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The Difference

I stepped into the room, completely at ease and expecting a good morning.  I had been in my host country for over a year and was accustomed to the unfamiliar sounds of another language, so at first I didn’t notice anything unusual as I headed for my workstation. But an intuitive sensor in me went off like an alarm; body language is a universal language.

I sensed they were talking about me.  I could tell it wasn’t positive.  Now, I knew I had countless strikes against me.  I was management.  I was foreign.  Our team had the responsibility of meeting multiple daily deadlines . The stress was on, always on.  Most of my workers were young, on their first job; I spent a lot of time training and even more time checking up behind them.  Like any leader of a team project, I depended heavily on their goodwill.

That morning I knew I didn’t have it.

The problems  unfolded soon enough as the tasks presented themselves.  “Miss, I can’t do.”  “I never do that job.”  “Oh no, too much, too much.”  “Sorry, my shoulder hurt yesterday.”  They all seemed to move more slowly than usual.  I began simmering underneath the pressure of having to meet our deadlines.  I knew they were creating a failure, and the blame would be mine.  Our customers would be furious.

I stood in the doorway of the workroom, looking over the handful of workers. What were they thinking?  Didn’t they care?  Why take it out on me?  Their work ethic wasn’t high as it was, but this was unacceptable.  I wanted to report the whole group to my boss; he would be furious and would yell at all of them and fire the ones who yelled back.  That would surely create office drama, endless gossip, and more poor behavior.  In my darkness, I imagined scolding all of them in flawless Arabic; it would surely shock them into cooperating.  I could feel the tears stinging as I tried to focus one young worker, her back turned so I couldn’t see her face.

Who was she?  Did she really want to learn a trade?  Why was she working?  Did she deserve a job?  Who cares anyway?

That’s when my own thoughts–hot, negative thoughts–stopped, and unfamiliar words went through my mind:  “These are My children.”   I held my breath.  I had experienced the Holy Spirit speaking to my thinking before.  My answer acknowledged Him.  “They’re not mine, Lord.”  He didn’t say anything.  But.

I thought of my children far away in my home country.  Too far away for me to be part of their every day, having to face life much on their own, meeting their discouragements, struggling with classwork, jobs, relationships and…all of life.

I stepped out of the room and found a corner alone where I could think.  Both God and I knew that one of my frequent prayers was that He would put people in the lives of my children–wise, loving people who would care for them, be sensitive to their needs, listen when they wanted to talk–kind people who would patiently lead them along when I wasn’t there to do it.  

But I was here.  Yes, my workers were very different than my own children.  They lived with different expectations, by a different work ethic, accustomed to a different way of communicating, familiar with a different way of solving problems.  But they were God’s children.  And I was there for Him.

I lifted my head, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and took a very deep breath.  How patient of Him.  He would help me see them with His eyes.  He would also surely give me what I needed to treat all His children just like He had treated me.  –CL