Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Behind the Veil

Leaning toward Steve i said, “Goodness, it is scary.” He nodded in agreement. Then as i stepped up to the guard to be scanned, she said, “You are scared? Why are you scared?” Shocked that she had heard me, i replied, “No i'm not scared, i only spoke to my husband about something that is scary.” The female guard looked me in the eye and said, “i know, and yes it is.” She felt the same way i did, she understood.
We had been driving most of the day, headed north. Stopping to buy some groceries, we approached the entrance of a store just as a young woman stepped in front of me to get a cart before entering. She was not rude, no offense was taken. But it was her clothing that caught my attention and gave me pause. She was wearing a full hijab, with a niqab, (where a small slit allows only the eyes to show). I've grown accustomed to seeing them here and there, but usually they are in full black. Her's was different.

It's still hard to believe i live so far from my homeland. But, i do, it is real, and daily my Abba stretches me to know more of Him, His ways, His plans. I no longer allow myself the indulgence of seeing things with my own eyes only. There's just so much more to be seen, understood, and done. Looking with my eyes alone would only limit me from seeing the real reason i'm breathing. There's more, there's always more. And the more Abba wants for His kids is not purchased with coins, instead it's found in obedience to whatever He is saying in the moments of any day.

Finished with the guard's scans, assured we carried no weapons, she smiled warmly as we entered the store. The fully-robed lady walked in front of us, and i noticed how everyone stared at her. She did draw attention to herself, but even from behind i sensed she did not want to be noticed.

Some might think me silly, but another thing i have learned living in this country, is when in doubt----- it is time to pray. And honestly, i am in doubt so many times every day. Doubt of what someone is about to do, how the police are about to behave, where the crazy matatu drivers are going when they fly past us on the dirt side of the roadway, the doubt goes on and on.
I grew up where there was order, rules, and for the most part people followed those rules. If they didn't, they eventually ended up in jail. But that is not the case here. There are rules, yes, but they are viewed as suggestions not requirements, unless of course the random police officer decides to enforce them. All this to say, it is always wise to pray... always. So we spend much of our time praying. It feels completely normal to us now. The crazy swirl of piki drivers, noisy loudspeakers, guards with guns, a riot of colors, and languages from 120 different dialects all within this one wonderful country of Kenya, doubt prevails, so must prayers. For sure, i love this country and its people, but it keeps me ever on my toes, no scratch that, it keeps me on my knees.

So as we walked down the first aisle and i noticed her shrinking shoulders responding to the ever-watchful-eyes of everyone she met, i prayed.
I'm not trying to sound all holy and perfect when i say that i prayed. Please don't read it in that way. Instead, it was a prayer asking for protection, and an asking for her. I needed her to not do anything to harm anyone. But i could not ignore that she needed someone, anyone, please s-o-m-e-o-n-e pray for her.

If i believe my Abba Father is who He says He is (and i do), then more than anyone, i know the depth of her intense need for Him. Imagine it --- she does not know the One who made her, she knows nothing of His love for her, she eeks through her days dry on the inside because she has not one drop of living water flowing through her parched soul. It hurts to see her with those eyes.
But hey, why am i getting all prayerful and deep in the middle of the market ---- i'm there to buy onions, chicken, and yogurt right??

Still, i prayed, “Father God, you see her, you know her, help her please... and as for us, no harm is allowed to come near us in the Name of Jesus. I'm covered and cared for by the One who is above all things... no weapon formed against us will prosper... Father help her...”

As i said amen, she went straight and i turned right.

It was over ---- now, ..... where do they keep the creamer i like in my tea?...

Steve went one way, i went another. We Americans, we like to be efficient with our time. Our plan, we'd be in and out in less than 5 minutes.

But two minutes later as i headed towards the yogurt cooler, guess who was standing near the cheeses? Reaching for the yogurt, she spoke to me. She said, “Could i please speak to you?”
Within 2 seconds i had 10 solid emotions rush through me.
The afraid-woman should pretend i didn't hear her, ignore her, and walk away quickly.
But is that why i'm breathing...?
The defensive-woman should level her with a hard glance and ---- walk away.
But that's not who i am...
The unsure-woman would respond with trembling hands and her doubt would be smelled by all.
But the woman who knows who she belongs to and why she is breathing again today, knows, buying yogurt isn't what matters. People matter.

So i paused for a breath prayer (i'm not kidding about praying allllll the tiiiiiimmmmmme).
Looked at her and said, “What did you say?”
“Could i please speak to you?”
“Certainly.” Lord, fill this space.
And i prepared myself for what i suspected she might want to say to me. Had she heard my words at the entrance speaking of how “scary it was”... had she known i was speaking of her clothing and how it covered everything but her hands and eyes? Was she about to confront me?
Lord, fill this space...
I stepped a bit closer, so i could understand her timid voice.
Lord, fill this space between us...
And she said, “I am the oldest of 7 children. We live with my grandmother. My parents both died in a car accident in 2008, my grandmother has cared for us since that time. She is now very old and very sick. Caring for the family has fallen to me, and i need a job please, i will do whatever is needed. I can cook, clean, it's only that i need a job.”
Lord, help me help her...
I shared with her briefly that we already have a dear lady who cares for our home so well, so no job was available. But i pressed ahead quickly to say, “The only thing i can do for you is pray for you, that God will make a way for a good job to come.”
By now, she was looking me in the eyes, and giving me the unspoken permission to look into her eyes. Much is said when eyes meet.
She responded and said, “Please do pray for me, since your God is my God, and he will hear your prayers.”
Lord, give me your words, your know what she really needs...
Ever so carefully, as gently as is ever possible, I said, “Thank you for letting me pray for you, but you must know, my God is Jehovah. And by the way you are dressed, shall i guess that your god is allah?” She nodded. “But still, may i pray to my God for you?”
And the look in her eyes...
if only words could match the depth...she knew she needed more than just a job... she knew...
She looked around cautiously and said, “Yes, please, perhaps He will hear you and help me.”
I asked her name, she softly gave it. I called her by name and said, “For sure my God will hear a prayer concerning you, for whether you know Him or not, He knows you and He loves you. So i will pray for you by name as i go, but may i pray for you right now so you can hear what i will ask on your behalf.”
And she visibly shrank.
Her eyes darted about as if enemies lurked in bushes near by (as if we weren't in the freezer section).
She said, “You mean here, you are asking to pray here?”
“Yes, you see my God is with me wherever i am. He never leaves me, He is everywhere and He always cares.”
Again... those eyes.
When all you can see of a person is their eyes, those eyes must be carefully looked into. There is no tilt of the lips that can be assessed, no shrugging of the shoulders can be seen, and no smirking face can be detected. Only the eyes can speak when words are measured and all else is hidden.

I called her by name again and said, “I will pray with my eyes open, and even looking at you, no one will know we are praying, only you and i and the God who is a Father.”
Her eyes watered, she shifted her face-cover, then ever-so-softly said, “p-l-e-a-s-e”.

And so in the frozen food section of a public market, i carried her name to the One who loves her. No veil can stop His great love-longing for her soul. We prayed, i spoke, she remained silent, and there was kindness in her trapped brown eyes.

Who was watching her? Was anyone watching her? Why was she so afraid? Yet, she had the courage to allow me to pray for her in public.

Fear. It is the enemy. Fear drives people to do horrendous things to other people all because they are afraid. They might think they are killing for other reasons, but i've grown to understand, even the terrorists are killing because of fear. They are afraid of their gods disapproval, they are afraid of what their comrads might think of them if they do not, they are afraid of being killed themselves. Two months ago we sat and talked long with two young men who grew up muslim, but converted to Christianity during their early twenties. Now they run for their lives as even their own family members search for them, to kill them, all in reverence to their god. These young men explained to us how you are trapped in that religion, and if you try and break free from it, you will suffer. One of them had been persecuted so harshly for his Christian beliefs, that when he refused to renounce Jesus, he was pushed from a four story high window. His stomach burst on impact, spilling his stomach and intestines out onto the ground. His last words to his attackers were, “You can not kill me even if you push me, Jesus will save me, or He will take me home, but you, you are not able to end me.” They pushed. He fell. He burst open. He lived. Those who pushed him... two have died since that time, the third is losing his mind and hides in his home, to afraid to be seen. Why? Because he saw Jesus save the life of the one he pushed.
They knew.
Jehovah is the One true God.

The lady in the market, who allowed me to pray for her, she too knows there is something more. She is trapped behind the veil... she carries an aching soul inside. A soul that Jehovah l-o-v-e-s.

My life rarely has space to read what social media conveys. I miss most of the whirl; the words, the rants, the trending fads, the accusations and declarations.
Still i know that often times harsh lines are drawn by some who hate this group or criticize that group.
But as for me, my Abba reminded me as i walked out of the market that day, “Don't be afraid, don't let the outside cause you to miss the inside that I see. Just be where I guide you to be, and speak what I guide you to say, and I WILL DO THE REST.”

We are not in this world to win. We are not here to argue a point and come out on top. We are not here to dominate and rule over others. We are not here to be afraid.
If we call Abba our Father ----- we are here to love Him and love others... and maybe we will grow in our ability to live out the truth that love actually covers over a multitude of sins --- love covers all --- love drives out fear ---- LOVE WINS. 

---- when you see the veil covering the face ---- pray for the soul it is trying to hide ----