Just around the corner from The Garden Tomb, near Old City, Jerusalem
It was Monday, September 22nd, and we had been wandering through an Arab shopping area for about half an hour looking for a gate into the Old City. Our plan was to get lost and wander but this wasn’t quite what we had in mind. The vibe was tense and we were hot and tired and ready for something icy, lemony, and minty.
His name was Abraham. Tall and thin, his stooping shoulders carried the light cotton dress shirt without filling it in very well. Brown skin tanned from the kisses of an intense Middle Eastern sun creased as his gap-toothed smile welcomed us to the Damascus Gate.
“You are looking for the Jaffa Gate. Or the New Gate. Not this gate. You shouldn’t go in this gate.”
His confidence lending certainty to our obvious confusion, the boys and I quickly turned to follow him from the entrance to the Damascus Gate, which looked dark and foreboding, toward the light and up a slight incline where patting his chest and breathing hard, he told us of living as an Arab-Israeli in New York for 7 years. He too was a Protestant and he lived near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which we certainly must visit.
Finally, too winded to continue, he stopped and told us he’d had open heart surgery a mere three months before and couldn’t walk any more with us, but perhaps, since he was going to Bethlehem that very next day to see the children, we might be able to spare a couple hundred shekels for him to take?
I shook my head, “I don’t carry money.” The boys, nonplussed, looked at each other, and Brian shook his head as the reality of our “guide” and his motivation became clear.
Twenty dollars and twenty shekels later, we disengaged ourselves from the now obviously frustrated and angry man who believed, fervently, we should have given more shekels to him and we began our walk up the long hill toward the Jaffa Gate.
Brian was frustrated that we didn’t follow his lead. We weren’t sure what he was talking about until we realized the boys and I had jumped right into Abraham’s scheme without so much as a look Brian’s direction.
“Ahh…. I guess you had a gut feeling about a scam?”, I said.
“Yeah. It just didn’t feel right.”
We didn’t go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that day, we were a little jumpy after our morning.
Who knows who or what could have been waiting for us. We were probably too cautious, but then, we came home safely so all’s well that ends well. Right?
On Wednesday of that same week, we got a text from a friend in Oregon.
“Did you hear about the rioting in the Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem on the 22nd?”
Suddenly, our thoughts about Abraham shifted from gratitude to irritation at the guy who tried to rip us off for 5 minutes worth of directions to…
Something quite different.
I am embarrassed at how quickly I had been willing to look for outside help and call it God’s provision and then that I had rushed to call Abraham a scam artist in my heart after his motivations became clear.
Maybe he was a guardian angel? Maybe not.
He did guide us away from a tense and precarious environment toward a more White American friendly area of the Old City. Amazing what a few meters can do.
Just inside the Jaffa Gate, Old City, Jerusalem – Photo Credit: Isaac Stone www.internationalbrofari.com
How often do we do that? Compartmentalize how God is helping us? Or define when He is or isn’t?
Regardless of Abraham’s, if that even was his name, motivation? He led us away from one not very pretty thing toward another, much more suitable, thing.
We were grateful for that direction when we finally settled down to pizza-esque flatbreads with cheese just inside the Jaffa Gate and breathed a sigh of relief in the restaurant’s basement floor surrounded by cool Jerusalem stone.
“Let’s pay more attention in the future and get a consensus before we charge in, ok?”
Heads nodding, we all agreed that was a good idea.
Angels don’t always look like angels and God doesn’t always use the most convenient, obvious methods to direct us.
We are still growing in the ability to not lose sight of Him while we are seeking to do His work.
Heaven forbid we end up chasing a star only to lose track of it and end up talking to Herod instead of worshipping the King of Kings. (Matthew 2)