So, what do we make of the familiar sight of black clad men with earlocks standing with noses against the cold, and sometimes hot bricks, of the Wailing Wall, rocking back and forth and side to side in prayer? Do we find ourselves inspired by their devotion and discipline? Or do we feel somewhat sad for them, as if all their prayers are literally hitting a brick wall when all the time they could be enjoying intimacy with the Living God through Jesus by the Spirit?
Then I think how much more God-conscious and devout a person must be who stops by the Wailing Wall up to three times a day on their way to and from work. How dare we judge a person who finds their heart drawn toward God at a big stone wall daily, when we’re lucky to get to church even two or three times a month?
I had a powerful experience at the Wailing Wall, as I carried the tears of two grieving mothers to that holy site and placed special prayers for them in the cracks. Nevertheless, as a Christian I can’t help but find the sight of a line of heads and beards appearing to bang repeatedly against a hard wall to be a less than inspiring one.
I want to think about stonewall faith and the tunneling tenacity of God in my next two posts, as I continue sharing reflections on my pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
If I’m honest, I think the image above hits too close to home for pathetic pray-ers like me. Haven’t we all tried to draw nearer to God’s presence in prayer, but felt like our prayers were deflecting off of a glass ceiling or crashing into a thick stone wall? In our darkest nights of the soul, all the sentimental Christian hopes and gooey promises about God’s compassion and care seem to lie just out of reach, buried deep behind a massive and immovable wall.
Speaking of walls, while most people are only aware of the portion of the Western Wall pictured on postcards and shown on the nightly news, did you know there are western wall tunnels deep under the plaza you can tour that bring you up against some truly mind-boggling city bus sized foundation stones that haven’t moved for 2,000 years?
That’s right, the portion of the Western Wall you see is merely an eighth (180 ft) of the total length of the wall. Another 270 feet (nearly a football field) stretch to the right as you face the Wall, and some 1,000 feet to the left (over 3 football fields), into the Western Wall Tunnels? The ancient Temple was truly massive!
We were given this tour by a fast-talking, no non-sense guide who sounded more like he was from New Jersey than the Middle East. You better “shut up” and “keep up” when following this guy deep under ground, or he might just leave you behind forever in a 3,000 year old grave with plenty of room for one more body. I should mention this was a very long day for any claustrophobic pilgrims in the group. (You can watch great videos of the tunnels on YouTube – see below.)
Standing deep underneath the plaza inside the tunnels, we feasted our eyes on a massive foundation stone that was one solid piece larger than a city bus. The largest stone measuring in at 45 feet long, 14 feet thick/deep and weighing 570 tons—“that’s the equivalent of 200 elephants or two 747 jumbo jets full of people after shopping in Israel,” says another local guide! Nobody knows how they moved it there, but building a structure on top of such a firm earthquake-proof foundation sure gives Jesus’ admonition to build our life upon the rock new potency!
Still, as a follower of Jesus, I prefer tunneling imagery over the image of praying toward a solid brick wall. I relish the God who carve out a channel for living water to flow through the driest desert, and the God who can dig a tunnel to lost and weary souls through the hardest bedrock. This brings me to one of my highlights of the trip: walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
That’s next time!