Lamar on Life

From a Christian living in a Gulf country. The Middle East, Arabic, understanding Muslims, outreach to Muslims are to be addressed. In addition, thoughts, reflections, and book reviews will be posted.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I've been in the Middle East a number of years now, but I've still got a lot to learn. God has His ways of showing this to me again and again. It starts with listening. Listen to God. Listen to your Arabic teachers. Listen to your wife, your teammates, and to those who have gone before. And of course, listen to your doctor!

I had been having some sinus/congestion problems for which I visited my local doctor. My doctor is Iraqi, which has sometimes caused awkward moments in these times as international tensions escalate. So on this visit he informs me that my ears are clogged with wax which should be removed. He prepares the syringe, which looks like a cake decorating tool or a caulking gun with a big fat steel needle. He fills it with warm water, inserts the needle in my ear, and with the syringe cocked and loaded he asks me, “So, do you think Bush will attack Iraq?”

Now, I don’t know if you’ve had your ears syringed, but it’s an uncomfortable experience even if your doctor has the best intentions. My medical knowledge being as limited as it is, I was unsure whether an aggressively manned syringe might cause the patient’s brains to spurt from the opposite ear, but I didn’t want to take any chances with a brain which contains so many fond memories. So, I waited until he was finished before I answered.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “What do you think?” It soon became evident from his response that what he wanted more than my opinion was someone to listen to his thoughts about his homeland and the difficult situation of his people. He also wanted to know if President Bush could be trusted to do what his father failed to do, namely, to remove Saddam and bring relief to the people. I wish I could have assured him that everything would work out for the best. However, I was glad to know that I made a new friend with the simple words. “I don’t know. What do you think?”

We’re often too quick to tell others our opinion. Thank God for that syringe which caused me to keep my mouth shut long enough to listen. This reinforced a lesson I should already know. When dealing with Muslims, as in dealing with anyone, it is important to listen first. Ironically, I find that this is how God is with me. He listens first and waits for me to get it all out before He communicates with me.

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