God’s Triumph over Turkey

I’m a planner. I’ve always been one to plan out my day, to plan out a trip, to plan out my life.1 And if you’ve been following this ridiculous life of mine for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that God doesn’t like this controlling tendency of mine. He’s spent years teaching me to trust him, to let him be God. He’s changed my five year plan more times than I can remember, pulled the rug out from under me when it comes to daily plans, and established me in a life where I regularly wake up in the morning unsure what state I’ll be in when I go to bed. And I’ve been learning to roll with it. After all, he keeps providing for me, so at a certain point it seems a little silly not to trust him.

Last Tuesday, he gave me a pretty intense opportunity to trust. On my way to Manchester to begin my evangelizing tour of Europe, I was stopping through Istanbul. Turkish Airlines has this great deal where they’ll give you a long layover in Istanbul and a free hotel room while you’re there. I was thrilled by the opportunity to see one of the world’s great cities, albeit briefly, so I jumped at the chance. I booked the ticket and waited for information on the hotel. When I got none, I called the airline. “Oh, when you get to Istanbul they’ll give you a room.” “Can you check my itinerary and see if I qualify?” “Oh, yes, you’ll be fine.”

Well, I didn’t love the idea of going to a country where I know nobody and can’t speak a word of the language without even an idea of where I would sleep, but I figured it would all work out. After all, they’d told me I’d have a room, right?

You can see where this is going.

A blurry picture of me setting out in DC. I'm really proud of fitting 6 weeks worth of winter clothes into a carry-on suitcase.

A blurry picture of me setting out in DC. I’m really proud of fitting 6 weeks worth of winter clothes into a carry-on suitcase.

After a long (and very pleasant) flight in from DC, I rushed through the Istanbul airport, making it through customs and immigration, finding someone to direct me further, and finally stumbling across the Hotel Desk to be told that I couldn’t have a room. Turns out my flight out of Istanbul left too late for me to take advantage of the offer.

I gave the desk clerk a very disappointed look (which I’m sure he was entirely unaffected by) and walked off to freak out. Yes, I have enough money for a hotel room but I have no internet, so I’m sure to be cheated. And if I spend all that time finding a hotel, I won’t make it to Mass.

Then I stopped.

Last Tuesday was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast of the miraculous triumph of Christendom over the Turk. Here I was, in trouble in Turkey on Our Lady of the Rosary. What on earth did I have to worry about?

I’ll go to Mass, I thought. That’s really what matters. And God will take care of me from there. Don’t be too impressed–I had several occasions in Israel where I had nowhere to stay so I went to the church to see about Mass times and found a hostel or a friend from the US or a guest house. It stood to reason that the same thing would happen here.

Peaceful enough to stop and take some selfies with Turkish flags in the background.

Peaceful enough to stop and take some selfies with Turkish flags in the background.

I was astonishingly peaceful. Really, I kept remarking on how powerful the peace of the Spirit is and how far God has brought me. I’m not spontaneous and easy-going by nature, but I felt such a reassurance that God who is sovereign over death, who was sovereign over Lepanto, who is sovereign over creation and salvation and everything in between was also sovereign over my travel plans.

What’s the worst that can happen? I asked myself. This confusion isn’t going to get me sent to hell, which is the only thing that should ever really frighten me. And while I’d rather not be assaulted or have to spend the night on a park bench, I probably wont and I trust that God will be sovereign in whatever happens. Forget the hotel question, I’m going to Mass.

I got on the bus into the city center and got off, following the directions a friend from Turkey had emailed me. I’d spent the evening before trying to download maps I could use offline but to no avail. Standing at the bus stop, confused by the directions I had, I pulled out my phone out of habit and discovered that I had access to nothing—no data, no wireless, no cell signal, not even the correct time—except a map of the area with GPS telling me exactly where I was and a star I’d put on the map telling me where to go. So I went to Mass.

Once I got here, I knew I was okay. Nothing makes any church feel like home like not having a home of your own.

Once I got here, I knew I was okay. Nothing makes any church feel like home like not having a home of your own.

When I got to church, the young gentleman next to me introduced himself and asked how long I was in town. Before I’d been in the chapel 5 minutes, I had an advocate who’d promised to help me find someplace to stay. After Mass (which was in Turkish, so I’m now at 12 languages I’ve been to Mass in) another young man approached to say he worked at a hotel and he could help me, too. But I felt like God wanted me to ask the Church for help. So I approached a Sister and asked her in rusty French if there was a Christian guesthouse or Benedictine monastery nearby. She lived at the hospital, she said, and couldn’t do anything. Father was put off that I hadn’t asked earlier, not understanding that I was only in town for 20 hours. But I explained a little better and dropped the name of a friar I thought we both knew and before I knew it he was on the phone with a community of Italian sisters. “Follow me,” he said, dismissing my guardians.

As I rushed after Father, he explained that there were protests in the streets outside the church. “They may throw gas bombs,” he said. “Can you run?”

Protests. Police in riot gear with gas masks hanging around their necks. Angry-looking Turks shouting something I couldn’t understand.2 But it was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. What was there to be afraid of?

We pushed through crowds, our path occasionally blocked by heavily-armed cops. We scurried across a wide divide between a menacing mob and determined riot police. Finally, we turned onto an empty street and Father slowed down, turning to me. “We’re safe now.”

Of course we are, I thought. We always were.

Look! Something pretty! Taken from the window of the bus.

Look! Something pretty! Taken from the window of the bus.

There followed an introduction to the sisters who had offered to open their home at the last minute and an hour of awkward conversation where I made the best use I could of my college Italian. “Why are you Catholic?” one of them asked me, and I gave my testimony in a language I kind of spoke a decade ago. As always, I felt bad to be imposing on them. As expected, they were happy to help. Finally, I got a good night’s sleep and headed back to the airport in the morning, having seen none of the great sights but also having avoided being caught in a riot or stuck sleeping outdoors. All in all, far worse than I expected my visit to Istanbul to be, but also far better.

For all my life is lived in the hands of Providence, I’m not great at trusting God. Sure, I know he’s going to take care of me ultimately, but I get mad when he doesn’t do it the way I want. I’m anxious when faced with the unknown not because I’m afraid but because I’m obsessed with having my way, with things going perfectly. And God just keeps showing me that my way isn’t perfect. If I’d had a hotel to go back to, I still would have gone to Mass at St. Anthony’s. But then I would have had to navigate an angry mob and a foreign police force on high alert on my own. After dark. Without any idea where I was going. Thanks, I’ll take the uncertainty of having no hotel over that.

Here’s the thing: I’m nothing special. Sure, I may have more opportunities to see God stepping in dramatically, but he doesn’t do it any more for me than he does for you.3 Maybe he’s not going to have a chance to give you a place to stay in Istanbul, but he’s working in your life. He’s leading you to new relationships or away from dangerous situations. He’s offering you peace in turmoil and liberation from bondage. I’m not saying everything that happens to you will be pleasant if you trust God. This is not the Osteen Gospel of “Love God and he’ll give you a BMW.” All I’m saying is that if you try every day to trust God there’s peace even in the midst of disaster. There’s an ability to live in the knowledge of who God is even when you don’t know what he’s doing. It gives you hope when the world would tell you to despair and joy when there seems no cause. I’m not good at it yet but last week God gave me a taste of what it means to trust him. And that time things worked out. Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough to trust him and then find things going disastrously wrong. Even then, my head knows the truth, whatever my heart may say: “Though he slay me, still will I trust in him.”4

At least the trip wasn't a total loss....

At least the trip wasn’t a total loss….

  1. Ask me how many kids I’m supposed to have by now…. []
  2. The only Turkish I know is “Thank you” and they certainly weren’t saying that. []
  3. Although I am fairly imprudent, so I may need more rescuing than most. []
  4. Job 13:15 []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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9 Responses to God’s Triumph over Turkey

  1. kathie says:

    “Though he slay me, still will I trust in him.” Thank You. I needed this today.

  2. Jackie says:

    This reminds me of the time Steve went to Italy for Mother Theresa’s beatification with no plans what so ever, and it ended in a similar way, approachiung some nuns for help and being adopted by a group of semninarians, to whom which I almost lost him to!

  3. Whoa. Just, whoa. In Turkey on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, AND saved from an angry mob by a priest? Amazing. Lovely. Incredible.
    Micaela @ California to Korea recently posted…just one thought on raising saints…My Profile

  4. Maria Marusca says:

    Absolutely, God shall supply all of our needs, according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19. I lived on the road for many many years, we used to go two by two like the first disciples, and we asked for food and shelter wherever the Lord send us to preach.. we had ‘trying times’ of course, but He never failed to provide according to His will. Praise the Lord!

  5. The Old Wolf says:

    En güzel, Meg. Very lovely, for a lot of reasons. I’ve spent much time in İstanbul myself, and I’m thrilled that your experience there was an uplifting one, because Turkey can be sheer chaos. You were cared for because you simply put your cares on the Altar. I know that’s how God works. As they say in programming language,

    void consider (int lilies);
    {
    int solomon [glory];
    int lilies [1…6],[1…100],[5];
    lilies != toil, != spin;
    }

    Or in the vernacular, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…”

    Although we differ in points of doctrine, faith is faith and these principles are eternal and immutable. It strengthens me to see them at work. I was uplifted and delighted by your post. May God walk with you on your tour.
    The Old Wolf recently posted…Headlines don’t sell papes… Newsies sell papes!My Profile

  6. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for writing. I am wrestling with my tendency to control as well!
    Rachel recently posted…Everything BeautifulMy Profile

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  9. I loved your last paragraph – God is leading me somewhere. I feel Him in my heart, in my life. I’m grateful to have you as a friend on this journey, Meg.
    Patty Mejia Burke recently posted…Homemade Laundry DetergentMy Profile

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