Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Since coming back from Egypt, I have been feeling very strange about speaking English sometimes. It's frustrating when you've gotten used to speaking another language and then, all of a sudden, no one around you knows it but instead expects you to just speak your own language all the time. I know that sounds bizarre, but sometimes there are things that would just be so much easier in Arabic.

Also, in English (at least in America), we have this habit of using the future tense with great abandon. In Egypt, anytime you use the future tense you tack on "insha'allah," which means "God willing." It used to annoy me because it's an easy way to get out of doing things--you say "well, I'll be there...God willing" and when you forget, it was not God's will that you show up for the meeting. But here it seems that we use the future tense with a serious sense of entitlement. We just assume that we'll still be here to attend something next week or next summer. We agree to do things without really recognizing that it's only by God's grace that we'll have an earthly future. It feels weird to say "oh, yes, I'll be there next Tuesday" without adding "insha'allah." Or to say "next summer we WILL go on a mission trip" as though God has nothing to do with our getting to next summer.

Perhaps this all sounds very morbid. But that's not what I mean...I just mean that I think we need more awareness of the fact that we aren't really in control of the world, circumstances, our "fate" (you might say). We don't know the future, we don't know God's plans (besides to give us a future with hope), we don't know how things will go five minutes from now--much less five months from now.

I don't mean to say that we shouldn't plan ahead, that we shouldn't make commitments, that we shouldn't think about the future. I do mean to say that God has a funny way of getting in the midst of our plans and hopes and ideas. I do mean to say that God has plans and hopes and ideas. And I do mean to say that our plans/hopes/ideas are not always the same as God's plans/hopes/ideas. So I just think we should be less flippant with our future tense. Because we don't know. God does know, or at least suspects.

So there...insha'allah is a word that's coming back to my vocabulary, even if no one else understands me. And I plan to find someone I can talk to in Arabic, a tutor who can teach me more Arabic, so I can continue to learn. Insha'allah.

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