Masada is an ancient fortress in Israel that rests atop a massive rock formation overlooking the dead sea, the lowest place on earth. Its massive height when viewed from the ground actually creates the perfect juxtaposition with the lifeless sand and water before it. The dead sea is dead because the immense salinity, combined with the stagnant water has created an environment where none of your typical forms of life can live. As I looked out at this alien and majestic site before me, arid summer wind blowing on my face like a mild hair dryer, I thought about God. Now, I realize that not everyone shares a belief in God or even my own faith. I do believe that we all have a world view and a particular perspective through which we view the experiences of our lives. I have friends from all belief systems as well as non-believers. However, I want to share my experience as truthfully as I lived it with the intention of hopefully bringing some added value through the lesson I discovered. So, back to Masada…
See, one of the main reasons why I decided to visit Israel, to begin with, is that I was studying theology, the study of God and different world religions. I always believed in God ever since I can remember. My father passed away when I was two so when I wanted to speak to “Dad” I just basically prayed, which at the end of the day is as simple as a conversation between us and our Creator. One of those first conversations happened one evening when I was about six, and I remember staring at a full moon one evening. I was staring at it trying to see if I could get it to move with my mind, until I gave up and my thoughts began to focus on the beauty of what I was seeing. My mom had tucked me into bed and the moon was so large and stunning that I simply had to write about it. I got up, penned a little poem and uttered the typical prayer a child would utter. Take care of my mom, my sisters and me. Thank you for this moon and for loving me. Good night.
Sure, sometimes God doesn’t speak back the way we expect or in ways that we can seemingly distinguish, but there’s always a dialogue there on our insides. Fish don’t need to be taught how to breathe under water and humans don’t need to be taught how to have faith. I realize now that the emotion that compelled me to write and pray that evening was the same one that I was feeling staring out at the flat middle eastern desert from my perch: awe.
Have you ever seen how every flower has the same pattern but each one is unique, just like our fingerprints? Or how tall grass sways in the meadows, only to be mimicked underwater by seaweed. Have you noticed hundreds of birds flying together for safety to avoid the attack of a predator, and yet on land the wildebeests and in the ocean most fish species do the same? When I look out at the clear design of this world, of my body and of certain moments that are seemingly orchestrated by a divinity endlessly larger than my mere human understanding, I am filled with the feeling of awe.
In studying world religions, I found that in the Torah or Old Testament, God had chosen a group of people to show the world what His character was actually like. People are always worshipping something whether they acknowledge it or not. Have you ever been to a pop-star concert? Have you seen people at political rallies or in Wall Street? How about body building competitions or at university award ceremonies? Whatever we humans spend the most time chasing, thinking about and living for is in essence what we worship. Unfortunately, these “false gods” will always let us down and in reality we were born to commune and worship God through love. Career is wonderful, hobbies are wonderful, but they should never be our “gods.”
In studying the Hebrew people according to the Old Testament, God gave them the ten commandments and protected, disciplined and delivered the people of Israel until He fulfilled His promise of establishing them in the promised land. In the new testament, Jesus Christ comes to fulfill those commandments and all the other ones outlined in later books of the Torah, because no human being could keep the law perfectly because we all are, spoiler alert, flawed. When the super religious people back then asked Jesus what the most important law or commandment was He answered this: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as you love yourself.” As I looked out at the dead sea, I thought about how God gives us metaphors to understand life. The Jordan River has been flowing for thousands of years and it’s full of life. A few miles away we have the lifeless Dead Sea because there is no flow of water; it gives nothing so it receives nothing and therefore has no life within it left. I smiled and took one last look at that beautiful desert view; I wanted to capture that moment forever in my heart.
During my trip to Israel, I visited the Muslim Golden Mosque, I prayed at the wailing wall and at Jesus’ tomb. Life has shown me enough to understand that my understanding of this world, let alone the spiritual world is quite limited. I will say that I have learned one clear thing: if God is here… He wants us to love one another. In the Torah, God created humans to love them and for perfect relationship. In the Bible, Jesus redeemed them and paid for all their mistakes by voluntarily giving up his life on the cross, so that all the righteous wrath of God was forever paid by himself and now we can receive his free gift of love and mercy through relationship, not religion. In the Koran God, it says that God is one. The lesson of love, which I discovered as I was in Israel, is that what we have in common as humans is so much more than what sets us apart. I learned that if there is a God out there, then by simple logic He made everything including all His children. Look, it’s this simple. Sitting in a car garage all day doesn’t make you a car, and neither does attending a faith building make you a believer or follower of God. It’s about relationship and not religion. We can grow our faith relationship with God within traditional structures, communities of faith and certainly those gatherings often occur in buildings… but make no mistake about it; it’s about a relationship with God and each other where the main component and driving force is love. That’s why we created the BIG Foundation; because though we might have different faiths or world views, we choose to come together as humans to tangibly love people around the world.
The lesson of love is that we have to let it flow so that it brings life where we give it, and we must also receive it so that it might continue to move. The lesson of love is that if we fight for something it must be only with love and only for peace. People can speak their opinions about their faith, their politics, and their views… at the end of the day, if we don’t come from a place of love then those actions and words become like the Dead Sea; they only add more salt to the problems and end up stopping the flow of love. Love always makes things flow.