There are candles lit in the living room, the wind is howling outside and we had a snow day last week. Were it not for the constancy of baklava and old men in huge pants, I could think I was in the US. (Though, honestly, my city in the US has baklava and big pantsed-men in spades.)
This morning I gave my second of five midterm exams. I stopped by the bread store before work and grabbed some fresh rolls, some cream cheese and Nutella for my colleagues and when I opened the door to the teachers’ lounge, saw that three other people had done the same thing. It was a nice few minutes before the chaos of exams began, chatting in my still horrifyingly slim Kurdish and drinking Nescafe. And eating way too much Nutella.
It’s been a semester full of really good literature: Lord of the Rings (all the books!), Hamlet ] (original language!), The Odyssey (unabridged!), Perelandra (a made-up name for Venus!). And I have enjoyed almost every day of teaching. But I am really looking forward to the two-week semester break. That hot chocolate isn’t going to drink itself.
It’s been honestly kind of hard being an American and a Christian working in a Middle Eastern context with devout and culturally Muslim students recently…they are all technology natives and see all the news and all the FB posts you do. Most of the time, when students ask me about what is happening in the States, I don’t really have good words to talk about refugees, terrorism, the election.
This past year and a half I have met all sorts of good people and bad people. People who I want to hug and people I am immediately terrified of. People who do their homework and people I want to kick out of class. Constantly.
I know that governments make decisions based on one set of rules. But, as a believer, I have to make decisions using a different compass entirely. I can’t make personal decisions based on what may happen, or what certain people may do. Or what they have or haven’t done in the past, or what the statistics say.
I make decisions because I have been loved perfectly and His perfect love casts out fear. It doesn’t matter if all Muslims are terrorists or no Muslims are terrorists or what refugees are running from. God has used terrible circumstances to suddenly give people access to Hope who might never ever have it. So no matter what, we cannot act in fear. This Hope eradicates fear and clears our hearts for the work of Heaven. In Iraq, in the States, in France.
And so I go to work. And walk my dog. And make chicken. And grade papers. And say hi to the guards with guns. And pray for my students. And watch my roommate make wreaths from high desert conifers.
Anything could happen to me. And anything could happen to you. And the world is a hot mess right now. But in a few hours, our choir is singing at a hotel in town. And Santa is coming to the hotel to give gifts to refugees. And we’ll sing “Silent Night” in English, German, Chinese and Kurdish. (We’ll also be singing a strangely difficult and anxiety-inducing version of “Jingle Bells.” Which could go either way on low or high point.) Jesus tells us the hot mess doesn’t win.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
One of my students asked me a few weeks ago why Gandalf encourages Frodo to show kindness and forgiveness to Gollum in The Fellowship of The Rings. I said something about lofty and forgettable about forgiveness, but my student wasn’t buying it. He said, “Miss, if someone betrayed me, I would never forgive them. Not ever. Forgiveness is stupid and weak.”
And he is totally right. Forgiveness is totally nonsensical, actually. And I am so grateful that I know this confounding God who doesn’t make sense in a world that is ruled by fear and vengeance. It’s a weary world, especially in the last few weeks. But there is a glorious morn that is coming.
And there is a King who is returning with it. And it is an honor to be here and in small ways point to that hope.