Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To Be Fought For

I have several major “takeaways” from my short time in one of the most intricate cultures I have personally encountered. I’m fascinated with the beauty, strength and volatility I experienced in the desert, and how it has carved out a safe home in my fragile heart. I think the special insight I’m able to add to it today is that I’m almost a full year away from it all. The sand and dust are out of my sheets and hair, and I’ve learned to restrain myself from kissing every woman and child “Hello.” This week, for my final post, I’ve chosen to share with you just one takeaway—probably the one that shows up in the most powerful and profound ways in my life today. It’s simply that… the LORD God fights for me.

Back in my good ole’ college days, I memorized Zephaniah 3.17, and it has come alive to me in the last two years:

The LORD your God wins victory after victory
and is always with you.
He celebrates and sings because of you,
and He will refresh your life with His love.

And I left for the desert with this verse quietly weaving itself to my heart:

I sought the LORD,
and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant
and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34.4&5 (ESV)

Being a single, foreign, young woman in the ME… is not for the faint of heart. In all honesty, it’s left me bruised and calloused towards power structures and societal frameworks bearing oppressive norms on women, while opening my eyes to the same in my own culture. What I mean is, I can’t tell you what it did to my heart to muster up the courage to enter a government building, best prepared as I could be with Arabic forms filled out, copies of my passport, everything… to get through a chilling security pat down and find the right “line,” only to be obstinately ignored. My presence meant nothing. No “Peace be upon you” or “God give you strength for your work” or “Hello, Mister” helped. No eye contact or acknowledgment of me would be made—just downcast eyes, smoke-filled rooms and finally, the waves of hands dismissing me.

So I’d leave. [In a rage of frustration and anger.] Get a taxi and beg some man—American, Canadian or Arab—to accompany me. Suddenly, as if in a play, the men previously on eternal coffee breaks came to life and wanted to help me. Well, the man I brought with me. The message was clear: I’m not enough.

The stark contrast to the cat-calling shebab and creepy men following me down the street at night was this: complete disregard. But in both on-going scenarios I was taught that I was nothing without a man.
I’m not saying I ever got over it and definitely never accepted it—but I did have to deal with it and navigate the protocol. The thing about being single was that I always had to enlist a man for help. None of them had made a “till death do us part” promise to go with me. [They did it out of the kindness of their hearts and schedules.] I didn’t have anyone sticking up for me, speaking for me or fighting for me—even when I was wrong. I didn’t have someone with me.

But I did. Even though I had to learn how to ask for help [and sometimes go through several men till I found that help], I learned that I was not alone. Those words kept being whispered to my heart: I win victory after victory and I am always with you… Seek Me, I’ll deliver you… Do not be ashamed!!” It was often the only encouragement I found when walking the streets alone, trying to get a taxi, crying at a fruit stand, or falling asleep during a long, hot visit in someone’s home after eating. [Again.]

For me, Father has revealed Himself to me in powerful ways and His promise to always be with me has rung true. He’s spoken softly in the quiet of my heart, through His Children and through His Word. Many times, I was like Moses when he desperately asked our Father in Exodus 33, “Is it not in Your going with us, so that we are distinct…?” Or in other words: Father, what else will distinguish me, other than Your presence in my life?? Please! Go with me!!

If there’s nothing you ever “get” from reading The Yellow Dress: and other things we do for Love, get this: The LORD your God fights for you. He represents you. He is ever-present in your life. He works great and mighty deeds. It is His presence in your life that causes you to stand in awe and press on. To press on in language learning, in cooking local food, in gaining the endurance to visit for hours, to rest in the desert heat, to be away from “home,” to know Him and make Him known through your life. Press on, friends! It is only His favor and His presence in us that causes us to be distinct from the world—wherever you are in the world. You are His and He is with you, wherever you go. He stands as a strong, victorious Warrior, making you to shine like the day.

Watch what God does, and then you do it,
like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.
Mostly what God does is love you.
Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.
Observe how Christ loved us.
His love was not cautious, but extravagant.
He didn't love in order to get something from us,
but to give everything of Himself to us.
Love like that.
(Ephesians 5.1&2, The Message)

Going with God,




  1. from Laura McLain: "So beautifully put. You put into words one of the lessons that I learned as a single worker, yet I have never quite been able to find the right way to express it. Thank you!"

  2. from Debbie M.: " I just read Laura's note and was about to say the same thing! I have learned many lessons through the years as a single worker. I have enjoyed reading your posts because I can relate, to a degree! Not as outgoing as it seems like you are, and I've worked in very different cultures, but being a single female anywhere brings many similar difficulties, situations, etc. And as Laura said, you express it so beautifully! Thanks for making that effort and making yourself vulnerable to all of us readers. :) Lord bless you!"

  3. from Megan: "Beautiful, friend. So sweet to hear your heart, but also those words beautifully ministered to my own. Love you!"

  4. from Christina: "it was wonderful, thanks for sharing this year! love you!"

  5. from Katie: "Thanks for this. It helped me process life in the Arab world. Miss you, beautiful friend."

  6. from Emily: "Thanks Sarah! I think this has great application to life with the Lord regardless of where you reside, although on earth I'm positive some places are much harder to live than others."

  7. from Ryan: "Know that God is using your life to teach me and stretch me, which will, prayerfully, change the lives of several students! The end of TYD does not mark the end of the change that it has or will make. You are a dear friend and we cannot wait to see what's next! inshallah!"

  8. from Lisa Newland: " Sarah...THANK YOU! I've loved your weekly posts. Thank you for each hour you gave to carefully craft your thoughts. You've been a HUGE blessing to a single, cross-cultural worker in East Africa! I'll miss TYD. Blessings to you as you continue to follow wherever he may lead!!"

  9. I've enjoyed reading your stories and the lessons woven throughout them! Thanks for sharing...

  10. I don't know what else to say but thank you.

  11. Great Scriptures!


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