I took a deep breath, put my hand on her trembling shoulder and said, “Mable, you don’t understand. First of all, today was our last day of class, so technically I am no longer your student. Second, I am 34 years old. I’m not your typical college student.”
She looked at me in unbelief and said, “No way! You seem like you are only 24! I don’t believe it. You can’t be!”
I finally convinced her of my age, and we proceeded to walk toward her car.
As we were walking, those three words from the final presentation, describing women who have strived for success in a Muslim culture, came to mind. I looked at Mable and said, “I believe what Kaitlyn shared in class about women needing to be strong, persevering and yet sadly persecuted in this culture is what you seem to have survived to become a professor. I see you as a strong woman. You’ve written books. You’ve taught at elite schools all over the Western world. You’ve persevered through many obstacles to be a successful woman in the Middle East. I am sure you’ve been persecuted along the way.”
She looked at me with her mouth gaping open and said, “How did you know? That’s exactly what it’s been like for me! Did you know that no one in this school likes me? They probably would all try to get me fired, but I’m tenured, so they can’t. I have no friends, no community.”
At that point we were at the door to her car. As her driver held open the door, she motioned to me and said, “Get in!” as if she were impatiently waiting for me to join her.
So I took another deep breath, wondering what I was doing, and got in.
And Then It Got Awkward
Being a rule follower, I knew that I was breaking the rules by driving away, alone, with Mable. Yet, I felt that the Holy Spirit wanted me to go with her. She was opening up to me, and for some reason, I knew that this was not normal for her. God was up to something, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Inside the car, I texted my co-leader so that he would at least know where I was going and what was happening. Then I placed my attention back on Mable. I continued to listen as she kept volleying back and forth between the fear of having another miscarriage and the humiliation of how she had treated the student in the class.
After letting her talk it out, I asked, “Mable, can you give yourself grace right now? The young man will be okay. You can revisit the conflict with him in class another day. We just need to get you home and have you focus on taking care of yourself and your baby right now.”
As we continued to talk, it was as if something switched inside of her. Her eyes grew wide and round with great anxiety, and she sputtered, “Oh, my goodness! I . . . I think I fancy you! I don’t know . . . what to do! I have never felt this way about any man or woman before! It’s like I want to jump you right now! Oh, my! I can’t be a lesbian! I can’t! You need to get out of my car right now!”
I froze in shock as I was trying to comprehend what was happening. I was not ready for her to freak out on me again. I thought we had established some trust in the past hour, but now, apparently, she was feeling emotions she wasn’t sure how to handle. I prayed a quick prayer as I looked outside the car window. I knew it wouldn’t be safe for me to be dropped off on the side of the road. The streets were filled mainly with men. I had no context to know where I was, and there were no apparent taxis in sight.
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