As the big plane backed away from the gate, I sank down into the seat, allowing myself to decompress. I looked out the window, tracing the city with my eyes.
That out there. That’s a hard place.
I’ve gotten to visit a few countries recently that I’d call hard. All of them have amazing food. All of them have massive quantities of sand and camels. All of them need Jesus in a bad way … but this one was different.
It invaded my space.
I don’t mean it got in my head, or forced me to be introspective, though both of those things happened too.
I mean it literally got in my grill.
Inside the confines of a hotel room or house, you can breathe. Listen to 90s country music. Make enchiladas. Hear yourself think.
Walk outside, and you instantly give up rights to peace. It’s as if you’re wearing a t-shirt that says, “Please catcall and whistle at me.” And when you ignore it and pass by, it’s as if the back of your shirt says, “Please follow me and keep doing it.”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. It’s not dangerous, but it does turn an afternoon walk to the grocery store into a few verbal battles, possibly some yelling and possibly you’ll get followed a little. The culture is one of shame, but the shame doesn’t usually come from what people do … it comes from being called out on it publicly and told off until you stop.
Over and over and over.
Why am I telling you this? I love the region that holds these countries. I love its people, its culture, its artistic script that I’d love to learn, its pretty language I’d love to speak.
I’d love the opportunity to return the hospitality of the women there … hospitality unmatched even in the South. (It’s hard to believe that there are women in the world that could match a Southern lady’s ability to feed you until you’re stuffed, but it’s true.)
I’d love to be one of those precious heroes of mine who have made their lives in these countries to tell those beautiful people of the love, the freedom, the peace they can find in Jesus Christ. And not the leisurely, catcall-free walk to the grocery store kind of peace. The inner peace that will last for eternity.
I’d love to model my life after a lady from the States who planted her family there a number of years ago and, after months and months of praying and shouldering hard moments, saw a 20-something girl come to Jesus … and then win her entire circle of friends to faith in Him.
But as I sank deeply into the window seat on the plane, I let myself be honest. I relished the peace. I thought of the green hills of England, my local Starbucks and the men I pass on the street who smile kindly and walk on.
And I realized there’s a fine line between gratitude and entitlement, and I had jumped so far over it that the line had retreated faster than a British summer.
And I felt a check in my heart that made me realize that, once again, He didn’t have all of me.
A couple of years ago, I had gotten to the point where I realized I had been playing tug of war with God, asking Him from the church pew, “What do I do? How do I get to the place I should be? How do I do what I need to do to be OK with you?
And then He showed me it wasn’t about me at all, what I have or don’t have. It was about His glory in the nations … and how everything else should slip through my fingers like desert sand so that I can grab hold of Him and take Him to others. It’s about me knowing Him and making Him known … to everyone I meet in the United States, to every international person living in England who’s never heard the name of Jesus, to everyone in the world.
Some days I get a little too attached to my park, to my big green hills, to my Starbucks and my tea house … not that those things are bad. I’m here, for the moment. I want to seize every moment here, enjoy Him in it, use it to show Him to others.
But if He asked for me to turn that plane around, I shouldn’t hesitate. And I shouldn’t cower in my seat hoping He won’t ask.
I should offer.