Monday, October 10, 2011


William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Limbo is not a concept in Protestantism; yet often do we live there, at least this side of heaven.

As a Christian, the notion of ‘call’, of God leading and directing us to a particular path, of waiting to hear God clearly, of discerning that it is God’s voice and not my own or the voice of others, is steeped deep in my bones.

I have been called before to work in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and have been to Iraq with CPT for roughly two-month stints from 2005-2010.  I did not go this year, mostly because I have been ambivalent about whether I am still called.

How do we know when God calls?  Even more, how do we know when God stops calling?  I wish I knew.

What follows is a random part of my own thought-process when I met an Iraqi woman this summer at the PC(USA) Big Tent event in Indianapolis.

Fi kelbee, anni Iraqiya.

It’s a phrase I haven’t said in a long time . . .

“In my heart, I am an Iraqi.”

As I meet Martha at the Big Tent gathering, she is introduced for her work with refugees in California.  The man who introduced us surprisingly says to Martha (about me), “She’s Iraqi.”

Martha, a Middle Eastern woman, looks at me with frank surprise.  I grin and say, “Anni Iraqiya, fi kelbee." [“I am an Iraqi, in my heart.”]

We both laugh, exchange pleasantries and basic information, and move on.

Yet the phrase hangs with me.

Am I?

Is it still true that I feel this affinity for the people of Iraq?  I think so.  But what am I going to do about it?

I haven’t been since the winter of 2010.

“What have you done for me lately” isn’t just asked by sports figures looking for the better deal (watch the movie Jerry MacGuire if you don’t get the reference).

It is a fair question for people caught in all sorts of webs to ask of those who would help them or walk alongside them as they endeavor to help themselves.

Kurdish Iraqis not allowed to vote in 2009
“What have you done for me lately?”

No one is asking me this question, at least not in person, face to face.

But I still hear the question ringing in my ears.

Will I go back?  I do not know.

What am I waiting for?  I do not know.

Do I feel the pull?  I do.

Am I exhausted by the implied rejection of the work I do in Iraq from family, friends and congregants?  I am.

Is it their ‘fault’ I haven’t gone back?  No.

What am I waiting for?

I do not know.


God’s voice has never boomed from the sky for me, but I have never before had such a sense of unknowing.

Limbo.  It’s a place I don’t like living in much.


  1. I see that you are still wrestling with this very tough decision. It is odd, this alternate tugging and releasing of God in our lives isn't it? I pray for clarity for you my friend. I pray that God's will for you will become your will for you. When that happens the clarity is worth celebrating!

  2. Ginny, Thanks so much for the prayers - sigh - sometimes wish it were easier, but I'm not in charge, eh? ;-)

  3. Did not know that you felt rejection of your CPT work from the congregation; have always seen an admiring pride in what you do coupled with a loving fear for your safety (and safe return.) Questions perhaps about something potentially so dangerous - and always the wondering 'does it make a difference given the amount of risk.' But always the realization that you have expressed Christ's message with truth and courage.
    (and you still are a DQ) Hugs!

  4. The hardest time for me is when god seems to change direction just when i am getting the gist of the direction i think we are going.....i once noticed that when i get on rt 81 i follow the sign to roanoke even though i am going from harrisonburg to staunton....god seems to keep the exit a secret....i can only assume i am not ready to know .... This is easy to write about when its over....traveling along without knowing when to get off has been some of the most difficult times i remember....i have no wisdom just empathy and prayer..ann

  5. Diane, Thank you for those affirming truths.

  6. Ann, Thank you for putting into words so well the feeling of struggle when the sense of direction is gone, or perhaps better, is shifting. I read somewhere a while ago, "Sometimes you just want a map!" And so it is with God, but God is not much of a cartographer - or isn't widely published - not sure which, not sure it matters. Uncertainty of the destination I've been able to accept pretty well, but uncertainty of the journey is the hard place. And I'll take all the empathy & prayer I can get. Beth