What a profound piece of sage advice.
In the interests of full disclosure, I did not come up with that on my own. It came to me this morning courtesy of my virtual friend, Rabbi David Wolpe. I say “virtual” because though I have never met him personally, I admire him from afar. So much so that I listen regularly to his podcast.
And as I listened to one of his podcasts this morning, I had an epiphany.
He was relating to his congregation at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles that he recently returned from a trip to Israel on which he was accompanied by over 400 Jews from the LA area. When they arrived in Jerusalem, his group was wisely told, “While you are here in Jerusalem, don’t just do something. Stand there.”
Meaning this: Resist the natural urge to visit as many places as you can squeeze into every moment of every day while you’re here. Do not become overly preoccupied with shopping, taking in as many of the religious/historical sites as you can, snapping as many pictures as is possible, and on, and on it goes. Just stand there, and allow the miracle of the moment to work its wonder in your life. Take into your soul the well-worn stones upon which you are standing. Absorb the meaning of these stones to your ancestors, and soak into your mind and heart what these stones mean to you. And most importantly, what these stones mean to God.
Stones where God chose to touch the earth.
Now I am happy to report that in my fifteen previous trips to Israel — and I fully anticipate the same will be said of my 16th next March — I have been oh-so-careful, obsessively so, to do just that. To “Don’t just do something; stand there.”
I have my ritual, from which I rarely depart. On my first night in Jerusalem, I walk down to the Western (Wailing) Wall. I look upon its stones. I gaze into the eyes of the scores of people gathered there. I contemplate their often wrinkled faces, gnarled hands, and tear-drenched eyes. Their emotions become my own emotions. Their prayers for the peace of Jerusalem and the coming of Messiah become my prayers.
In short, I stand there.
I stand there and contemplate all that has happened there throughout the thousands of years since Abraham first led his son Isaac up to the top of Mount Moriah, now enclosed by that wall, forming the western boundary of what is called today the Temple Mount.
On my second night, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre I go, built over the actual place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead. I cannot even begin to put into words the sensations I feel when I enter that church, gaze upon that hill contained within its enormous environs, and just stand there.
Night three usually takes me to Ben Yehuda Street in downtown Jerusalem. I walk the cobblestone street from top to bottom (Ben Yehuda Street is a kind of walking mall), find an out-of-the-way table, and rather than “stand there,” I sit there. I sit there to watch and listen. Usually a younger crowd fills the street, bringing with it their music, energy, and excitement. I wonder what their lives are like, what challenges they face, what heartaches they carry, what electrifies their lives. And then I pray for God’s grace and peace to flood their lives.
There is so much to be said about “Don’t just do something; stand (sit) there.”
On the fourth night, I try (usually successfully) to visit the home of a local family — perfect strangers who take a huge risk when they open their apartment and their hearts to someone like me. I’ll tell you what… By the end of the evening, we are no longer strangers. A bond has been built. I have taken them into my heart. I hope that they have taken me into theirs. The reason for this? The entire time that I am a guest in their home, I don’t just do something; I stand (sit) there.
I am so wealthy for having had those experiences. Not in a monetary way. Something far more valuable. A richness of my soul.
But here’s the epiphany that I had this morning: I don’t have to go Israel to heed such wise words. I can heed them here.
Ironically, that was the theme of my PODCAST last week at The Safe Haven. We noted then how Jesus took time out from just doing something in order to stand there. To be alone. To contemplate. To meditate. To pray. And how often He chose to “don’t just do something; stand there.” How ironic that though that was the focus of my own message, yet I didn’t exactly connect the dots to my own life and experiences until the good rabbi gave me a slightly different perspective. Thank you, Rabbi Wolpe!
So no, I don’t have to be in the Holy Land to heed the wise words of “my” rabbi. And neither do you.
We can choose right here and right now to “don’t just do something; stand there.” Why? Because God’s presence is as much here as it is over there. God’s glory is reflected in His bountiful and beautiful creation as much here as it is over there. God can hear my prayers as easily here as He can over there.
And what’s true for me is equally true for you.
I think that God was onto something when He inspired the pen of the psalmist to write, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Or to put it another way, if you think about it, Psalm 46:10 was God’s way to essentially say, “Don’t just do something; stand there.”