The Call

Morocco was my first Arabic country. I was excited to dive into a whole new world of food, language, dress, and (perhaps the most intriguing of all) religion. I had never been to an Islamic country before, and I was excited to see the mosques, learn about the traditions, and hear the call to prayer.

The first time I heard the call to prayer was at 5:20am in the dark room of our Riad BNB in the Marrakech Medina. When it woke me from my slumber, it sounded like the Imam was right outside my bedroom. His deep, bravado voice echoed off the clay walls of the courtyard in the Riad. The whole city rattled with his chant of “Allahu akbar” “God is great.”

At first it was annoying…then it was interesting…then it was creepy...after 10 minutes, it was annoying again. “Allahu akbar” “God is great.” (Not all calls to prayer last for 10 minutes, it really depends on the creative license of the imam in the moment.)

The next day, we heard the call to prayer a few more times. I was a bit surprised that it sort of blended into the cacophony of the medina. I always imagined people dropping to the ground and praying when it started, but people pretty much went about their day without noticing. By the time dinner rolled around and we were eating on a terrace overlooking the market below, the call seemed beautiful and enchanting. “Allahu akbar” “God is great.”

The funny thing about traveling and living in agnostic, Buddhist, and Muslim countries is that it does lead to a sort of questioning. I can’t help but find myself looking at oddities in my own faith when I encounter them in others. Isn’t that the mystery of faith? It’s annoying and creepy, but also beautiful and enchanting.

When I think of oddities in Christianity, the one that has always puzzled me are aphorisms “all things happen for a reason” or “it must be part of God’s plan.” I remember when pneumonia went through my high school. A lot of kids were really sick. Some got better, and some died. And people comforted us with this line of “it must be part of God’s plan.” It makes a teen question “Why does God plan for some to live and some to die at 15?” How morbid! It doesn’t seem like a loving God.

When I read the bible, all I see are a bunch of God’s plans that get messed up over and over again.
Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, The Isrealites, Joshua, David, Jonah, Peter, Judas …all stories of futures denied and loved ones betrayed. Changes happen in unexpected ways and at uncontrollable times and nothing seems to be what it should be.

But of course, that’s not the whole story. These chaotic twists were not God’s plan, but they all led to a resurrection. They led to hope. Because with God, good things always happen.

And the same trends continue in our lives. We get blindsided. We feel denied. We feel betrayed. Our stories change in expected ways and at uncontrollable times. But of course, that’s not the whole story. Because while we like plans, things don’t always work out, but God is great regardless of what happens.

And that is the chant of the Imam in Morocco. Despite the chaos in our lives, God is great! When we feel blindsided, God is great! When we feel denied, God is great! When we feel betrayed, God is great! When our stories change, God is great! When our lives are out of control, God is great! 

Every hour of every day (even 5:20am) God is great!

Today, if you need a reminder that God is great, click here to see 57 times the Psalmist, the prophets, and gospels call out to us God is great! May they interrupt your day and remind you of the beauty and enchantment of our faith and our God.

Zach Herzog

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