Last week, a Muslim couple inspired me to work harder in my faith. I met this couple on a nine hour flight from Chicago to Rome.
My friend Katy and I were on our way to study abroad in Siena, Italy. The plane we were on was overwhelmingly packed with fellow travelers, all hoping for a quick-passing and safe journey. I could not explain to you how I felt during those nine hours, as words would not be able to sufficiently explain the excitement, nervousness, and uneasiness I was struggling to conceal on the quiet flight. Midway through the flight, I was woken up from a very pathetic attempt of a nap. What woke me was the stirring of the Muslim couple sitting beside me. The couple stood up and made their way to the area near the bathrooms. A group of passengers were already standing close to the area, all waiting their turn for the restroom. Instead of grabbing a spot in the growing line, the man pulled out a rolled up mat. Carefully, he bent over and gently unraveled the mat onto the plane’s floor. As his wife stood patiently, he slipped off his shoes and stepped onto the mat. I watched curiosly as he began a series of bows and performed what I assumed was a prayer. Once he finished, he put his shoes on once and again and stepped aside, nodding to his wife. His wife, a beautiful woman with a caring face, proceeded to take her turn in prayer.
As I watched this, I couldn’t help but wonder how often these prayers were performed. I waited until the man’s wife returned to her seat beside Katy and I, then I quietly asked for her attention. She smiled at me and gratefully answered all of my nosy questions concerning her faith and culture. She explained that she prays to God five times a day. Wow, I thought, I can barely remember to pray once a day. Sadly, I admit, I probably pray far less than I need to. I told her that she inspired me, being confident enough to get on her knees in prayer in front of hundreds of people. I said it takes a lot of courage to do that. She looked at me and simply stated, “No, it isn’t courage. It is simply my devotion to God.” I smiled at her and told her thank you, turning back towards the seat in front of me. In ten minutes, this stranger had taught me something very important.
The couple’s peaceful prayer forced me to question why I felt as though I can only pray silently in my room, so as not to disturb or offend anyone. God used them to teach me to not be afraid. Praying and worshipping God should be something I am proud of, it should promote my love for the Lord and inspire others. I should be brave and make disciples. I should shout from the rooftops how great my God is.
So, thanks to two friendly strangers, I have decided to make my month in Italy a faith journey. I am going to worship the Lord whenever and wherever I see his love and beautiful creations, which is everywhere. I am going to use the experience of traveling, only made possible by Him, to both grow in my faith and proudly demonstrate it. Thankfully, Italy’s beauty constantly reminds me of how awesome the Lord is. God truly is amazing.