Full Circle in Israel (Part Two)
I wrote a blog post in April of 2016 while on a trip to Israel called “It is Well - Coming Full Circle in Israel.” Here is an excerpt from the post:
"While we were in Israel studying the historical and biblical significance of sites and locations, one of the themes that constantly emerged was the idea that God brings things “full circle.” Different sites have significance because God would intentionally bring his people back to that location to remind them how faithful He is. For example, we visited the “Place of the Crossing” on the Jordan River near where Jacob wrestled with God, where the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promise Land, where Elijah passed down his ministry to Elisha, and where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. That location is called "Gilgal" which actually means "circle." Full Circle. "
It’s funny. I can see full circle stories in other people’s lives pretty clearly. They’re easy to spot. Last week one of our volunteers at Resonate introduced me to a friend of hers who was a first-time guest. The lady shared with me that it was very weird for her to be back in the middle school where we meet because she attended school there over thirty years ago. All I could think about as I interacted with her before the service was how incredible it would be if she gave her life to Jesus today in the very same school where thirty years ago she made life-altering decisions that led her away from God.
You see, I can usually see when God is doing something full circle in someone else’s life, but I tend to overlook when He wants to remind me of his faithfulness. I had one of those moments this past January.
In January I had the opportunity to go back to Israel, but this time instead of being the recipient of someone else’s teaching I had the privilege of attempting to create the same eye-opening, “aha” moments for around forty-five people who joined us on the trip. It was both exhausting and life-giving for me as Amanda’s dad, Phil Byars, and I split the teaching load at all the sites. But this trip proved to be a very different trip than my first one.
What you have to understand is that typically a first trip to the Holy Land is earth shattering and perspective shifting for anyone, but for me it was life-tranformational and even life-saving. You see I went on my first trip to Israel only 6 months after losing Amanda. It was there God impressed some key things into my heart that paved the way for healing in my life that could only be described as supernatural. Many of these things I share in the book Nothing is Wasted that will hopefully be released Fall of 2018. (you can read more about that here)
I’ll never forget for as long as I live standing on top of Mt. Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee and hearing about how Jesus never takes His eyes off of us in our storms. I’ll never forget sitting in the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea Maritime and learning of the spread of the Gospel out of one of the most violently oppressive cities in the Roman Empire. I’ll never forget walking through the Garden of Gethsemane and seeing the viewpoint of the city of Jerusalem Jesus would have had as he wrestled with (and eventually submitted to) God the Father over the necessity of suffering and dying on the cross. And while all of these sites were certainly significant again this second time around, they lacked the mystique of the “first-time.”
One morning we went back to that “Place of the Crossing” to baptize several people in the Jordan River. After all of the baptisms were finished up and everyone else made their back to the bus, I took a couple minutes to lag behind the group and stand at the banks of the Jordan River.
“Why is this trip different, Lord? Why is it lacking the same feelings I had before?” I asked out loud. Just then, as I stared at the muddy waters of the Jordan River looking for clarity through these muddy emotions, I felt the Lord nudge me.
“It’s because you’re in a different place now, Davey. And I brought you back here to show you how far I’ve brought you.”
In a moment the cloudy emotions dissipated as a fresh revelation swept over me.
On my last trip I was barely hanging onto a hope that one day restoration would happen in my life. That hope met me in Israel in 2016.
On this trip, I was living out the restoration side of the story. Restoration was waiting for me back home in Indy. Their names were Kristi . . . and Natalia . . . and Weston.
On my last trip I didn’t feel like I had much reason to return home. I wanted to stay in Israel forever and just start over; anything to escape the pain I was feeling back home with the void of Amanda.
On this trip — even from day one — I longed to get back home to my beautiful new bride and two adorable kids.
On my last trip I left the States seeing everything in gray and came back surprised by color and hope returning to my life.
On this trip I entered with color and walked through Israel seeing a general gray hue because I just wanted Kristi and the kids to be with me there.
As I stood on the banks of the Jordan River for the first time since April 2016, God brought me back to all the feelings, all the tears, all the stomach clenching pain that accompanied my first trip to Israel. And as I walked away from the muddy waters of the Jordan I saw things clearer than I ever have. God had just brought me full circle. Back to the Place of the Crossing. Back to the healing waters of the Jordan. In a very short amount of time He’d allowed me to experience the loss of the most precious person in my life, suffer through the aftermath of that, find hope and healing in Him, and then bring someone precious into my life again . . . God’s redemptive story for my life coming full circle once again.
God will do the same for you, friends. I want to challenge you to open your eyes and be on the look out for full circle moments in your life. And when He brings you to one and you see how far He’s brought you, bask in the faithfulness of our Father, the author and finisher of our faith who will be faithful to close every loop in our lives.