Monday, February 8, 2016

Jumping to Conclusions: The Terrorists That Were Not

You may not know this, but I paid my way through medical school working as a nurse. I took the long way around to a medical career, but economics demanded it.

It was 1977, my senior year in nursing school, and the last course of the final semester. We were taking turns presenting our end-of-the-year projects in class and listening for hours every day. 

I'm not sure why our instructors made the decision to let us do needlework during the presentations, but it made sense to us at the time. The project I did was a needlepoint sampler with a profound truth. 

"A smile is the same in every language." 

I had just returned from three months in Central America doing medical missions. Some days, a smile was all that got me through. The needlepoint piece still hangs on the wall in my home. It's a constant reminder of the days when I was a stranger in a foreign land with nothing but a smile for communication.

That philosophy came back to me recently when two young men sat behind me in church. My first impression was that they were likely Middle Eastern. 

I hate to admit it, but the thought crossed my mind that they might be trouble. I surveyed my options for self-defense. I made a tentative plan. 

It was completely ridiculous. 

LIFE LESSON: Get all the facts before you jump to conclusions.

Just as I was pondering my options for self-defense, those words from 1977 came to mind. 

"A smile is the same in every language." 

The next thing that came to mind was "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 nasb)

At that moment, I blushed with shame as I remembered the months I'd spent praying for terrorists by name and begging God for their salvation. (I've added the links to those blog posts below.)

Although I hate to admit it, my mind was racing in high gear. It sounds really silly now, I know, but, for a few minutes, I thought, "How very like God. After all those terrorist prayers, He has finally brought me some terrorists." If God had brought me some terrorists, I thought, He probably wanted me to try to introduce them to Jesus. 

I could possibly be a little over-zealous, but the Apostle Paul was, too.

As soon as the hand-shaking time started, I turned around, offered my biggest smile, and introduced myself. I shook hands and welcomed the two young men. After church, I talked to them again. 

I was determined to show the love of Christ to these young men, no matter who they were.

LIFE LESSON: Jesus loves everyone, and so should we, no matter who we "think" they are.

As it turned out, God had not brought me some terrorists at all. He had brought two young men who needed Jesus. Just like me. They weren't even from the Middle East.  

They didn't speak much English, so my smile, once again, was my language.

I prayed for those two men all week. Just in case.

Yesterday, during the singing, they walked in, accompanied by an older couple. One of the men had brought his Mama and Daddy. I was so glad to see them that I started to cry. Happy tears streamed down my face. 

LIFE LESSON: That's what praying for someone all week will do for you. 

I was out of my seat like a shot after the service ended. The taller of the men saw me heading his way, threw up a hand in greeting, and smiled. I greeted them all. When I reached my new friend, I told him, "I've been praying for you all week. I'm so glad you're here today." I meant it, and he knew it. He put his hand on his heart and grinned. 

All we could do was smile, but, as it turns out, a smile really is the same in every language, and we communicated just fine.

The next time I see someone who looks a little different, I hope I skip the conclusion jumping and go straight to showing the love of Jesus. 

After all, that's what we're supposed to do. Every single time.

Praying for Terrorists Links: 
The Terrorist Prayer List 
Praying for Terrorists: Nasir al Wuhayshi
Radical Obedience: Ibrahim al Asiri
Radical Obedience: Abubakar Shekau
Radical Obedience: Hamas and Khaled Meshaal
Radical Obedience: Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi
Praying for Nineveh
Remembering 9/11: How to Prevent A Terrorist Attack
Persevering for Paris
Resisting Evil 
Nigerian Nightmare

 #terrorists #smile #JesusChrist #disciple #loveoneanother #jumpingtoconclusions