What I want you to know: lessons from moving to Iraq

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Ashley.

My focus was so narrow before I moved to Iraq for the six month internship. Before living in the Middle East, I wasn’t able to see how much bigger the world was than my itty bitty bubble of a life. My world centered on me, my private school education, my “faith” based pedestal and my yearning to be perceived as a “good” Christian girl. I had no idea my perspective was so off.

I never expected to learn how to love from a Kurdish woman that cleaned my house – a woman without a family who loved me like her own daughter though we could only communicate about five words of common language. I never imagined that a man carrying an AK-47 on his back would teach me about serving by inviting me and my friends into his home, preparing us the best dinner his limited income could afford and asking about our lives. I never dreamed that when I asked a hijab adorned teenage girl for directions she would show me self-sacrifice by spending the rest of the day giving me, a complete stranger, a tour around her city.

Living overseas taught me how to love people better. It taught me how to live in community instead of the “life as an individual” motif that we value so much in America. Iraq made me realize that others think and view things completely different based on where they’ve been. And that understanding one another, whether cross-country or cross-city or is the key to loving well. It made me not want to settle into a normal life living the American dream. And it made the old aspirations of what I thought I wanted in life dim in comparison to how God could use my life.

I DEFINITELY haven’t arrived. If anything I’ve realized now how much I will never completely understand.

My six months in Iraq were HARD. That time was exhausting. Painful. Draining. Stretching. Uncomfortable. Maturing. Humbling. Joyful. Exciting. Revealing. And FULL. I’m humbled that God was so incredibly gracious enough to take me half way around the world to shape and mold me into a new person, expand my mind to new perspectives, and open my eyes so that I may see. It takes time and energy and patience and perspective to understand one another. It is uncomfortable and requires that we spend much of us. It is much simpler to judge based on appearance and is less time-consuming to make assumptions based on gender, status, address, etc.

The cost of going out of our way to learn and love is great but the reward, my friend, the reward is infinitely greater.

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