Last night I was invited to a coworker’s house who is originally from a country close to where I’m headed. In the span of 2 hours, I received a small taste of how overwhelming, how fascinating, how difficult the first 3 months will be when I leave all that is familiar to me, all that I know, all the stuff I don’t have to think about here. I entered their house and entered into a world of things unfamiliar.
I was brought to their table to eat supper and was immediately thrown into complete observance and prayer that I did not offend by my lack of knowledge. Flexibility is key, right? So I observed. We prayed standing. I listened to a foreign language in prayer knowing that I stood among my brothers and sisters. I sat and looked at the food. I watched my plate being filled and had no idea if it would be offensive if I should speak up because they were putting too much food on my plate or I should just stay silent. I didn’t know if I should wait till everyone was served before starting to eat. I did not understand why I did not have water with my meal. As the meal progressed, the language was being taught to me, pictures were shown to me of beloved people back home, the lay of the land was painted for me, the way of the people was explained to me. Hot black tea arrived with a bowl of honey. I did not know I was supposed to dip my spoon in the bowl for something sweet to balance the bitterness of the black tea. Dessert was set before me – chocolates, two kinds of cakes. I had no idea if I was supposed to eat or not eat or take for myself or wait to be served. I was full but knowing the daughter made the dessert, I had no idea if I was offending by not trying each thing. I prayed that I didn’t offend her dear heart by not trying the delicious looking dessert. I learned to never fill a tea cup full because that is offensive. Always fill it half way which is inviting the person to stay and visit for a while.
An hour and a half into our time and I already felt my brain shutting down from an exhausting day and yet still the lessons kept coming my way. We moved to another room where I was asked to play the piano. Then I sat and listened to the family play and sing while their little girl tried to be sneaky and pull my phone off my lap. A few moments before I left, I was asked if I knew Psalm 121 to which I could not not recall the verses. So he, his wife, and oldest son sang and played a song with the words of the Psalm. Afterwards he said that this is their prayer as a family for me, that when things are hard and frustrating I remember these words:
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper…”.
I left their house with the stark realization that I am about to leave all that is familiar, all that I know, all the things I just do without thought of why I do them. And I will leave and place myself into all that is very unfamiliar, all that I do not understand with the hopes and prayers that I don’t offend in my ignorance. I realized that being a student is hard to do. Almost two years ago, I felt God asking me to become a Mary and become a student and I took it on with eagerness. Now I see that I will experience an even greater student experience. After saying all this, the only thing that quiets my soul are verses that I read a little bit ago which have been coming to mind a lot lately. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High God…”.
Oh that we find shelter in our God, people! Oh that we find our shelter in God!