I don’t think there is any way I could have prepared for the things my heart has encountered. Although there are many aspects of the culture that I adore, admire, and even relate to… there is this one piece of life here that has been a challenging adjustment.
It took me a bit to really process it; to really be able to put my finger on it and articulate my lament to others.
I remember the first time I felt the sting. It was actually dull and subtle at first, but it grew more painful with every blow.
We had gone out late one evening with a local friend. It was our first invitation out and we had just been here a couple of weeks. As our friend chatted and introduced Stephen to people along the way, I trailed behind them, trying to keep up as we navigated the unfamiliar busy streets.
The next time it happend was when I offered my hand as we were introduced to a fellow who was about to show us a flat. His glare was as if I had just done something terrible and he rejected my handshake and immediately redirected himself to the men.
In one meeting, I sat silent for what seemd like days until the end when the man who was considering renting his flat to us turned to me and said “I don’t even know your name.” By this time, it was feeling much like a dagger straight to the heart.
And then, there have been the times that my own husband has forgotten to speak out for me or changed his mind about something we had previously agreed on. He had no idea why such a minor mistake was lending way to so much grief.
I feel like I don’t have a voice. I feel like they don’t even see me.
The freedom I had in my home country to speak and be heard, to be acknowledged and respected as a valuable participant… I had no idea how much of my identity, how much self preservation, how much I took things into my own hands, how little (in comparison to where I am now) I truly had to wait on the Lord and trust in His sovereignty.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 13:24
That verse, it seems so backwards… So not the desires of my flesh. Don’t I deserve to be heard? Who will stand up for me? How will I accomplish my goals. How will they know who I am?
Oh beloved, you are a daughter of the King. What father would give his son a serpent? The Lord is El Roi, and he sees me and knows exactly what I need. He is with me, and if the Lord is for me, who can be against me? It’s not me that I truly want others to see, but the one true God who created us all… and He knows my name. The Lord is my defense, I shall not be greatly moved. He hears my every cry, and his banner over me is love. He knows the desires of my heart, and His plan for me is good, to prosper and not to harm me.
As I think about my five daughters here… I want others to know and see the love and tenderness and value that God has for his daughters. Most of all, I want them, and others, to know that they are precious in God’s sight no matter what… that God commands his angels concerning those who love him, that our citizenship is in heaven, where the King knows their names and is preparing a place for his children; heirs, who need no further defense or argument or justification.
There are many things that Proverbs 31 says of an excellent wife, but I don’t see anything in there that justifies a demand to be heard. I know what is true. I might have to remind myself daily, but with my eyes on Jesus… oh death, where is your sting.
I’m learning the ways that women are valued here. And I’m growing in my understanding and appreciation of them. I’m learning what ways it’s appropriate for me to serve others, how I can do good for my husband, provide for my household, and point to Jesus even when I’m not able to speak.
Serving coffee or tea is expected here. The art of serving good chi is a way that I can do good for my husband and bring honor to my home. Serving chi to our househelp and guards is a way to shine this little light of mine. And serving it in the “good china” is a way to show that I believe in a God who has broken down the walls that divide us. It took me far too long and one to many disasters before I learned to make a good cup, but with the help of a local friend and a girlfriend who came to visit, I think I’ve finally got it down! It was a little awkward the first time I served Stephen and two other men a tray of chi and snacks and wasn’t able to sit down and join in on the conversation… but I did find some satisfaction when one of the men took the time to smile and tell me that it was good tea.
even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28
My identity isn’t in the “voice” I have here… or there. It isn’t in a good cup of tea either. Without Jesus, this would be a crushing place to have moved to. But, he who is in me is greater than he who is in the world, I am his handiwork, and more than ever… when I speak, may the words of my mouth be pleasing to you Lord, and may the joy set before you be evident in me wherever I go.