As I wander through the local streets in the United Arab Emirates on a noisy evening after Friday prayers, I know I am in a land that is not familiar. The smells are different. I do not understand the language. The people I encounter act in ways that are confusing. In the dusty darkness, I find myself struggling with my fears and uncertainties. Nothing is intuitive. There is little that is familiar. My reality is flooded with my emotions. Not one emotion is positive or helpful. I am certain others can sense my fears.
I do not believe that any individual I encountered had a malicious intent. As I relaxed, I found myself reading the events around me quite differently. Fathers were reaching out and caring for their young sons. The interactions and responses across generations were universal. I saw individuals struggling to weave in and out of traffic, no differently than they do in congested streets in others parts of the world. The faces of those that had just finished their prayers mirrored worshipers across many different kinds of faith.
Life can be confusing. Reality can threaten. Circumstances are often confusing.
It has been the same across many generations. One wisdom father noted that “We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn't send them.” (Acts 15.24) We invite you to listen to our words and see the situation differently.
God invites us to do the same today. You and I have the opportunity to look at what is unfolding from a different perspective. We have the Spirit holding our hands, so fear does not need to rule. We have the memories of how God has been present, so we can look at the present through eyes filled with confidence. We hold compassion and mercy within our hands, powerful tools that can shape life.
I walked out of that dark street differently than I when I went in. While trembling, I had embraced the present.
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