Processing Lebanon: Part 1

(I decided to pull over a few blog posts that I posted on Collective Pair a couple months ago because they are the kinds of posts I want to share here.)

"There is something insulting about the way in which a stranger can visit a  place which is forbidden to people with infinitely more interest in such a journey." Pity The Nation: Lebanon At War (Robert Fisk)

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Taylor and I were talking on the phone last night and she said, "You really need to post something on the blog…like, soon." I've been trying to, honestly, I have. Every time I sit down to write about my recent travels though, I feel like I'm punching air and attempting to write about the unbelievable. How do you begin to write about a seemingly forgotten people? The truth is, I can't figure out what to say. I haven't really been able to speak too openly about my trip to Lebanon in a way that makes sense since I've been back. I can't seem to articulate some of what I saw or heard about when I was over there. My answer to "How was your trip?" is usually just a head nod, awkward smile, and "It was good. Challenging, but good. I did more touristy things than I would have liked… I'm a horrible tourist." and then I avoid too much detail and change the subject. 

What do I do? Do I just post "pretty" pictures and talk about the physical beauty of the country? Or do I tell the first hand stories I listened to about women in Syria being raped and children being slaughtered? Do I talk about families being ripped apart? Do I talk about the hopelessness in some people's eyes with a straight face or allow myself to break down and cry… again? Do I discuss the childish complaints I threw at my heavenly Father and my struggles with wanting to pack up my camera and never take it out again? Do I talk about the children who were constantly coming up to me on the streets begging for money? Do I admit to having to ignore their tiny hands and deny them? Do I admit part of me wanted give up, go home, and forget everything? I guess I have to, otherwise I would be lying. I think that's what my problem is, a weighing guilt I need to fess up to. I'm so ashamed to admit that before I left, I assumed I had prayed enough and that my heart was well prepared for the stories I would hear and what I would see while I was over there. I knew boarding the plane I wasn't going to the safest part of the world and I knew that at some point during the trip my heart would be broken into a million pieces. This did not matter to me - I was excited and I was prepared. I'd been to the Middle East before and I was just returning to a country I had already been to and thought I remembered well. That said, I also struggled with the selfish part of me that had formed this romantic idea that what I was about to do was brave and awesome. I was going to take hundreds of photos of refugees and post them on the internet and people were going to say, "Wow- she went to Lebanon!? Isn't that right next to Syria!? She is so brave." In some warped part of my mind I wanted to believe this trip was going to impress people. Thankfully, my grand thoughts were dissolved quickly and I was given an enormous weight of humility in their place. 

But I must admit, I'm more ashamed of myself for being frustrated with the refugees who were too scared to tell their stories. I found myself  disappointed because I wasn't able to get the "amazing photos" of actual people that I envisioned in my mind. I wanted to say, "Just let me take your photo and tell your story! This is to help! I'm not a writer! This is how I tell stories! Stop denying me of this!" But time after time, if the people we were meeting with didn't back out, I was told to keep my camera in my bag. Thankfully, my eyes were opened through these roadblocks and frustrations. Because of this I was forced to think about the people first. To fully take in what they were telling us. To open my heart more and to etch their faces in my memory and their stories in heart. The experience made me more sensitive, which, for most visual storytellers, is weakness. I needed that weakness, though. I have no doubt I was sent there for a reason. The timing was too perfect. God opened a door and he pushed me through it. He taught me so much on this trip about myself, people, patience, love, and relying on him. 

Among the hopelessness I was also blessed enough to glimpse a great hope in some of the people I met. Christ is working in the lives of refugees over there. The trip was actually full of moments when my faith looked nonexistent compared to some. Women who have witnessed death and rape and exile have witnessed the father's love and are leaning on it. My encounter with one of these women was the biggest encouragement I could have hoped for while in Lebanon. This meeting forced me to examine my own heart and I honestly didn't like what I saw. It's baffling how blessed I believe I am because of where I come from. What makes me physically any different than that of these people? What makes me more worthy than them? Nothing, absolutely nothing. My savior died and rose again for me the same as he did for everyone else.