In my family, I am notorious for indulging in conversations with myself. Both my mother and sister will testify to this mild lunacy. As I get older, I more frequently forget to be discreet, much to the bemusement of others.
I suppose all this crazy talk is the ugly stepsister of introversion. You guessed it: I am painfully shy and amusingly awkward. “Ah!” you may say, “then leaving your comfort zone to work abroad as a missionary has healed you of your infirmity?” Yes it did, and no it did not. Baffled? Good. Here we go:
As a young girl, years of steadfast church-going and observation led me to the conclusion that I was an extraordinarily ordinary in-betweeny: not so bad that I would require a Damascus-road experience, and not so good that I could expect to be taken up by a flaming chariot at any given moment. So why would God be bothered with me? I wondered. I couldn’t possibly be worth anything in His book.
As I grew, this childhood fear mutated into the universal fear of human beings across the globe: you matter very little to your fellow man. Moreso (and worse so), you matter next to nothing to God.
Oh, but thank the Father that my journey didn’t end there! One Friday night I found myself alone in the living room watching Mark Finley on 3ABN. He began laying out my innermost fears as if he was turning the pages of my soul, and I began to weep. Oh how I wept! Then he said, “To those who find themselves crying alone in front of the screen because you always doubted whether you were worth anything in the eyes of God, I am here to tell you, God loves you!”
I kid you not. Jesus was practically yelling at me, “Lisa! I love you! Please believe it!” A few months later, I found myself heading off to a country of which I knew a whole lot of nothing. “Turkey? Lord, I am sorry, but no.”
“Lisa, I am God, so yes.”
I have been here in Turkey for seven months now, living with a Muslim Turkish family, learning almost impossible Turkish words, drinking hot tea in the heat of summer, having broken English/Turkish conversations and just being comfortable with being awkward while enjoying the wonder of God’s planning. Sometimes you find yourself in the most unlikely of circumstances, yet you can’t help but think, Yes, this is where I belong. Not once have I ever felt like an outsider in this precious family’s home. On numerous occasions we have discussed religion, and not once have they bashed Christianity or my personal beliefs. It is as if we are long-lost relatives just catching up. The saying “a home away from home” has never meant more to me than it does here.
One night, the father of my host family sat us down and said, “To me, it doesn’t matter what color my friends are, or whether they are Christian or Muslim, because we are all brothers in Allah’s eyes.” I shed tears when he said this because my own prejudiced belief that Muslims were self-righteous had been torn down.
This is one of the most important things I have learned here in Turkey: though we might be worlds apart in terms of culture and worldview, we are all human; we are all in-betweenies! Each has their own quirky idiosyncrasies, but we are all wayward sheep being sought by our Shepherd. Life in this sinful world can seem like shades of gray, but that is why He bids us go and spread splashes of Sonlight, opening people’s eyes to the precious crimson stream that washes away the grime of sin.
As I prepare to leave one home and head back to another, I can’t help but be joyful in the fact that God is doing something beautiful in the hearts of my Turkish family!
God took this ordinary, insecure, African girl to a foreign land to bring home the fact that culture, race and tradition are all heavy cloaks stifling the same bleeding, love-longing hearts beating inside the Turk, the African, the Asian and the American. So no, I am not “healed” of my introversion, but I am made whole with the knowledge that God can and does use even me. Who woulda thunk it?