Loving Arabs Without Losing Myself
For my first few months of living in the Middle East, I would think before I went to bed about what I was going to wear the next day, but not for the same reasons as other people my age. A normal twenty-year-old girl rummages through her closet looking for clothes that best fit her figure or will help her to get noticed. However, when I flipped through my closet, I would think, OK, where am I going tomorrow? What outfit will produce the least amount of comments? Then, when I would finally decide on an outfit, I asked myself the final question, Will this make me invisible?
Every day as I walked out my front door I was reminded that I lived in a male-dominated and shame-based culture. Walking down the street to school, I could feel the men undress me with their eyes as they made many gestures and comments. Every day I questioned my decision from the previous night: you shouldn’t be wearing this…this is your fault. Shame overcame my life, and I blamed myself for their comments. I could not see how I was going to survive the day, the week, or the month, let alone living life here.
However, one day this all changed.
As I walked down to the market a little boy approached me and made similar sexual gestures and comments. It dawned on me that this sin is generational. The attitude is not my fault. Yet how do I live here? I began to plead with God, Why did You send me here? How can I love these people? God, what do I do?
Then His words came to me …Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). I began to start my prayers the same way: Father, forgive them…forgive them. For they do not know what they do.
Slowly, He began to create in me a love for the people, and a desire for them to know my God. For they know not what they do rang in my ears as if I was hearing it for the first time. As Jesus died on the cross He asked for forgiveness for the criminals on either side of Him and at His feet. They were crucifying Him, yet He loved them and pleaded for their lives. The more and more I meditated on these thoughts, the more my mind changed. I went from hating to go outside my house to feeling humbled by the opportunity to intercede for each man and each child.
God is creating such a peace in my heart, one that enables me to laugh and find joy in my daily challenges. I am overwhelmed at how a developed prayer life can not only change my relationship with God but also my relationship with a sin-based culture. Only through God can I love a complete stranger, an enemy, or the creepy Arab man sitting next to me on the bus. Now I no longer stand for minutes staring at my closet, wondering what to wear; instead, I pray that they see my smile and feel my heart.