What’s Worse than Dentists and Anthills?
My heart was racing. My hands were cold. I, who most people consider fearless, was terrified. You’re going to laugh at what had me so petrified. It’s not the only thing that scares me. I’m afraid of going to the dentist; I’m afraid of ant hills.
But because I managed to live for six years in a place that most people consider “dangerous” and “frightening” people also think I must be daring and bold. The truth of it is, that for most of my trips to Iraq, there was no fear to overcome. I faced little fears over international travel or lost luggage, but the actual act of going to Iraq never scared me. It took no courage.
At the same time, I’d like to think that even if my fear of going to Iraq had been at the same level as my fear of the dentist that I would have gone (just as I went to get my teeth cleaned a few days ago). In spite of my fears, I would hope that I would have done what was right and what I was called to. I never want my fear to be an excuse for not stepping forward into the good deeds that God has prepared in advance for me to do.
Which is why, with much fear and trembling, I picked up and drove a U-Haul moving truck down to one of our refugee friend’s home to help her move on one of the hottest Saturdays of July. The whole morning was great. And when I got back in that U-Haul to drive it back to the rental agency I was sweaty, muscle sore, and still absolutely terrified.
I know, I know. You all do things like this without thinking twice. It’s not THAT dangerous, I mean, sure, a little more than your car, but it’s worth it, right?
And that morning, it was worth it. It was worth it because God has called me to love and serve my Muslim neighbor. It doesn’t matter if it scares me or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s dangerous or not.
You could spend time telling me that driving a big truck is really not that bad, or that ants are harmless. I might even believe you intellectually, but I will still wish I had a flamethrower when I find an anthill. Instead of trying to convince you that Muslims and refugees are not terrorists or are mostly peaceful people, I’m going to say that it doesn’t matter whether they are or not.
Are We Obsessed with Safety?
You see, Jesus never promised safety. But He did promise to uphold us and strengthen us. Yes, you might accidentally say some word that sounds like swearing to your foreign friend and yes, it is embarrassing. You might become friends with someone who ends up rejecting you because her Muslim friends think you are a bad influence. You might even get hurt physically or die. Anything is possible and I’m not going to promise that it will ever be easy. Never once in my fourteen years of work has it ever been easy. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Co 4:8-9)
But the glimpses of Heaven I’ve seen through the tongues of the world and the shared identity we have as foreigners in a strange land are indescribable. And a little Sudanese 3-year old who can’t stop playing with my hair because it is just… so… weird. And a hug from a favorite student I haven’t seen in over five years. And repeating the word “eclipse” over and over down the hallway and… and… and…
I do have fears now. More fears than I used to my first years in Iraq and more than I would like to admit. I know more of the struggles that can happen. But sometimes you walk into the fiery furnace, not because it will go well, but because you trust God whatever the outcome. Sometimes you get into the U-Haul truck, not because it is easy or because you are unafraid or because you are sure you won’t crash, but because Jesus will be there with you.
What Do You Fear?
Are you letting fear keep you from saying hello to your neighbor? Are you letting fear stop you from making friends with someone from a different country or culture? We couch this fear in so many excuses saying we don’t want to offend them and we don’t want to make mistakes and what if they are terrorists. So what if you do? So what if they are? But by the grace of God go I. Ask God to show you what it is that He has called you to do, maybe something you are ignoring because of your fear. And ask him to help you overcome that fear. It’s scary. I know. But when you do, tell me about it, because it will be an incredible story of God’s grace.