Your Invitation to Holy Places
It’s been gone for seven years now, but that doesn’t matter. Every time I drive by the empty, green field, I return to those hours that changed everything: the white linoleum tiles, the large window to the right of the bed, the trees just outside, branches bare, the music of James Taylor wafting through the room from the cassette player, my husband beside me, holding my hand.
Middle Tennessee Medical Center, where our daughter was born at 1:39 p.m. on November 14, 1997, no longer exists on Highland Street. It was torn down in 2012 to make way for a newer, more modern facility across town. Even as an empty field, that place is holy to me, set apart, because of what transpired there 22 years ago. It’s the place where my life was forever changed.
I never tire of driving by there.
It’s a route I’ve completed hundreds of times, in every season of the year, sometimes going out of my way to drive that city block. Why would I do that? Because I need a regular reminder of the holy calling of motherhood. If left on my own, I’d slip into lazy habits and easy fixes instead of growing in grace and faithfulness for my children’s sake.
I need to remember what happened in that hospital room and resolve, once again, to parent my children as unto the Lord.
Traveling to Israel this fall was like driving by that empty field where the hospital once stood, but on a grander scale. Because of what happened in Jerusalem centuries ago, my life, my future, indeed the whole world, was forever changed. It’s a holy place.
Those first-century cobblestones around the temple? Jesus walked on them. The steps leading down the pool of water and up to the temple entrance? Jesus descended and ascended them like so many others before him. That grassy hill across the valley where olive trees still grow? Jesus prayed there, begging God to find another way to save the world, yet surrendering to His will.
The tomb where Jesus’s dead body was laid and from which he emerged, alive once again? It’s there too, reminding me that, for those in Christ, death is yet another defeated enemy in a string of defeated enemies bent on wrecking God’s world.
The Christian faith is based on a series of historical events.
The Gospel is not just good advice, although Jesus offers that in his teachings. It’s not fundamentally a system of best practices, although Scripture has plenty of those, too, which we would do well to follow. But, it’s news first and foremost. News that happened in a particular place in a particular period of history. News that Christ has come to rescue humanity and creation.
And because it’s news that Christ is offering something to the world, it’s news that demands a response from me.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:11-14).
As I sat on the steps of the temple in Jerusalem, a shift began inside of me. Day after day priests sacrificed animals that could never take away sin.
As I imagined those altars on the other side of the wall, my fickle heart and mind were realigned with the truth. His sacrifice was offered once for all. He sits at God’s right hand.
As I sang a hymn of praise to the one whose enemies will be made his footstool, the Good News amazed me all over again. In Christ I’m made perfect.
As we prayed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I resolved to persevere. He gives us the grace of becoming holy, over time.
Although those moments were precious, what happened on those steps is really no different than what I’m offered each week in the body of Christ.
When the local church gathers, Christ is among us (Mt 18:20). As we speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who instructs and teaches us in the way we should go (Eph. 5:19). As we take communion, we proclaim the Lord’s death till he returns to judge the world (1 Cor. 11:26). As we fellowship, we spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
These things and more remind me to put aside lazy habits and easy fixes, working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).
So this week, as I’m driving downtown, I’ll be sure to take that route down Highland Street past the now-empty, green field. Glancing out the window, my eye will travel up to the space where that second-floor room stood 22 years ago. Where my future was forever changed. Where I committed to another person for life.