next book and video teaching: "The Gospel of Jesus"! Follow me on Facebook-Melissa Overmyer and please pray for me! This is a chapter of my first book, Metamorphosis of a Soul (click to read in its entirety) written from my last experience in the Holy Land. I will pray a blessing on all who read this at the above pictured Western Wall.
Chapter 12 Go Low
"The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down." Psalm 145:14
When I was little, I remember reading a poster that said, “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” Truer words have never been spoken. In this life, there’s always one more lesson to be learned, one more experience to be had, one more chance to love THANK YOU Jesus!
One would think that, after experiencing all that the Lord has been so gracious to share with me, I would not struggle as much as I do with the everyday issues of sin. But sadly, I do. It always sneaks in and trips me up in little ways. For example, even if I manage to bridle my rather sharp tongue, I still sometimes have judgmental thoughts. But I have found a great antidote to this problem. Instead of working on “sin management,” doing my best to not sin or even think about I have discovered it most beneficial to just be with Jesus — to really be with Him in the Adoration Chapel, or to look at who He is in His Word and dwell on Him, which makes me want to be more like Him. And if I place myself in the midst of godly people who are like Him, sometimes I hear Him speak to me through them just as clearly as if He was saying things to me directly.
After years and years of teaching the Bible, gleefully explaining the Old and New Testaments via expandable ten foot long wallcharts, timelines, colorcoded maps of the Exodus, the divided and restored Kingdoms of Israel, the places that Jesus walked, Paul’s multiple journeys in Acts and using scale models of the Tabernacle and the Temple to thrill and engage...I finally got an opportunity to go and see it all, firsthand, for myself. A group of Catholic friends was forming a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and my husband sweetly encouraged me to go as a birthday gift. I shamefully have to admit, I was more than a bit skeptical about taking this maiden voyage with
this group, as many Catholics I had met did not seem to know or love Biblical history like I did. My old prejudices were beginning to creep back in. I thought to myself, “I have waited to go and visit the Holy Land all of my life. I want to see and experience it all. Will thisgroupknow and appreciate what we will see and learn about the Bible? Perhaps I need to go with a group who can deeply appreciate what we will be seeing... some real Biblical experts.” Once again, God was shaking His head and laughing at all of my pitiful preconceived ideas and ridiculous judgments.
This, for me, was going to be the trip of a lifetime. This was at the tiptop of my bucket list. I had so longed for this epic adventure my entire life that I had sadly talked myself into the conclusion that nobody would be able to produce the trip of my dreams. I reasoned this because I believed I was expecting way too much. Therefore, with a sigh of resignation, I had decided that I should just go on this trip and let God take care of the details. I would go with the modest hope of catching a tiny glimpse of Jesus, and then I would return on a later trip and get all that I might miss this first timeround. Absolute “woe is me” thinking! I embarrassingly confess that, after handing it all over to God, I somehow pridefully believed that not even He could plan a better trip than I could!
But once again, God had something very beautiful in store for me—something I could never have dreamed of. Originally, I was going on this tour as a party of one. At the last minute, however, one of the pilgrims had to cancel and needed a replacement. I had wanted my husband to go, but someone was needed at home to take care of our youngest child. As we were discussing it at the dinner table, my seventeen year old said, “Mom, I would really love to go. If it is at all possible, please take me.” I was surprised! She was slated for the varsity lacrosse team
at her high school. If she took this trip, which conflicted with spring training, she would automatically be cut from the team . She would have to play at the Junior Varsity level. When I spoke with her about it, she had no hesitation, just a purely joyful spirit and excitement at the possibility of going to the Holy Land so early in her young life. She was to be my new roommate.
The flight was well organized and uneventful. It was quite late when we finally made it via bus to our beautiful hotel in Haifa. We ended our day with Mass. This was, of course, one of the great perks of the trip. I reminded myself that, if I had gone with just a Bible tour group, Mass at every Holy sight would never have been possible. I was so excited about actually being in the Holy Land that it was difficult to sleep in spite of our long journey. Our first morning, we visited the Church of Stella Mara on Mt. Carmel. This is where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call down fire from heaven on their altars to consume their sacrifices. Of course, God won the contest! It also happened to be where my namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux, derived her order’s name, the Carmelites. I also loved St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross (both Carmelites as well), and so I was greatly humbled to experience the cave where Elijah lived, and to see the humility of the nuns and friars who still live there. It was such a beautiful start to our pilgrimage, and I felt like St. Therese (both big and small!) and St. John of the Cross were “picked up” here and all came along to accompany me.
Our tour guide, who we were just starting to get to know, was nothing short of genius. He was like a walking Biblical encyclopedia. And Fr. Donal, the priest that was with us, just added to the
already spectacular nonstop flow of information, he also had a deep love and knowledge of the Bible. And then to top things off, there was Chris, the trip organizer, who happened to be a Holy Land fanatic and expert. She left no detail to chance. I was beginning to get the hint— God had planned well for this trip after all far, far better than I could have ever have hoped for...my silly pride was brought up, right before my eyes and ears as we were being wowed by all we experienced from the very first day.
Our next stop was Galilee. Now when I say next stop, I really mean next little short drive—then stop. I could not believe how close together everything was. The diminutive size of Israel was starting to sink in. This is a place that is only about two hundred ninety miles top to bottom, and eightyfive miles across at its widest point. (Compare that to Florida which is four hundred fortyfive miles long and one hundred sixty miles across at its widest point.) I was stunned. Everywhere we visited, I realized that, at some point in history, those people walked. There had been no airconditioned motor coach for them. I tried to remember in scripture if Jesus ever rode a horse...nope, not that I knew of—only a humble little donkey, the symbol of peace and humility.
When we arrived in Galilee, the only way I can describe how I was feeling was ...quite underwhelmed. There was a complete and utter lack of Hollywood spectacle. The remoteness, the sheer human scale and lowliness of it all began to overwhelm me. It was as if the fine white dirt and dust was starting to sink into my soul and take the shiny off me. We began to go from town to town (it would have made for a really nice, long jog around the cities on the north end of
Sea of Galilee). It was, for lack of a better word...small, and it was surprisingly chockfull of caves. It seemed as though everywhere we went, we would descend several steps (as these sights are very old, and I literally mean, of biblical proportions old) and come to a cave or a grotto—a glorified name for a cave. When we finally got to Nazareth (a five to tenminute drive) there were...caves.
Our tour books and signs read “Home of Mary” and “Home of Joseph,” but these places sure looked like they were just dug out of the rock—more like caves and rock tunnels than houses. And Nazareth itself is tiny and unglamorous, even today. It seemed to me as though Joseph married the girl in the cave next door. I was so humbled. This is where the Man I admire and love the most was from? I felt as if I had been taken home to meet the family, and had been very surprised. This was not what I was expecting... not at all. This is where the King of the Universe grew up?
Slowly I began to realize, that if I truly wanted to be like JesusI was going to have to have a change of heart...no, more,...nothing short of a total transformation. I was going to need to start thinking, acting, and becoming a great deal more like my meek and gentle Savior if I wanted to be a part of this family. The problem was that I knew that I did not have the capacity to change myself... only He could do it. Jesus reminded me that all I am asked to do is to “humble myself before the Lord,” sincerely repent, and ask Him to do the rest. I could cooperate by making my prayer, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours.” Funny enough, I was carrying a card with this very phrase on it close to my heart for my friend Karen Goodwin who was very ill. I placed it upon the altar at each holy sight we visited, I would then take my Eucharist for her each day and I could not wait to give it to her when I returned. I took picture after picture of that prayer card at each place we visited so she would feel as if we had all three been on pilgrimage together. That prayer continuously rested next to my heart. I know now that humility is such an attractive and disarming quality when it is genuine. We, of course, saw it in Christ, and now in Pope Francis, and it is really incredibly irresistible. I wanted (and still long to be) like Him, only He can make that happen.
With this new found desire to be “one of the family,” I was now very curious about Jesus and His very humble beginnings, His hometown, and the area where He grew up. Our tour guide was from the region of Galilee, so I felt he spoke with authority and love. He said that, even now, Galilee is “Nowheresville.” There is still no university, no industry, and no big cities. When Nathaniel stated in the Gospel of John, “Can anything good come from Nazareth...?” he was obviously familiar with this place! I began to become aware that God was using Jesus’ very humble beginnings as a mirror to show me some truths about myself. Ouch!
Each day, as we walked in the steps of Jesus, more and more of His deep and beautiful humility was revealed to me. He walked, literally walked this earth. He did not drive a big fancy car. He did not ride in a golden chariot. He was not carried in a sedan chair. He walked. And as He did, He met people right where they were. I can only imagine that the poorest and most humble person would have felt very comfortable with Him. It was the puffed up and proud that would have felt ill at ease. I was beginning to see why.
As I reflected on this environment, I grew more enamored with the idea of humility. It shares its roots with the word human and the origins from the Latin root humus- earth or soil. “Because earth you are, from earth you shall return...” (Genesis 3:19). As we continued on, I was struck and then fascinated by the fact that, try as they may, no one has ever found a single shred of anything Jesus physically left behind in this world (other than the Shroud of Turin, but that was not owned by Him. He was buried in a borrowed grave and “the women” brought the anointing spices and cloth.) He owned nothing. Nothing. The only things that seem to remain to mark His existence are places they think He may have been (and those are based on Byzantine ruins built at least three hundred years after He lived on this earth.) The only things of grandeur that remain in Jerusalem of the era of Jesus are Roman. What a juxtaposition of the WORLD (Rome) versus JESUS. The most influential Man of all times came to earth—to live, and die—and He left not a single mark behind, other than the mark on our hearts and souls, the “seal of the Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 1:13) the eternal marking of His great grace, mercy and love, that forever changed the world.
Every day of this pilgrimage journey was more splendid than the day before. Each day was jampacked with rich history, stories, geography, and historic holy sights, not to mention Mass at every stop. Jesus met me at every place we visited. He gave me the Grand Tour of Love. We took the “Humble Express” and I heard an echo in my mind of those sweet, chastising words spoken through a smile, “Don’t be so quick to judge, Missy.”
The pilgrimage concluded in Jerusalem where we spent several days seeing the utterly remarkable “City of God.” It was here I learned my most impactful lesson on humility. We visited the Temple Mount and offered prayers at the Wailing Wall (Western Wall of Herod’s Temple). Each of us was given an index card on which to write our prayer intentions so we could insert them into the wall. The Jews believe that this is the only portion left of the last Temple (though some dispute this) where God’s presence dwelt physically. They believe God’s Presence still dwells in these stones even today. It is the most sacred sight in the world for the Jews. The huge stones were built with “compact unity”—they were hewn offsight to fit together without mortar and then brought to the Temple mount. I was told that the construction was done in almost total silence. Since this remarkable place has been there for over two thousand years, it is absolutely FULL of little pieces of paper stuffed into the cracks between the stones.
As my daughter and I stood there on the side reserved for the women, taking it all in, I began to see that it was going to be quite difficult to press our requests into the wall. As I am five foot two (well, almost), and my daughter much taller than I am, I thought perhaps, if I could drag a chair over close to the wall, she could then stand on it and reach up high, so that we would be assured of a safe place for our prayers. I managed to find a chair and place it right up close to the wall. When I told my daughter the brilliant plan, she sweetly looked at me and said, “I’ve got this Mama.” At that moment, someone called my name and I turned to answer her. When I turned back to hold the chair for my daughter to climb, I was shocked to see that she was not ON the chair but stooped low, bending down beside it.
She stood up and said, “There! All done! No one thinks to go low! There is lots of room down there!”
“Out of the mouth of babes...!” ( Matthew 21:16) God spoke to me so forcefully in that moment. I had been seeing it all along the pilgrimage in the life of Jesus and now here it was being demonstrated and spoken to me by my daughter... I remembered, ”unless you change and become like little children,” (Matthew 18:3)... I saw in such a beautiful, humble and natural act of her bending over on hands and knees to serve me out of love that this is what God was asking of me, to “go low” to be willing to bend, to serve, to love, to _________(fill in the blank!) to do anything and do it with a joyful and humble spirit!
I am not sure what the Lord dreams for me next to do, but I do know that whatever it is I have been given a great metaphor for life. It is not the heights we climb, the knowledge we gain, the positions we attain, the wealth we amass or the power we wield that make us great in the eyes of our meek and humble Savior, but the times we stoop, bend, kneel and seek the opportunities to serve those right in front of us, right where He has placed us that make our life worthwhile, that make us more resemble Him. Christ’s greatest moment of triumph and glory was that of His voluntary death, the ultimate act of humility, docility to the Father’s will, love and service. He became the VOLUNTARY “VICTIM” and because of this, He became the ultimate VICTOR! No one “took His life” He laid it down for us. May we be willing to be transformed to this level...”For greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends...” (John 15:13) Here’s to a lifetime of reaching up in praise, honor and imitation of Him by going low in service to others!
Praise: Praise you God for showing us the sometimes hidden and little ways to You. “No one thinks to go low!”
Prayer: “Loving Lord, I am so humbled when I read about Your majestic heavenly reign and, yet, even more humbled when I look at Your choice of earthly living. You chose to always go low.You left the splendor of the courts of heaven to come to earth and to be born, live and die in a cave. You wrote no books, You left no marks except those on the pages of our hearts. I pray, dear sweet humble Lord, that I will be able to ‘take up my cross daily’ and come after You. I pray that nothing will keep me from You. Not pride. Not doubt. Not fear. No, dear Lord, nothing. Give me the grace to not fear humility. Make me like You. I want to be Your bride! I throw myself now into Your arms and lay down whatever is keeping me from being One with You. Nothing this earth has to offer could compare to You. Make us One, now and for all eternity.”
Promise: “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6
Proof of the Promise: There is always room in the world, in every sense of the word, when we are willing to go low.
Ponder: Journal here about your hopes and dreams with God... your “spiritual bucket list.” Where would you like to be five, ten, twenty years down the road in a spiritual sense? What do you think God’s dreams are for you? Ask Him for the strength, courage and ability to take the next step to get you ...humbly, humbly, humbly...there...by His grace.