Cussed out at the Mosque

Love Your Neighbor
Charcoal & Oil Pastel on Newspaper by Susan E. Brooks

Cussed out at the Mosque

(or “Grumpy Goes to the Mosque”)

Dang it, I was going to have to practice what I had preached to my Bible class girls, “social anxiety” or not!

I heard a lady say the other day that she suffered from “social anxiety.”  That’s me! I thought, and now I have a diagnostic-sounding word to describe my reluctance to go the mosque!  Doesn’t that make it okay to stay home?  I wonder if Jesus suffered from “social anxiety.” If he did, he overcame it, because he went anyway. He went to the synagogue, to Levi’s house, to the sick and needy, and to the well to talk to the enemy-Samaritan woman. He was often surrounded by clamoring crowds.

My amazing husband claims to be an introvert, but I don’t believe it for a minute—he certainly doesn’t suffer from my “social anxiety” disease!  Somehow he has managed to become good friends with many of the Muslim leaders in the city, including the imam at the big mosque downtown. Martin told me earlier in the week that the imam had invited us to a dinner and celebration for his newborn son on Friday night at the mosque, so I bought a cute little outfit for the baby, and hoped that it would be the rare occasion at the mosque that allowed men and women to be in the same room together, letting me be with Martin that night.

By the time Friday rolled around, as usual, I was exhausted. I love my teaching job, but after being surrounded by one group of students after another all day for a week, I needed some down time. I confess that I was really grumpy getting ready to go; and I wasn’t sure I would know any of the women there, so I was suffering from that “social anxiety.”  But here’s the thing: all week I had been teaching my girls’ Bible class that Jesus was always eating and socializing with all kinds of people, often defending and honoring those that the majority didn’t like or approve of, people that were different.

“Ugh! I have to find something that covers from head to toe, try to tame my thick mane and make it stay under a scarf, make a salad to take, and they probably won’t let me stay with Martin, and I might not  know anyone, and I’m tired, and I just don’t want to go!” I grumbled to myself, all the while thinking, “But this is just the kind of thing that Jesus would go to, and he would love the people that the community may be tempted to reject right now….”

So I put on a long dress and stuffed my hair into a scarf, and I grudgingly went, a very poor excuse for an ambassador of Jesus.

As we drew close to the mosque, I panicked! Oh man! “I forgot about socks!”

You have to take your shoes off before you go into to the mosque. I was wearing boots, and my hidden socks looked awful— you know how dark socks grab those little white lint balls in the dryer somehow— these were droopy and lint-balled, short, disgustingly ugly, and didn’t match the dress.

“So go barefoot?” said my husband.

“My legs are hairy! And it’s freezing cold!” May sound pitiful, but my sisters get it. This was an emergency!

“Okay, we’ll find a store and buy you some socks,” said my patient husband, who wasn’t letting me get out of this.

After spending a ridiculous $16.00 on socks at the nearest pharmacy, I was on my way, grumpier than ever.

We pulled into the parking lot and saw no one else carrying food, so we decided to leave the salad in the car for the time being, along with the gift. It was a dark night, and Martin started to walk me around to the women’s doorway when a man flagged him down and said,

“Men enter back here!”

So he couldn’t even walk me to the door. I walked up to the door that I thought was the right one. No one was around. I tried the door—it was locked.

“Maybe I’ll just go sit in the car,” I was thinking, “I’ll just go listen to my audiobook”—but then I noticed some women being dropped off out front, and I followed them into the right door, resigned to facing my social anxiety crisis all alone.

It’s awkward, or I’m awkward; the ladies at the mosque are welcoming, but they don’t know what to do with me. One lady is excited about what we do with Peace Catalyst, and we had a great conversation.  Others ask if I’m a Muslim, and I say, “No, I’m a Christian,” and I try to explain.

They introduce me to the American convert, and I feel like a project. (Forgive me, dear Muslim friends, if I have ever made you feel like a project!) No one else has brought food; it’s catered, but they graciously say they will serve my salad, so I go out to the car to get it. I’m trying not to be, but I’m a little nervous as I walk out to the dark parking lot in the back of the building. The other women were dropped off at the front door—

I get my salad and the gift, and as I’m walking back up toward the front of the building, a truck passing by on the main road out front yells,

“Go home, you #$%^&* Muslims!” They yelled at pasty-white-blond-American-Christian me!

They didn’t know whom they were cursing, and that would have been true, even if I hadn’t been at the mosque that night.

The cussing out was obviously meant for the Muslims, and I wonder if they would’ve yelled those caustic words had they known I was an American Christian; or maybe they would have been even angrier and would have cursed me even more since I chose to be there making friends with Muslims because that’s what I think Jesus would be doing if he were walking in my city today— and I’m terrible at it, and grumpy because I’m tired; but I really do love my Muslim friends, and I want to be like Jesus, even if it means stupid sock issues and head scarves, and occasionally being the victim of a drive-by-cussing-out at the friendly neighborhood mosque.