“Are you crazy?” This is the first question I’m always asked when people find out that I’m a teacher in Iraq.
We just finished our third quarter…I still haven’t learned how to write on the board properly. But I am loving the opportunity to get to know an entirely different set of students. We went on a field trip to a set of caves where…some things having to do with ancient kings from Mesopotamia and printing presses hidden from the British in the 1920’s happened. (I promise I was paying attention. I’m just still a little unclear.) But the caves were great.
I have received a few nervous (and incredibly sweet) inquiries about ISIS and safety, and just want to very truthfully reiterate that things are very safe here right now. In fact, my roommate joked a few weeks ago that the thing that is truly threatening to our safety is the dodgy oven attached to a propane tank that sits outside our kitchen.
That being said, I think that the recent beheadings in Libya have solidified something for me, and it’s just to be more acutely aware of what it is to be a person of the Cross.
Being a Person of the Cross
When the executioner wields a knife and says this is what comes from being a person of the Cross, he is unwittingly speaking of what we are promised. A surrendering of my will to Christ’s does not eradicate my problems. Likely, it increases them. Sometimes in horrible, violent ways. But regardless of the form the suffering, persecution, tribulation takes, it will eventually reveal the King of Glory in the world.
As a Christian, I want my response to persecution to be not a call for increased government, military or policy, but an increase of Christ. Terrible things can wilt us or fan us into action. And in the empowering of his grace, his love, his spirit, his transforming power, his forgiveness, his will, his reign… the things of earth become simultaneously strangely dim and also much more real.
So…in light of all that…I’m signing up for another year. For the same reasons that made me sign up in the first place. Because I can. And because they’ve stopped importing Cadbury chocolate to the States, but we’ve got loads of it here.
One thing that has been really a lot harder than I anticipated is being here as a single woman. But not necessarily out of loneliness, which is what I was gearing up for…I have an incredible blessing in living with a tremendous friend. But it’s very hard to live life here as a single woman. There is entree we will never have because we are not men, and it is frustrating to feel those limitations, especially when they come in the way of potential ministry opportunities.
And I have realized that, even in this, especially in this, God is teaching me reliance on him. Because I think, were I married, I would feel pretty invincible. And that I don’t feel that is a good thing. I guess…
And I want to throw something out to my single friends. Not that this doesn’t apply to those of you with families, but…there are fewer complications when it’s just you to worry about. There is a profound adventure in being single and seeing what God may do with that. There may be a spouse and family in your future. I hope there is one in mine. In the meantime, I have eaten more chicken shwarma and high-fived more people who are different from me than I have ever been able to before.
Not that I couldn’t do that in the US. But I was pretty dang comfortable. Being here has allowed God to break me and change me in ways that I am so grateful for six months after leaving.
What if our singleness is not a curse, but a freedom to try something a little outside the ten-year-plan we had in college? So…here’s an ask. This region needs people of peace. If you have ever had in you a desire to be a person of the Cross outside the confines of home, I just want to encourage you to pray about that.
It’s a terrible time to come to the Middle East. Think about coming anyway.