For Your Invitation

It was the season of a transition. I was doing my contract teaching for a couple of months while waiting for my acceptance letter into the teaching institution. I had no idea I was going to be doing my post-grad studies that December; I hadn’t anticipated for my entrance to be that soon. So upon the assumption of having my full protected holidays that month, I went on without hesitation to book tickets to perform my Umrah (a non-mandatory, lesser pilgrimage), together with my family.

Only to find out a few weeks later through an email that I’d be starting school that same December, classes clashing with the days I’ve planned for my pilgrimage.

In retrospect, it might look like a very solvable thing; give a call, write a letter, make them understand your situation. But in reality, anything could happen, and the worst thing that could happen was that I could be denied the permission to leave the country. My 25-year old self was afraid of this one thing: to not be able to perform the Umrah with her beloved family, when everything had already been planned and paid for, when she had been waiting for years for this reunion, when she was looking forward to be invited again to His land, in desperate need this time.

A flurry of emails ricocheted — the hope of getting permission and having my leave for this trip approved grew thinner by each passing day. It was slow and painful, just waiting for a reply, waiting for the green light.

I even had to sneak out of my workplace one day to settle this issue which required me to cab down to the institution to seek approval for my leave, as I was advised. Once there, I had to go through the process of asking relevant authorities to expedite a reply but all I got was, “We cannot help you with this, it’s not under our control. But we are still processing your case. We just cannot give you any response as of yet”. I smiled, said “okay”, ran and hailed a cab. Once inside, I texted my family members and told them I might have to entertain the possibility of me not being able to follow them on this trip. Fought hard to not let the tears fall. Fought hard to not be too emotional. But alas, I started sobbing uncontrollably in my passenger seat until the driver, a friendly-looking pakcik, who noticed my alarming state through the rear-view mirror, asked if I was okay. He knew better than to probe me with more questions, didn’t say more and simply handed me tissues to wipe away my tears. I was smiling through my sadness and I was praying, praying and begging breathtakingly hard to God to allow me to embark on this ‘homecoming’ trip with my loved ones because nothing else mattered at that point. I refused to be denied this priceless invitation just for a few days of classes.

When I finally got the approval I’ve been waiting for, I could feel the weight that my heart was carrying suddenly lifted, while I was brought to my knees, palms turned up. Prayers and gratitude cemented. Made the journey and experience of being in His lands even sweeter. The wait was well worth it.

Without realising this at that point, I am reflecting on this situation now with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Endless, immense gratitude for the fact that, seeing my quiet tears, my unspoken fears, He had already facilitated it for me through many subtle ways, like finding a fellow coursemate who was also facing the same situation as I was which made it easier to appeal for our leave together, and planting in me this desire to be closer.

Sometimes, He wants to give, but He won’t hand it to you that easily. It was necessary for me to navigate the obstacles that came with it, perhaps to gauge my sincerity, to see how much I wanted it. Two years ago, I learnt this. I yearned for His invitation that didn’t come easy. But all I had to be was patient.

And all I had to do was put in the effort and… trust.

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