The Servant of God

Recently the Church celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday. During Holy Mass Our Lord reminded me of an experience we shared in Jerusalem a few years ago. I’d like to tell it to you.

I was undergoing some hard trials in my life at that time. I had recently moved from my homeland to Israel and was still feeling very isolated, not yet having found a community in which to belong. I was suffering from a serious marriage crisis which caught me by surprise and precipitated our sudden move abroad. I had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and also had to handle many months of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. My two pre-teen daughters were distressed by all of these unexpected and traumatic life events taking place in our family and were depressed and anxious. I was dealing with their fears, working to repair our marriage through forgiveness and trying to find my place in a foreign country.

Jesus was with me through all of these challenges. His grace sustained me and upheld me.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

One particular day, my heart was heavy and my spirit was drooping, and the Holy Spirit urged me to go up to Jerusalem to seek Jesus’ consolation. I drove the hour and a half to Jerusalem from the coastal town where I was living. I entered through the Damascus Gate into the Old City. The words from Psalm 122, “Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem” came to my mind and my heart rose for a moment. I began walking the Via Dolorosa towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I thought that I could find a priest at the church with whom I could talk. Passing through the Christian Quarter I turned a corner and an unknown man approached me. My heart that day had felt as heavy as lead. The man smiled at me and invited me to step into his store.

My first thought was that he was going to try to pressure me to buy something as do most of the shopkeepers in the Old City when tourists pass by their stores. However, his kind smile and gentle manner disarmed me and without thinking any further I followed him inside. He led me to the very back of the store and invited me to sit down on a comfortable couch. I sat and looked around. The man’s shop was filled with fine oriental rugs and beautiful antiques, old copper coffee pots, brass tables and wooden chairs and other lovely items. This was not some tacky souvenir shop, or one of the typical stores aimed at Christian tourists filled with the usual wooden carvings, ceramic plates, or religious trinkets like so many that are situated in that Quarter.

He sat down next to me. He didn’t say a word about his merchandise. I felt very relaxed in his presence. He began to speak with me as if we were old and dear friends. With sincerity he asked me about how I was feeling. When I shared with him my sadness he had compassion and began to encourage me. As he was talking to me I felt cared for and my soul felt peace.

After a little while he politely excused himself and asked me to wait for him there. He left the store. Not once did I think of leaving. I trusted him. I felt so at home. A short while later, he returned carrying a tray with a cup of tea and a sandwich and invited me to eat and drink. I was hungry so I ate what he had generously presented. Never once did he ask me to look at his merchandise. Never once did he try to sell me anything. His words were gracious and he expressed deep empathy.

After I had finished eating, he excused himself a second time and I sat there alone enjoying the hot tea. When he returned he was carrying something large that was wrapped up. He told me to close my eyes. I obeyed. As he laid the heavy item on my lap he told me that this was his most valuable possession. Then, he told me to open my eyes. I looked down and lying on my lap was a very old illustrated Bible! The pages were yellow and the leather binding was decaying. I was afraid for him to open it as it looked so fragile. He looked at me and to my amazement he said: “Now, I am going to bless you.” He opened the Bible to a page in the middle of the book and then instructed me to place my hand on top of the illustration. The beautiful illustration was of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In this image He was holding two lambs, one on each arm. The kind man then proceeded to bless me.

This man did not know that this particular image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, holding not one, but, rather, two lambs in His arms was a special personal “sign” for me of Jesus’ presence. Jesus had given this to me during my journey of breast cancer. In my story, “The Good Shepherd,” which you can read in this website, I relate the amazing account of that other experience with Jesus.

After the man blessed me, he asked me whether I would like to know his name. I said I did. Then he told me. “My name is Obad (Obadiah) which means, “The Servant of God.” This was the second amazing encounter I had in Israel with a man named “Obad (Obadiah) ” or “Servant of God” through whom the Holy Spirit was working in a mysterious yet most evident way. (Please read my other account in this website: “The Cup of the Water of Paradise” about the other Obadiah I encountered in 2006. He put the question –answer to me in the exact same manner.)

Obad then lifted up the Bible from my lap and handed it to me and told me to take it home! Impossible! He was telling me to take his most treasured possession and just walk away with it. Joy had been steadily filling my being the entire time I was with this man. Now my heart was overflowing with joy. He bound up the beautiful Bible and handed it to me. Then he embraced me, and told me, “I love you, keep smiling.”

I left his store bewildered but filled with an exceeding joy. I clutched the precious book to my chest. My smile felt on my face as big and radiant as the full bow of the rainbow after the storm when the sun comes out in its full strength. Skipping all the way back through the Old City streets to the Damascus Gate my intense joy must have been as evident to the people I was passing as that of King David’s as he danced with abandon, full of the Holy Spirit, before the Ark of the Covenant as the Israelites were carrying it up to Jerusalem.

Two weeks later, I returned to Jerusalem and found my way back to the store to give Obad back his magnificent treasure. He was not there, so I left it safely with his brother. I was still smiling!


Posted on May 11, 2012, in My Walk with Jesus and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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