I turned 50 this year in May. It’s my Jubilee year. I spent the morning of my birthday at the Wailing Wall, in Israel: my palms spread out against the coolness of the stone, my forehead resting wearily against its roughness, and my tears gently trickling down my face to add moisture to its dryness. It was the fulfilment of a dream I had been nursing in my soul for a few years – to place my prayer in a crevice in The Wall on this particular birthday.
During the months leading up to my departure, I had been praying for change. There were too many spaces in my heart that were still too broken for me to truly live the abundant life that my Redeemer had promised me. I wanted change that would explode open the forgotten places in my soul that needed a stormy, fierce revival. I prayed. I prayed for change.
The fifteen days I spent in Israel were surreal.
I walked the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem – the one King David built! I was thrilled to the core to even walk along its southern rampart, feeling a bit like a warrior and a watchman passionately protecting her King’s castle. I hiked through the belly of a crater in En Avdat and stood majestically proud posing on the top of another in Mizpe Ramon. I also bobbed in the waters of the deepest hypersaline lake in the world: the Dead Sea.
My vocabulary became a little stunted, though. Everything I saw and experienced was either affirmed with an exclamation of “WOW!” or “Phenomenal!” When I reached the last of the steps that would finally lead me onto the plateau of the powerful, historical presence that is Masada, a “WOW!” was all my astounded larynx could squeeze out.
I revived travel-worn feet in the springs of Ein Gedi; lounged serenely along the waters of the Red Sea in a beach café in Eilat; snuck into the waters of the Jordan River, eager to be unseen and alone, to meditate and reflect on many years past when my Saviour stood reflecting there, too – with purpose and intent to start His journey that would eventually lead Him to walk a mile in my shoes.
And I smiled more broadly than any social media emoticon ever could when I prayerfully placed one foot after another in the Sea of Galilee.
But then it was time to return home – to South Africa. To routine and the same old cracks in my foundation that I so longed to see repaired.
I wondered, during the first two weeks at home, if any changes had actually occurred. Yes, my spirit had been in awe of Yahweh all the days of my stay in The Promised Land. And, yes, I did experience His presence while reflecting in the waters there – the same land where my Redeemer walked and taught and died to save me from my sin.
On returning home, though, all I felt was exhaustion. For the first week I felt drugged and my mind all fogged up. My body was in severe protest against all the hard work I had forced upon it. It was weather beaten and tired.
The second week went far smoother than the first. Energy levels were rising and the history I had made in the fulfilment of my dream began to awaken my spirit to the exhilaration that comes with realising what was once a far off notion and desire, was now my life’s reality. I had been to Israel! On my jubilee birthday. I was being set free.
And then that still, small Voice…
I awoke on the Friday morning, two weeks after my return home, and of living the same tired life I had prayed would be left behind when I boarded the plane for Israel. The routine was the same, the behaviour was the same, and the disappointment still ran deep within my soul.
Until I decided that this would not be my life for another moment; or another day!
Since that day I’ve been busy. I’ve decluttered the cupboards in all the rooms of my home, reorganised the content for more effective use of space, removed what was no longer needed, nor wanted – and discarded it into the garbage bin or gifted it to someone who could breathe new life into it.
It was inexplicably freeing.
I’ve learned that what happens in the physical also is true for the spiritual. So, with every moment spent decluttering my home, I also worked at decluttering my heart. I tossed out emotions that were no longer helpful, thoughts that were wearing me down in body, mind and soul, and keeping me oppressed in silence. I readjusted my perspective every time Yahweh exposed a lie in my life and lovingly replaced it with the Truth that brought life, energy and empowerment. It brought boldness, strength and courage, too.
And thus it was that I was systematically, intentionally being set free. We were reorganising and clearing out and creating space for more of the new.
My One Word 365 for this year is #Spirit-filled breakthrough. It’s no coincidence that it comes in my year of jubilee.
Months before I left to explore the streets of the Holy Land, I spent some intimate time with Yahweh on a farm just on the outskirts of where I stay. It was here that He whispered the truth of where I was in my journey and walk with Him. The years leading up to that day were the years of coming out of the wilderness and crossing my Jordan River. I was now in The Promised Land.
When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, it wasn’t the end of the journey. They didn’t get to relish the fruit of the land of milk and honey. They didn’t get to feast on the goodness of the land. There were enemies to conquer first.
Mine were discouragement, disappointment and disillusionment. Other inhabitants in my land that needed to be conquered and destroyed were apathy, lethargy, compromise and pain – deep, and often excruciating, emotional pain.
Which is where the deep and sacred work of redemption, emancipation and restoration began to uproot, break down and take away to set this captive free. To celebrate the pilgrimage to the pinnacle of this soul’s jubilee.
The land is flowing with milk and honey. The inhabitants are being conquered. The giants are being slayed. Slowly, steadfastly, we are gaining ground and taking back the land. We are erecting altars with Yahweh’s Name on it, as we move more fully into enemy territory to raise the banner of victory.
Slowly, steadfastly, we are celebrating the profound and everlasting work of jubilee.