I was sitting in an Arabic church service in my hometown in Alabama a couple weeks ago when I started feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the language. My thoughts began to drift downward as I became daunted by the implications of my impending move to Lebanon. Will I ever be able to understand Arabic? Or start a business for that matter? What if I fail?
Quickly stopping myself in this disheartening thought process, my mind turned to just a few weeks earlier when I first attended this service. It was a Sunday evening and, after visiting two other churches that day, I was drained. Because of the emotional exhaustion, I was about to turn out of the parking lot and go to my safety zone, home, when I felt God’s gentle nudge: “Go.”
There was no motive in visiting this church except I thought it would be good to be exposed to more Arabic. Following the service that night, and the next several Sundays, I found myself feasting upon delicious Middle Eastern food in the home of the Lebanese pastor and Arabic college students from the community. We connected. There was laughter, singing, and sad attempts at my own Arabic. Never did I imagine that following the prompting that evening would result in such a blessing. God knew exactly the plans for that evening, and for what was going to happen a few weeks later….
At that moment, in the middle of my questioning and fear, the pastor called me to the front of the congregation. There I was, standing in front of an Arabic congregation, sharing what God was doing in my life—the steps he was inviting me to take. Then the pastor joined me at the front and spoke with those still-so-strange sounds. He wrote on the board “Avail/ability.” My somewhat–experienced nonverbal communication skills kicked in as I followed bits and pieces of what followed.
The synopsis: God does not ask us to wait until we have the ability, he asks us to be available to what he is inviting us into.
Next, I found the students in the church coming forward to surround me as two people in the congregation prayed over me. They sent me off on this journey with their blessings and support. Here I was, sharing what God had invited me to do and getting consumed in fear and doubt when he saw my doubt and offered encouragement through the special congregation that he had prompted me to visit weeks earlier.
This is just one of the many ways God has revealed His tender grace to me. The time leading up to my mid-January departure has been difficult and filled with unforeseen challenges. In times of transition, we cling to stability. As sensitivity is heightened, I see that possessions and people come and go, but there is one thing that remains—my beautiful Savior. He is unchangeable, just as he promised in Matthew 28:20:
“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Middle East