Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” … He called the name of that place Beth El…
Each of us has a Beth El somewhere. Many of us have not yet been there, and have not yet met the Lord in that place. But those who have can never forget the awesome place of their meeting with God.
My Beth El is a Pentecostal Campground on a hillside in Virginia. Unlike Jacob, I have not returned to that place. God did not call me back there as he did Jacob. Perhaps I have stayed away in fear that I would not find him there as I did the first time; disappointment is painful. Perhaps someday I will take a little trip down there and find out.
But there is another more important way that I do return to Beth El. When God spoke to me there, a monument stone was erected in my heart. A visit to that stone reawakens me when life becomes dull or desperate. Recalling the questions and longings, the fears and needs that filled my heart when I first went to Beth El positions me to hear again what he said there.
“I am the God of Beth El!” God identified himself that way to Jacob years after their first meeting. “I am the God of the House of God!” The literal meaning of that name doesn’t mean any more to me than “I am the God of Virginia!” probably means to you, but it meant everything to Jacob.
“I am the God who met you at Beth El! Remember me? Remember how afraid you were and how good it felt to know me and be afraid? Remember my blessing and promise to you? And Jacob, do you remember the promise you made to me there? It’s time to act on that promise.”
And so God reminds me. When I am distracted, or angry, or lonely, or just bored, he whispers to me and I make a pilgrimage in my heart to that place again and listen and remember who he is, and what is vital, and what is central… and I live again.