Inshallah, Be Not Afraid, and Always Being Made New

There’s a word in Arabic that is used a lot.  Inshallah.  Insha’Allah.  God willing.  Sometimes it’s almost funny how it’s used.  In some cases, it’s used when someone doesn’t want to say no.  In others, it’s used as a genuine statement of faith that we are, indeed, in God’s hands.  Sometimes, it’s almost superstitious.  Inshallah.

When we were in Cairo in May, I heard, “Pastor Kirsten will arrive in August, inshallah.” In May, things were quiet.  June 30 was on the calendar and people figured there would be a few protests and not much would come of it.  But that all changed in the month leading up to the first anniversary of President Morsi’s inauguration.  By June 30, millions of people were in the streets around the country, protesting against him and his party, and supporting it.  We watched with bated breath, checking in when we had enough 3G coverage in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, not knowing what this would mean for the people of Egypt, for the people of St. Andrews, or the refugees served by StARS.  But a lot can happen in six weeks, so we waited.  We will leave the middle of August, inshallah, we started to say.

This seems like a good time to say that since Justin first received the offer at American University in Cairo, right after Christmas, I have been moved and touched by the many, many “Be not afraids,” of Scripture.  The ones in the Christmas story particularly moved me that first Sunday after Christmas.  But again and again in the months that have followed the initial discernment about what to do, I have heard these loud and clear, again and again.  Be not afraid, I am with you.  Be not afraid, I am about to do something new.  Be not afraid rolls around in my head and my heart, and in the midst of uncertainty and questions and sometimes not knowing which end is up, this is what keeps me going.  I place my trust in a God who again and again comes to God’s people and promises that we need not be afraid.

And then there’s that always being made new piece.  As I write this, I am still taking in the news that the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA has elected a new presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton.  Voting members from across the church gather in Pittsburgh to ponder and pray over just how it is that God is calling us, as the Evangelical Church in America, to be made new.  Again and again.  Every day.

Always being made new.  It’s the promise of resurrection that we hold so near and dear to our hearts.  It’s not always predictable or easy or expected.  But, somehow, it is good.  It is necessary.  It is in that promise of resurrection that we find hope and promise and life.  Life that is everlasting and true and abundant.  That’s what I cling to.  It’s what keeps me going in times of uncertainty.  It’s what keeps me coming back to the font and to the table.  To the words of Scripture.  To the community of brothers and sisters, near and far.  God is calling us, always, to be made new.  And promising that, even in the midst of the uncertainty of what exactly that means, we need not be afraid because that same God who has made that promise across the generations continues to do so.  Every single day.

So it’s with those promises in mind, “do not be afraid” and “always being made new,” that I can say inshallah today.  Today and every day, Justin and I, and all of us, are in God’s hands.  We are in the process of postponing our departure for a few days.  We are still planning to go, but we’re just not quite sure when that will be.  It’s almost a new day in Cairo.  And just what that means, we are not yet sure.   So for now, we wait, we pray, we hope.  Inshallah.  Be not afraid.  Always being made new.

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