Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Be Known

There are a lot of aspects of loneliness that I’m encountering these days. [Besides the constant reminder that I’m single and the implications are therefore that I am deemed incomplete, by Americans and Arabs alike.] I have my national friends constantly meddling in my life—in food, fashion & a future marriage, inshallah [God willing]. The other day one of them asked me if I was scared to die before I got married. [Oh.my.goodness.] For some reason, when they’re not asking God for my husband [Arab or American] to just walk around the corner and into my life, they’re talking to me about being prepared to be married. It’s funny: I don’t ever recall telling them that my one goal in life was to be married. I’m pretty sure I didn’t come here to get that done—far from the reality, actually. [Before I left, my dad seriously talked with me about how I was not to come home with any boyfriends with a first name that starts with M, S, or Aggghh. A lot of male, Arabic names do begin with those letters, errr, sounds. Haha.]

A much less ridiculous and ever-present loneliness I experience is that of not being known. Even my deepest most special friendships are void of many simple truths about me because they’re too hard to explain or culturally inappropriate to share. Something as simple as, “Hi, I’m Sarah, and this one time, I had a boyfriend,” would totally smash their worlds and their image of me. Of course they assume that I’ll live with many guys before I get married, because that’s what Hollywood shows them [please, remind me to send a ‘thank you’ note their way—I really appreciate this], but me confirming that I’ve held a boy’s hand who was not a close relative is really destructive to our relationship.

There are many things that my friends won’t understand and so I don’t share. Beyond our language barriers and differing worldviews, cultural expectations stand strong. And it’s amazing the shame I feel for doing totally normal [American] and acceptable things [FIVE YEARS AGO] just because they’re not normal to them, my sweet friends. I’ve been marveling at how we humans have constructed societies and cultural norms—all these rules that we live within and dare not go outside of. Where I live, skin and hair on women shouldn’t be seen outside the home. But a few thousand miles away, in the plains of another continent, women wear skirts and no shirts. And in places like India, they show their bellies and arms, but keep their legs covered. [What.]

Something I’ve come to love and hate about being human is how I so desire to be known. I want someone to know me and accept me. I get tired of going into fancy living rooms, drinking mint tea, and eating the chocolate chip cookies that I brought to just smile at my friends’ families, and try to decipher these best faces that I’m seeing.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful and I’m super jealous that you can totally pull off that much eyeliner, but please—say something real to me. Ask me something that I care about. Something that matters. I’m still unsure how much I weigh in kilos or how much my rent is in American dollars, but I’d like to know you and I’d like for you to know me,” is all I can think to say. But I don’t. Because that’s not transferrable in these living rooms, in this country, in this language, in this culture, in this religion.

And so, most of the time, I return home to my quiet apartment, painstakingly full of really delicious food, my face covered in kisses and my heart aching from the holes.

But He knows my name. He even knows the secrets in my heart, the ones I’d never share even if I got the chance. He delights in me. He sings over me. He wants me to just be still and quiet and just know Him. He whispers to me. He fights for me. He is familiar with all my ways. He knows me. Better and more intimately than I know myself. [And He’s not even bored.] I’m made complete in Him.

And I’m finding that I sometimes wonder if
He brought me to this desert region
to just delight in Him.

To learn to love being lonely because it’s then and there
that I slow down and am quieted to really meet with Him.
To really just stand before Him like the little girl I am,
in my yellow dress,
and ask Him if He thinks I’m pretty
and if I’m doing a good job
and if I’m making Him famous today
and to just tell Him that I love Him.

Just abide, He tells me. Stick close and learn a life of Love.
He hides us in the shadow of His wings.
And that, to me, is beautiful enough
to count all the costs of not being “known” in this world
more than worth it.


  1. thank you. you have captured it so well, and so amazingly also captured what is needed in those all-too-familiar moments. thank you for the reminder of what I already knew, but what I have a hard time remembering when the pain of not being known here washes over me again.

  2. <3 Yes, we long to belong. This world is not our home. I have often wondered if I am here because of something I need more than what this country needs. Thanks YD!

  3. Once again, you nailed it. I really needed this msg this morning. Thanks for being real and honest.

  4. Thank you, Sarah, I needed to hear this.

  5. Well spoken! You are know by Him! I love your transparency and weakness, the Lord is your strength and He is glorified in your heart Sarah! -Joyful Sojourner (I am new to reading your blog, and about to embark on a 2-3 year mission to the Philippines. Keep it coming, your words of weakness and reliance on Jesus are encouraging to me!)

  6. McDonnel: Hang in there. It's sweet rewards, right? ;)

    Kimom, Taskathand, Leah B.: Thanks for reading and for your encouragement!

    Lindsy: Thanks. Have fun & enjoy the ride!



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