What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by Ashley.

My focus was so narrow before I moved to Iraq for the six month
internship. Before living in the Middle East, I wasn’t able to see how
much bigger the world was than my itty bitty bubble of a life. My world
centered on me, my private school education, my “faith” based pedestal
and my yearning to be perceived as a “good” Christian girl. I had no
idea my perspective was so off.

I never expected to learn
how to love from a Kurdish woman that cleaned my house – a woman without
a family who loved me like her own daughter though we could only
communicate about five words of common language. I never imagined that a
man carrying an AK-47 on his back would teach me about serving by
inviting me and my friends into his home, preparing us the best dinner
his limited income could afford and asking about our lives. I never
dreamed that when I asked a hijab adorned teenage girl for directions
she would show me self-sacrifice by spending the rest of the day giving
me, a complete stranger, a tour around her city.

Living overseas
taught me how to love people better. It taught me how to live in
community instead of the “life as an individual” motif that we value so
much in America. Iraq made me realize that others think and view things
completely different based on where they’ve been. And that understanding
one another, whether cross-country or cross-city or is the key to
loving well. It made me not want to settle into a normal life living the
American dream. And it made the old aspirations of what I thought I
wanted in life dim in comparison to how God could use my life.

I DEFINITELY haven’t arrived. If anything I’ve realized now how much I will never completely understand.

My
six months in Iraq were HARD. That time was exhausting. Painful.
Draining. Stretching. Uncomfortable. Maturing. Humbling. Joyful.
Exciting. Revealing. And FULL. I’m humbled that God was so incredibly
gracious enough to take me half way around the world to shape and mold
me into a new person, expand my mind to new perspectives, and open my
eyes so that I may see. It takes time and energy and patience and
perspective to understand one another. It is uncomfortable and requires
that we spend much of us. It is much simpler to judge based on
appearance and is less time-consuming to make assumptions based on
gender, status, address, etc.

The cost of going out of our way to learn and love is great but the reward, my friend, the reward is infinitely greater.