I received a text around 5 pm that one of the ladies that joins every week for English and stories at our home could not make it because she was sick. I texted her back and said I was sorry she was sick (pole) and that I would pray for her. I got ready for the lesson that night as I usually do; ten minutes before everyone arrives (I always have goals of reviewing and planning earlier but alas I have become too “African” as one of the ladies pointed out). Soon the sun was setting and the ladies started wondering over to our home. Everyone else came and was even on time-ish! As we were gathering and greeting each other one woman pulled me aside with a simple “siri”(secret) whispered under her breath. She told me that the woman who was “sick” had actually been beaten so badly by her husband that she was taken to the hospital. She was now at her family’s house recovering with her 2 year old son. She was ashamed to leave the house for fear of people talking about her and bringing shame to the family. I was shocked. I am shocked every time I hear about these stories. Even though I suppose I should be used it it living here for 4 years I always feel like someone punched me in the emotional gut. She shared more about what had happened and it was terrible. These are the times where deeply investing in people’s lives costs me something, it demands the showing of love, not just the talking about it. But that for me is a good thing. In the midst of the uncomfortableness and the mess of life I see Jesus more clearly and I feel Him more present. But these issues are also difficult because the culture is different and the way the community solves and works out problems must be respected while at the same time I desperately want to help and communicate the rich love of the Father. We agreed to talk about it later as everyone had arrived and we knew we needed to start English class. We studied, took notes, laughed at our mistakes, and listened as the women retold the story of a son almost sacrificed but saved by God’s provision, the creation of the world, the instructions for the first Passover, and a snake tempting the first people on earth. The power cut like it always does half way through and we used the lights from cell phones to finish our stories. Then we ate date cake and drank freshly squeezed sugary orange juice before saying goodbyes and everyone wandering back home carrying the kids that had fallen asleep on the mat. Inshallah..to see each other tomorrow.
I was exhausted but could not sleep that night. It was like God was waking me up to pray and cry and think. There is such joy in friendship but there is something special and unique about unlikely friendships. It is different from than ones that are easily formed because of similar culture backgrounds and shared views of life. That is why there is special little place in my heart for and where I treasure the friendships I have made here because they do cost me more than ones I had back home. I have become friends with women I never would have ‘run into’ back in Chicago and I am increasing grateful for what I learn from them. There is fun and laughing and lots of learning (mostly for the “clueless” Mzungu). But there is also pain and loss and difficulty; deeper than I have even experienced. And I am invited in for it. Many nights I fall asleep on a pillow damp with tears because the suffering of women here makes my soul cry out and my heart ache. Some days I just want Jesus to come back. Right now and end all the crap, the pain. But then I remember His plans and His timing is perfect and He works in brokenness. He did not come for those that are well but for the sick. He wants everyone to know Him and experience peace and hope and often that can only be found after suffering. And as the whole world aches for restoration and healing He is offering it; one redeemed life and family at a time. This gives me intense hope because I am broken and wounded but yet He can use me if I am willing because that way He gets all the glory. God is using the pain of my friends and community here to shape and mend and melt away the hardness of my own heart. And it is needed. As I laid there awake and frustrated I realized I should embrace this. I should want more that the pain of the world keeps me up and night. We all should. Because I want my heart to be softer, to break for what breaks His heart. I want to lose sleep and comfort and apathy because the world is aching under the burden of brokeness. Because that allows me to be used. To be humbled, to search Him because my own resoucres are so deficient, and to rely on His Love rather than my strength.
The next morning I asked the friend who had told me about the incident if we could visit that afternoon. No phone call or planning was needed because that is how we roll here. We gathered some small gifts and drove out to her parent’s house to visit her and her son. She was so happy we came. She immediately hugged us both and we sat down in the cement and dirt courtyard to talk. The swelling in her face had gone down a bit but the evidence of the beating was fresh on her body and spirit. We discussed what had happened, the plans for reconciliation that involved both families having a meeting, and we laughed a lot at her son eating an orange and spilling beans everywhere. We talked about politics on the island a bit and cooking and they asked lots of questions about Oman. Other women came in and out to fill buckets with water. Before we left I asked if I could pray for her and she said ‘yes, please.’ I thanked God that He was there and I confessed that none of us can do this relationship or marriage thing without His help and would He please help them and all of us. I asked for healing and peace, courage and wisdom for her and us. When we said “Amin” and looked up she and I were teary eyed. We joked so as to stop the tears before anyone came around and hugged and said goodbyes. And I was grateful because my heart was broken but full, torn but swelling with hope. And I am praying that I always communicate there is no shame only Grace and Abundant Love from a Father who suffered loss to bring many to glory. This is a message worth sharing.