“So, how’s hope for you these days?”
I turned my attention toward the voice, unsure of how to answer. Hope? As I readjusted my seatbelt and looked out the passenger side window, my gaze fell upon the jagged rocks, the palette of brown and spots of green that so distinctively decorate Cappadocia. Hope. My mind tumbles toward my husband and the little daydreams tucked away of the apartment we’ll share in America, the jobs we’ll have, the pitter patter of kids who will one day fill our home, to Target down the street and Starbucks around the corner, of my car waiting for me at my parents’ house, and all the Pinterest ideas I’ve shamelessly (ok, maybe with a little bit of shame) pinned on making my own granola and gallery wall inspirations. I think of how many times our conversations have started and ended with, “…when we’re in America…”.
Midwest Meets Middle East
It just happened, like many things in life do. During those early-on dates in warm cafes in the middle of winter, with two people from two parts of the world and two different lives, sitting across the table from each other. Hot cups of tea in our hands, a story beginning to stir.
The stirring continued as months went on. Feeling safe enough to share what his life is like as a refugee, his penny colored eyes turn into storms of gray and his face seems to age 20 years. The fleeing, the survival, the uncertainty – oh, the uncertainty – and the fight to keep his eyes on Jesus in the middle of the storm blowing around him. When will he be able to move on with his life? When will Turkey stop feeling like a prison?
I hold the things he shares safely, gingerly, like a precious, fragile gift.
And the story formed another chapter.
“My life is like this”, I demonstrate what I mean by holding my hand out flat, palm-side up, unmoving. We sit next to each other on the rocks, still wearing jackets as the days haven’t quite moved fully into warmer weather. The temperatures hang somewhere between winter and spring. Neither season, only somewhere in between. “But my life is like this”, he holds out his hand now and loosely wobbles it back and forth.
The story continued to stir. And it stirred as security interviews were scheduled. The immense, overwhelming, almost unbearable stress that slammed into him like wave after wave as he sat across the desk of a rigid DHS officer who held the power to change the course of his entire life with a simple “yes” or “no”. The story continued to stir through the security checks, and the fingerprinting, and the waiting.
What do I have to offer to this person who has experienced such grief, such loss, such uncertainty? Especially when my life is as steady as my flexed hand and his as shaky as the leaves threatening to slip off the trees with the weather now turning from summer into autumn. Neither season, only somewhere in between.
A Ring of Gold and a Heavenly Churning
Author Mike Mason writes, “The impact of love may be felt as an exclamation mark, but vows ask a question. “How bright is the sun!” exclaims love, while the vows ask, “How dark a night are you prepared to pass through?”.
How dark a night are you prepared to pass through? That probably wasn’t the thought foremost in my brain on that windy day in April when I pledged my entire life to the boy with the penny colored eyes standing before me. Two circles of gold were exchanged, 30 seconds of promises, a kiss.
But something supernatural happened during that 45 minute ceremony. The Holy Spirit encircled us with a phenomenal, marvelous oneness. A boy from Iran and a girl from North Dakota, joined together their lives – his shaky, hers solid. But it wasn’t a merely joining together of these two very different worlds. It was an abandoning of each of our worlds to form a new world, a new life. One together.
We’ve been married just over 4 months, and I’ll be the first to say that I know zilch about being married. But what I do know is that he and I have already climbed mountains together. And there are still many more ahead of us. With the ever-changing, highly politicized immigration policies, we are here and waiting – together.
I think what marriage is, in all my 130 days of being married, is the willingness to carry each other’s burdens, even when they’re heavy, even when you don’t even know what those burdens are yet. It’s pledging yourself to this person no matter how dark the night gets, how high the waves roll, no matter how uncertain our life is or will be. It’s vowing to always be next to each other on the high mountaintop but also in the low valley. Clinging to each other and clinging to God.
And Yet Always Filled With Deep Joy
In the great mystery of life, we sometimes find ourselves standing on the top of the mountain and at the very same time in the trenches deep. One foot on the peak and one foot in the valley. Happy and sad are not always diametric.
And that’s where we find ourselves now, my husband and I. In the sweetness of a new marriage, learning how to live life together, going to sleep and waking up next to each other, turning to each other in the middle of dinner, wide-eyed, exclaiming, “Can you believe we are MARRIED? You’re my HUSBAND! And I’m your WIFE!”.
But happy and sad do not always move like a teeter totter.
In our lives there is also always an undercurrent of anxiety and anticipation. Will this be the day he will get the phone call? Another day, week, month passes and – nothing. Sometimes this drives one of us into the valley and the other is left with either pulling the other out or just joining them in the pit for a little while.
There’s Wii Sports competitions, FRIENDS episodes, belting out Michael Jackson songs, and dancing in the kitchen. There’s riding our scooter around town, pulling over to gaze at the stars, sitting by the river, drinking tea, and feeding the ducks. There’s worshiping, praying, and doing ministry side-by-side.
And there’s also late night sorrow, with a head melded to a chest, tears streaming down two faces. There’s 3am insomnia and praying together on the balcony. There’s fights and I’m sorry’s and foreheads pressed together and pep talks, We are going to be ok. God is above us. He has His perfect time. Trust, trust, trust. Hang on for just one more day.
So, How’s Hope For You?
My mind wanders again to the quiet dreams of blazing white walls filled with IKEA furniture (with a touch of mid-century modern, of course), with Instagram-worthy plants pouring out everywhere, and cute decorations. To stability, to predicability, to moving on with and building up our lives together.
But is that where my hope lies? In America? In four walls? In having a full kitchen? In things? In this earth? Is that where I’m putting my hope? Does my hope lie in the government? In the UN? In our President? Do I think they are the ones who are really in control of our future?
Sometimes yes, I admit.
But I’m learning. In this tension of sorrow and joy. In this tension of anxiously looking forward but also being present here and now. In the tension of half of us being a refugee and the other half a US citizen. But the best thing I can do is invite God into this. To give Him my quiet, simple daydreams and say, “God I trust You. I am putting my hope in You”.
What a peculiar feeling to hold sorrow and joy in both hands. We mourn the loss of things that have had to be surrendered and the loss of things that may never come true. But we dance – oh we dance – in all that has been given to us in our quiet, little story in the middle of Turkey. We lay ourselves down at the foot of the cross again and again and remember that God is so good. He hears us. He is with us. And He is in control.
How wondrous it is that despite the pain and burdens of the world we can rejoice in the truth that Christ lives in us.
In His name,