Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Amal who is an abused wife wants to be safe and secure and avoid a backlash of anger or being beat for displeasing her husband. The first time I picked her up she said, “Next time please pick me up on the other side of the building. I don’t want my husband to see.” She also told him another reason why she was going out which was not true. It did not take long until I discerned that Amal was living a secretive lifestyle of giving false impressions, conniving, lying, and pretending. Even though she had knowledge of women’s shelters, emergency help phone numbers, and protection laws she did not want to make use of them. She resigned herself to this way of life which had now become a habit. She would just learn how to live secretively as smart as possible.
Ibtisam is the picture of a subservient wife. She has learned it is advantageous to keep silent than to argue. One day I began to see Ibtisam was scheming secretively how to get what she longed for but was being denied of: a separate bank account, her own phone, and some pocket money of her own. She wanted to know how to go about getting all those things accomplished without her husband knowing. I explained about her rights in our western nation but I knew she would not pursue them because to her that would mean she is a “bad woman” – a Muslim woman’s greatest fear. So, she resorts to a secretive lifestyle.
Fawziah was desperate to get away from her controlling mother. She was determined to disappear without her knowing. I tried to explain that she could always leave but she should honor her mother by at least letting her know she was leaving. She would burn her bridges for any future communication if she would leave without saying goodbye. But she found someone(a Christian, unfortunately) to help her plan a secret escape and left without letting her mother know. She was angry with me for not being willing to plan a secret escape for her.
When we reach out in friendship with Muslim women we will surely hear sad stories of abuse, control, duplicity, secretiveness, and schemes. Hagar in the Bible reminds us this is nothing new. She had her own scheme the first time she escaped an intolerable situation but God met her on her escape route. I ask God for wisdom and discernment in dealing with secretive schemes and lifestyles. It is important to have a conversation about control and fear issues which are at the root of secretiveness. I have learned what advice to give. There were some situations previously where, unfortunately, I actually reinforced secretiveness. Many times Muslim women want us to make decisions for them rather than learn how to take the responsibility of decision making themselves.
As children of God we walk in the Light.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
“…So he(John the Baptist)sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Matthew 11: 2b-3
Today at church I talked to a 21 year old visitor who was church hunting. I asked her what she was looking for in a church and she replied, “I’m looking for a church with stained glass windows.” I could tell she had definite expectations what stained glass windows would do for her. Well, we all have expectations, don't we? We have expectations from our colleagues, church family, pastor, prayer and donor networks, parents, siblings, spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, …and, yes, even from God. Our expectations rise and fall in disappointment over and over. We expect more prayer, more financial support, more understanding, more validation, more encouragement, more mentoring, more remembering us. And if we are honest – more honor. Our church or donors may expect more spiritual results from us.
We just received an email from a long term missionary friend whose financial support was dropped because "not much was happening". Ouch. We enter Muslim ministry expecting God to do great things. More phone calling from Muslims. More spiritual hunger. More signs and wonders and miracles. More people responding to the Good News. More transformation in the lives of believers. We yearn for something visible - like a Bible study group or even the formation of a church plant. New believers coming out of Islam have expectations from the church and their new community of brothers and sisters and from us. We expect certain books, dvd series, speakers, or conferences to give the answers and solutions to make our efforts to reach Muslims successful or fruitful.
Some exit Muslim ministry when their expectations wane or get dashed repeatedly. Or we may enter that dark tunnel of discouragement and resign ourselves to expect nothing. I have walked a long journey of experiencing some dashed expectations which have left me floundering at times with some pretty major unanswered questions. However that has ultimately been beneficial. For one thing it has made me dependent on God. Secondly, it has helped me to understand my Muslim friends who have had high expectations about their Islamic community, family, religion, friends, and new country of residence and then encountered disappointment. If I had not walked this path of dashed expectations I would not be able to help guide my Muslim friends and believers from Muslim background to find the Person who will never fail or disappoint us – Jesus, our wonderful Savior who exceeds all human expectations.