November 3, 2009
The wind rattled the co-op windows, already streaming with rainwater. The British February evening was growing dark and cold outside. Inside, my heart was breaking. I stared, transfixed into the eyes of the man sitting across the table from me. Like the windows behind him, his eyes were glazed with water. He took a sip of his tea, placed it carefully onto the saucer, gave a long, thoughtful sigh and with his hand nursing the cup, said, “when the bomb had ended, and I had checked my mother in the house was OK, I tried to look outside to see the plane that had dropped it. I was shaking. Very high in the sky I could see with my eyes a plane circling. It looked like it was white, but it was hard to tell. I tried, but I couldn’t really see whether it was American, British or Iraqi.” I was experiencing one of my first ever experiences of Iraqi hospitality. A few minutes earlier, Ali and I had been standing in line at the supermarket checkout. Seeing I had a book on Iraq in my hand, and a list of the Arabic words I had been memorizing whilst trying to buy my food that evening, he introduced himself. “Excuse me! Are you learning Arabic? I myself am from Iraq, do you have time for me to buy you a cup of tea?”
So we sat.
As Ali continued to explain how his father died, I realized that there was something far deeper my heart was desiring. Since I began following Jesus Christ a few years before, I had been very interested in learning more about the Middle East where, of course, he had lived. I knew he wasn’t a blond haired, blue eyed, European. I knew Jesus Christ wasn’t like me. I knew he was Middle-Eastern and so wanted to learn as much as I could about this area and culture. That’s why I became a student, or as I am now learning, in Arabic, a Talib. But, staring into Ali’s eyes and listening to his words, I realized there was something far,
deeper my heart desired. That night, in the co-op, my brain wanted information, my stomach food, and my heart desired other hearts. Hearts to share with. Hearts to live among. Hearts that cry, shout, pray, speak and share. Since then, my heart has become a student. A student of many other hearts. Hearts of Arabs, Persians, Villagers, Politicians, Schoolteachers, Schoolchildren, Poor as well as Rich people, and most importantly of all, I hope, of God’s own heart. In Arabic, heart is al Qaleb, and in this co-op, sitting opposite Ali, I became, a Talib al Qalib.
This is a collection of my ongoing study of many hearts.