Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mistakes I've Made

“….I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices….” Matthew 9: part of verse 13

It’s strange that when we start engaging with Muslims we think we know a fair amount. We’ve read some books, watched evangelistic dvd series, taken a course on Islamics, and visited an Islamic country for a few weeks. But it doesn’t take long until we realize that our knowledge is minimal or maybe even faulty. I was visiting Ayaan whose mother-in-law just died. The religious customs for a funeral that her family observes are quite different than her husband’s family. Jannah surprised me that she doesn't believe in qismat. I have always assumed all Muslims believe in that. We just can’t generalize that all Muslims around the world do or believe the same thing. I’ve often made the mistake of giving incorrect information by making blanket statements about either Muslim culture or Islam.

There have been other mistakes made, too. Many of my mistakes have had to with not showing mercy. Sometimes we can be so intent on evangelizing that we don’t see the person’s needs. After I left Pakistan, it dawned on me that I never offered our maid a cup of water or tea after she had walked in the hot sun or rain from her village to our home. I really can’t understand how I missed seeing this need. It has been hard to forgive myself for this insensitive oversight.

Then there were the newborn illegitimate babies I took care of on occasion in Pakistan. Sometimes they felt like an intrusion upon my privacy, a disturbance of my needed 8 hours of sleep at night, and a curtailing of my independence. I was suddenly tied down. I realized later that my value of independence took priority over showing mercy. That was a mistake.

I watched Najib kick his mother repeatedly to get her attention. Other kids have sworn vulgar words at their mothers in front of me. Afterwards I realized I could have spoken into the shocking disrespect and defended their mothers. I guess I just felt embarrassed at those times and retreated because of feeling uncomfortable. Those kinds of mistakes haunt me.

Halima put her faith in Christ and was baptized. We walked through renouncing charms she had trusted in for protection. She gave the charms to me and asked me to get rid of them but I made the mistake of disposing of them instead of encouraging her to complete the whole process so that she would have a sense of victory and freedom. It was obvious she wanted to get rid of them but was afraid to do the disposing lest there be "anger or harm from jinn or Shaitan".

Some of our mistakes are humorous and can’t be taken seriously. Like the time I said in the Hindko dialect I was learning, “I need a man.” What I meant to say was “I need lentils.” But for mistakes that are regrettable I just want to learn from them, ask for forgiveness from God, and move on to become wiser and more compassionate.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to understand what to say or do in each situation and especially to remember to show mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.