Here I Am To Worship

by Rachel Pieh Jones on May 14, 2014

I spent our early days in the Horn of Africa going to the market in the morning and learning how to decipher goat from beef from camel meat that hung in fly-covered slabs and then grinding it myself, how to make French Fries from potatoes instead of from the Drive-Thru, and studying language. Sort of. We had toddler twins, no running water, electricity four-six hours a day. There wasn’t a lot of spare time.

I spent the afternoons trying to meet neighbors. This meant I sat outside our front gate and forced our kids to play in the dirt road. They wanted to (mostly). There were goats to chase, kids to greet, camels to watch, flowers to pick, stones to examine. When a neighbor walked by I would stand and greet her, pretend to be able to understand, smile like an idiot, and feel way too happy if she seemed to understand me back.

My husband was at the University most of the time and as the  afternoons dragged on and I felt more and more ridiculous and alone and alien, I would start praying for the evening call to prayer to come quickly so the kids and I could scamper inside for dinner.

I ached for someone to talk to, for the ability to communicate. I had so many questions pent up, so many things I wanted to learn and discuss and process verbally. Loneliness pressed in and my foreignness stuck out.

One afternoon after a particularly awkward conversation in which I asked a woman if she was carrying a baby in the bundle on her back (I think that’s what I asked) and she responded that it was the dirty laundry of her wealthy neighbor (I think that’s what she said), I called the kids to go inside before the call to prayer.

I put on a movie for the twins and retreated to the office to listen to music by myself. I hoped their movie and my music would drown out the sound of me crying and for once was thankful my husband wasn’t home yet. Culture shock and isolation and feelings of uselessness consumed me.

“What on earth am I doing here?” I said. I’m an actor in a play, wearing strange clothes, eating strange food, speaking memorized lines. I’m an alien, transplanted to a planet where every single thing is different and I will never make sense.

“Here I am to worship” by Chris Tomlin came on. I remember standing in the center of the red carpet with my hands up and the words changed.

Instead of ‘here I am to worship,’ I heard ‘I am here to worship. I am here to bow down. I am here to say that you’re my God.’

worship

In that moment, something inside me broke. The expectations I clung to that spoke of all the things I dreamed of accomplishing, all the pressure to speed language study along, all the anxiety about fitting in, learning local customs, participating in the development of an education system from the ground floor up, they crumbled in a heap at my feet.

The answer to my question, ‘what am I doing here?’ was answered in a whisper, in a song.

I am here to worship.

All other striving and work, good and beneficial though it may be, faded in the light of this beauty.

I am here to worship.

It was both promise and purpose, it was a phrase I would carry deep within me across borders and nations and new homes and neighborhoods. I would carry it back to Minnesota and to boarding school and to Djibouti. It hums and burns and undergirds my parenting and marriage and decision-making. It is a phrase for all of life.

In this moment, in this relationship, in the valley of this grief, at the height of this joy, in loneliness and fellowship, in brokenness and in success, God what do you want from me? Why have you set me here?

I am here to worship.

How have you felt your purpose challenged? Changed?

*image via Wikipedia

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About Rachel Pieh Jones

Rachel was raised in the Christian west and said, ‘you betcha’ and ate Jell-O salads, she now lives in the Muslim east, says ‘insha Allah,’ and eats samosas. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Family Fun, Running Times, and more, and she blogs for Brain Child and Babble.

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