Answering Questions From Readers
I’m 65 years old and started working for my high school newspaper when I was a sophomore in 1972. If I’m counting on fingers and toes correctly, that means I’ve been involved with the craft for right at 50 years. During that time I’ve been fortunate to have a fair amount of reader reaction. Some good, some not so much.
But I have never, not even close, had the kind of reaction that the trip to Israel created. And a good many of you have asked questions – so let me do two things here. First, I’ll try to answer some of them today. Second, if any church or community group would like to hear first-hand the details of the trip, just e-mail me and I will be happy to visit with you and share. I’m trying to organize the photos now into some sort of organized manner that doesn’t resemble Uncle Bob’s vacation slide show from 1964. No promises though!
More importantly, let’s get to your questions:
Several of you asked if I found any answers? At first I wasn’t sure what you meant. But one reader from Sheridan mentioned a column I wrote as we were leaving that mentioned the world being in a funk and that the Holy Land might be the best place to start looking for answers.
The short answer is, I don’t know. When we were in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and I was losing patience with another group that had cut in front of us, I realized my trials and tribulations were absolutely nothing compared to what Jesus of Nazareth went through. And after more reflection on that, maybe handling things with more grace is part of the answer . . . and, for me at least, the biggest challenge.
The most often asked question was, what was it like to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles? In a word, unreal. On the last day of the tour we were walking the path Christ followed when He was forced to carry His cross. Our guide pointed to a spot on a stone wall where Jesus reportedly leaned and placed His hand. We all did the same. And when it was my turn, the idea that I was physically doing the exact same thing the Son of God did, albeit in much different circumstances, physically impacted me. It made me think of how tired He must have been. I could not begin to imagine the pain He was in after the torture He endured. Nor could I wrap my head around carrying a wooden cross that weighed a few hundred pounds.
Humbling? Overwhelming? Thankful? I work with words for a living and even more than a week after the fact am still not sure how to describe it.
What was my favorite part of the trip? Many of you asked that. It’s hard to pick out one thing. Hermon Mount, the place where Jesus told Peter he would build His church on that rock, was very big (no pun intended). Masada, the fortress on top of a mountain where a thousand Jews chose death rather than surrender to slavery under the Romans, was impactful. But the three sites – the birth, the death and the resurrection – would have to be at the top of my list.
Conversely, several asked if there were any disappointments?
Sure. I wish we would have had lots more time. But more than that, it was disappointing to learn that there is some healthy disagreement on what happened where. Scholars and archaeologists are at odds on many of the locations – like the exact spot of the crucifixion. It’s certainly understandable. Two thousand years have gone by and everything from the landscape to governments to cultures and even written records have changed.
Understandable, no doubt. But still disappointing.
Would we go back, was another question echoed from many? No doubt. However, I would want to do it differently if we did. The tour worked well for us as first-time visitors. It gives a very broad view of a lot of things. But if we were able to go back, I’d rather be able to spend more time with fewer places – especially the three favorites mentioned above.
The second-biggest question I got was how did this impact my faith?
I guess the easiest answer is that it made me realize how much work I have to do. I mentioned before we left that believing wasn’t the problem, it was prioritizing time for that belief. I hope to do better in that regard. Perhaps more importantly, I understand why I should.
For those ready to move on to other topics, this is the final planned column on the Holy Land pilgrimage. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart for so many of you coming along with me on this trip.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at [email protected]