“When I Stood Screaming at God on My Driveway”
The following is a Bible Gateway exclusive Sneak Peek and First Listen of A Brave Face: Two Cultures, Two Families, and the Iraqi Girl Who Bound Them Together (W Publishing, 2019) by Barbara Marlowe (@marlowe_barbara) and Teeba Furat Marlowe. Preorder the book and unabridged audiobook on CD in the Bible Gateway Store.
By Barbara Marlowe
Maybe I thought it would all work out, but others weren’t so sure. My friends thought I was completely crazy. Tim was supportive, as always. After 20 years of marriage, he was accustomed to seeing me barreling forward at full steam, rarely coming up for air. He knew I was trying to help the little girl from Iraq I’d read about in the newspaper, but I didn’t always share the details of exactly what I was up to. I kept him in the loop on the most significant developments, but there was so much happening day-to-day that it seemed too cumbersome to be updating him constantly.
I just charged ahead on my own, moving from one step to the next to help Teeba. In a career like mine, I’m used to hearing the word no. It’s never been a sign for me to stop. My response to hearing no is, “I’ll call again in a couple of weeks.”
But even I wore down into discouragement as the elation of my initial progress faded. The process ground to a near halt because of red tape and logistical problems. Letters, emails, and calls flew back and forth between us, the hospital, the airlines, James Palmer, immigration officials here and in Jordan, and Mahmood—a relative of Teeba’s who spoke English and worked for an international aid organization. I sent a smiling photograph of myself holding our dog, Phantom, and a sign with Teeba’s name and a heart around it, hoping my intentions would be clear to her and her family.
Then one day, as my frustration became too much to bear, I stalked out to my driveway to get some air. Staring at the ground, I paced in a circle, angry and frustrated.
Why am I doing this? Why isn’t this working out?
As my emotions built, I raised my face to the sky.
“You put me here, You put this little girl in my heart,” I yelled out loud to God. “Now why aren’t You helping me?”
Just a few years earlier, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask God for help at a time like this. I wasn’t a very religious person throughout most of my life. My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic, but neither was particularly observant. I’d been baptized Catholic but never received the other sacraments.
But in 2000, something happened that ignited a desire in me to seek out a connection to God. I began to see signs of God’s work in my life. I began to crave a spiritual connection in a way I never had before.
Just like everything else that I do in my life, I tackled this new march toward faith with laser focus. I enrolled in the Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, bombarding the instructor with questions while everyone else just sat listening. I devoured every kind of book about the Christian faith that I could get my hands on, and I began reading daily the Bible my sister-in-law Sandy gave me when I began RCIA classes.
Then one day, faith became less of a project to be tackled and more of an intensely personal experience. I was alone in a quiet house and sitting on my bed, reading my new Bible, when I came to the section in the book of Matthew that includes the Sermon on the Mount. Included are these verses:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:21, 34)
Suddenly, it was like a bolt of lightning shot through me. The words jumped off the page. I felt this overwhelming surge of emotion, a swelling in my chest, and I began to cry. As I sobbed, I felt like the Holy Spirit was breathing new life into me. At that moment, I was changed forever.
I know now that God was placing His hand of protection over me to prepare me for three years of tragedies in my life. In January 2003, I lost my mother, and two other friends lost their mothers around the same time. Then another friend died after a battle with lung cancer, and, less than a year later, my friend Loree’s husband committed suicide. She came to live with us for a time, where I waded through the trenches of grief with her day after day.
I believe now that, with those years of tragedies and a newfound faith burning inside me, God was preparing me for something big. Something that would test my willingness to step out in faith and take on a seemingly impossible challenge. I was primed for it, but I couldn’t have anticipated what adventure God had intended for me.
Finally, God’s challenge for me had arrived.
On the day I picked up that newspaper and looked into the eyes of Teeba Furat Fadhil, I could hear the words of my favorite Bible verse ringing in my ears: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt. 25:23).
Those words are what I want to hear on the day I enter heaven.
So that day, as I stood there screaming at God on my driveway, I felt sure that helping Teeba was the impossible thing that He was calling me to make possible. I just knew this was the challenge that God had been preparing me for.
So why wasn’t he helping me?
I’d kept my face tilted to the sky the entire time I was pleading with God, then I let my chin sink to my chest. That was when I saw it—a small golf marker lying on the ground by my foot. I picked it up and turned it over in the palm of my hand. On it were the words, “God Loves You,” etched around a purple cross surrounded by laurel branches. I was sure it hadn’t been there before.
The hair stood up on my arms, and all my anger and frustration dissolved into a feeling of calm. I began to cry. I’d been seeking some reassurance that I was doing the right thing and feeling that I wasn’t totally alone in my fears and frustration. I’d been screaming to God and felt this was the sign that he was listening. It was a reminder that my time frame wasn’t God’s time frame. Whatever God wanted me to accomplish with Teeba, it would happen when the time was right.
I put that golf marker in a Lenox china case in the shape of a cross, where it remains today. A sense of peace came over me as I marched into the next phase of my journey knowing that God was on my side. It wasn’t long after that moment with the golf marker that we got our first big break.
The above is a Bible Gateway exclusive Sneak Peek and First Listen of A Brave Face: Two Cultures, Two Families, and the Iraqi Girl Who Bound Them Together (W Publishing, 2019) by Barbara Marlowe (@marlowe_barbara) and Teeba Furat Marlowe. Preorder the book and unabridged audiobook on CD in the Bible Gateway Store.
A Brave Face is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
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May 21, 2019