For me, one of those moments happened one evening in downtown Beirut. Myself and two other women had just finished up a meal with a dear local woman and we were going to head over to the government buildings to prayer walk. As we were walking down the street suddenly I really needed to use the restroom. Being the daughter of a truck driver this doesn't usually happen to me. You get really good at holding your bladder when you are the youngest sibling and you may or may not have to wait a long time (we're talking hours, people) before the next scheduled "pit stop." But, go I needed to, so we headed to the Starbucks at the end of the road. When we got there for some reason the Starbucks decided that their bathrooms needed to be closed on this particular night so we, to my embarrassment, proceeded to go back to the same restaurant we ate at.
I know that I set you up to expect a certain thing when I started this blog and you are probably wondering why I'm talking about needing to go to the bathroom...
When we got back to the restaurant we went inside and up the stairs to the restroom...we had eaten out on the porch area of the restaurant like most people do when the weather is nice so this was the first we had been inside. Feeling much better now, as I came down the stairs I looked up for the first time to see the inside of the restaurant (I had been pretty focused on one thing when we had come in).
In that moment I was fully aware of the fact that I had, in fact, been in this restaurant before in my dreams. The color of the cushions, the placement of the tables, the place settings, pictures on the walls, wall of windows to the left...everything was exactly where I had seen it numerous times in my sleep as well as the times I imagined it while reading books or praying. I stopped dead in my tracks, aware that God was doing something that I could not fully know or understand but that I needed to pay attention to. Time seemed to slow down and blur together for me at that point.
As I stopped a man from the restaurant rushed up to us. "Would you like to go outside?" He said, his hand motioning to the wall of windows. "What does he mean?" I wondered in my mind, "That's just a wall of windows, how can we go out there?" "I'll open for you, you want to go outside?" The man said again, this time almost more in a tone that told us we must do so to appease his politeness.
"Ok! Sure." I don't really know which one of us said this as at this point I was more aware that something in my life was about to change and had, in fact already started to change as I stared at the place I had been to so very often. Sure enough. The man rushed to the wall of "window" and reached down for a lever. As he pulled, the wall of windows swung open as, like one of my friends back home likened it, 'something you would see in a James Bond film.'
The wall of windows swung out yielding a back patio area. Before us stood a number of things. To our left stood a large church (as Lebanon is a Christian nation), to our right the largest mosque in Lebanon, at our backs the downtown area which included the government buildings and right in the middle a bunch of ruins, because Beirut has been buried at least 7 times.
I don't quite know what to say when trying to explain what happened next. I'm not sure that there will ever be the right words to explain what one feels and sees and hears when Holy Spirit seizes a moment. There, standing behind that restaurant God showed me maybe for the first time of my life who He was making me into.
To the Left: I will always have a heart for the church. She is supposed to be the most beautiful representation of Christ to the world. I long for her to be pure, free from fear and passionately loving and caring because she is healthy and free herself. I want her to love the world as Christ loves us.
Behind me: I have also always had a love and passion for the idea of government. I believe that governments are made to serve their people, protect and keep them safe and act in their best interest. I am slowly becoming more aware of my heart for seeing that happen. Whenever I am in or near a capital I go to the buildings and pray. Leaders make so many hard decisions every day and they need so much wisdom.
To my Right: The mosque. This trip was my first trip to this region. A pipe dream and curiosity caused me to go initially and man, did God have a different plan. As I looked to my right I asked God to give me a love for this region and this people. I knew and still know there is no way that I can love in the way I need to on my own strength. In that moment, again, I cannot nearly explain but my heart was filled with a knowing that God perfectly loves, and He wants me to share that love with this people that the world loves to hate. In that moment all God needed to ask was, "will you?" And my whole being overwhelmingly replied, "YES! Of course."
In between, and in the middle lay ruins. Massive chunks of rocks and stone that used to be buildings. It is crazy how much those ruins stick out in a City as beautiful as Beirut. They don't belong. I couldn't help but be the most overwhelmed by this. There are analogies that I will probably be working out for the rest of my life but there's one I will share with you tonight. I have a heart for the desolate places, for the places that need rebuilding. I also have a heart for those who people have forgotten about, over looked or passed over. I want to help "rebuild" in every sense of the word. I want to help rebuild their hearts, as orphans and neglected being transformed into sons and daughters, seen and valued. I want to help rebuild their lives through economics, skills and businesses, causing them to dream once again. And I want to help rebuild their place within society both on a local, national and international level. These are just a few examples, it's my heart and for that I can't apologize.
Besides being overwhelmed by His love for this region, I don't remember a lot more from that moment except to say that it was no-doubt a sovereign one. I believe the other two ladies would agree. In that moment, God showed me in an instant a picture of who I am in a profound way.
In the next months I hope to write about things that define who I am and this was obviously the week where I talked about my call to missions. I couldn't think of a better place to start. I have a heart for the nations. It's what's caused me to pursue missions and one of my most defining and shaping moments was this one in my restaurant, downtown Beirut.
I haven't shared the story above very often. Sometimes it felt too dear to try to put into words, but I've been feeling the need to start documenting and writing down how this crazy part of my life has started. I hope it will draw you into your own encounters with the Lord. Who knows, maybe you'll need to go to the restroom in your restaurant, too? God has encounters lying in wait in the seemingly every day moments. Encounters that will show you more of who you are, of the love He has for you and encounters that will change your life! Be ready for them. They're waiting for you.
I leave you this week with the two passages that have shaped me the most in my calling. They speak of what I feel called to more than anything else. They are precious to me, but I will share them if you want to steal some of the verses for yourself. :)
Lots of Love,
Isaiah 42: 1-4 "Behold my servant, who I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law."
6-7 "I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are bling, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."
Isaiah 49:8-10 "Thus says the Lord: "In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, 'Come out,' to those who are in darkness, 'Appear.' They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them."