I remember a day five years ago that I sat in my apartment. Picking my kids up from school that day was all about the mind game.
Because what I longed for? Anonymity. To blend in. To slip unnoticed through the crowd.
Strange desire, I know, for any extrovert reading this or any of us strong women who don’t mind taking life by the horns.
In my former “normal” life in the States I would have looked for a way to make my place and shine for who I am. Maybe I’d even draw a little attention to myself now and then.
But living here I stand out every day. It’s broadcast by the color of my skin, the color of my hair, the clear features of my face that I am not Egyptian.
And I don’t just stand out. I draw attention because of these features, because it’s different, because I’m foreign.
No matter how conservatively I dress, if my hair and face are showing, people notice. I don’t mind the women most of the time. But it’s usually the men who stare anyway.
And because I’m foreign, by look most probably Western, there is the assumption that I also lead a loose Western lifestyle. It’s the type we might see in movies and Netflix.
They wonder if I’m a desperate housewife looking for a boyfriend.
And I remember that day how tired I was of this. I didn’t want heads to turn when I walked by. I just wanted to blend in and go about my day.
The weather was warm but I put on my lightweight cardigan to cover my shoulders. My legs were covered and my shirt was baggy. I put on my big sunglasses to avoid unnecessary eye-contact.
I remember watching my shadow on the street beside me, another me making her way through the neighborhood.
When it feels more like I blend…out
Fortunately my discontentment drove me to ask God what to do about this desire to blend in. And the reality that I could not.
He reminded me that people were watching me, yes, but they were also watching my actions, my words, my family.
He reminded me that since we cannot blend in and hide, our lives were on display. Maybe like a lamp on a stand.
He reminded me of opportunities I had to interact with women simply because I was unusual, different, “special.”
What do I tell myself in the face of these uncomfortable situations?
Acknowledge that God is greater than my foreign status, that His plans are for good, and that His eye is on this American woman walking through the streets of Cairo.
Life is not about being comfortable but about living in Christ.
Because I’m Different
Five years later, I often think about that day, about wrestling with the strong desire to blend in, about my shadow with hair bun bobbing down the street.
There are still days that I’d like to blend in. But more often I’m thankful for the opportunities I have been afforded because I’m different.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to demonstrate a life that has been redeemed and is being transformed into the image of Christ. I’m reminded constantly that they’re watching.
What do I hope they see?
Sarah serves in Egypt with her husband and four children. You can catch her blog here.