"Come to Me . . ." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
Tonight I will say good-bye to Saudi Arabia, often called “the world’s largest sandbox.” It’s hard to believe my husband and I have lived in the dry, hot, sandy desert of Al-Jubail for this long. He’s been here for ten months and I’ve been here seven. It’s rained twice and there have been two shamals since I arrived. Al-Jubail is located on the Persian Gulf and shamals result from strong northwest winds that are funneled into the Gulf by the mountains of Turkey and Iraq to the northeast and the high plains of Saudi Arabia to the southwest. The air is so full of sand that you cannot breathe without covering your nose and mouth. The inside of the villa would have a yellow glow due to the sun’s attempt to shine through the dense sand outside. The fine powdery sand would coat everything and try it’s best to seep inside door and window facings. I’ve never experienced yellow days and blinding sand before.
As I previously mentioned, there‘s a high concrete wall topped with barbed wire which surrounds the compound where we’ve lived. The barrier is there for our protection. I have been outside the wall approximately fifteen times in the past seven months and I haven’t driven at all, since women here are not allowed to drive. I’ve been very inactive and confined compared to my existence back home in the states. Apart from the five prayer calls each day, it’s been a perfectly quiet and isolated location to clear the mind and soothe the spirit. I thank God for the opportunity I’ve had to quietly seek Him and reverently pray. His companionship without any interruptions from outside sources has caused me to reflect on the constant availability of the Holy Spirit within. Most of us live at an extremely hurried pace and I have been no exception. Long ago I was very busy living in the world, a period where confusion, worldly success and status reigned. Outwardly, I was trying to fit in and stand out at the same time while proving myself to others. Inwardly, I lived a life of disappointment, rebellion and pretense. It’s both amazing and humbling how our Shepherd will draw the real us to Him while rescuing us from ourselves. Most often it’s during times of danger or adversity. He does some of His best one-on-one faith teaching during our darkest moments. Other times though, the glorious times when we seek Him out and yearn to walk and talk with Him resigning our entire being to Him...there is where we find such a sweet resting place. Once we’ve tasted that manna, we daily hunger for more and draw closer in our relationship with Him.
This quiet time in Saudi Arabia has been a period in my life which I had not anticipated, yet one in which I am truly grateful. Thank You, Father, for the quiet time and gifting me with Your constant presence in this foreign land…but thank You most for teaching me to seek this same quiet and peaceful resolve with You when I return home. Thank You for realigning my daily routine where You come first and every single step thereafter, I take with You. Thank You for deepening my faith and strengthening me in the constant awareness of Your Holy Spirit within me. Thank You for blessing the U.S.A., Father…and thank You for instilling in me while here an even stronger appreciation and desire to be a better steward of my homeland. I pray for You to not only continue deepening my spiritual walk but to discipline me and to cultivate this inner simplicity You’ve shown me. During this stage of quiet confinement in my life, You have taught me that it seems life is more free and simpler when we learn to value who we really are, instead of measuring our worth by other things such as how many organizations we belong to, how much we own or how high we’ve climbed the ladder of success. There’s something permanent about the real me that You see when You look into my heart of hearts and we commune together. In that place there is the eagerness of a simple child with love abounding and the realization that material status and possessions are momentary. They are like the sand of the shamal…here today and gone tomorrow. Things come to an end but as I grow older nothing can separate the real me from Your eternal love. You have taught me personally that You value who I really am so much that You want nothing more than to spend time with me. Thank you, Father, for this precious time we’ve spent together in the sandbox.
Captured in His reflection,