Sunday, July 15, 2012

When the Time is Ripe

“And then when the time was ripe, he went public with his truth…” Titus 1:3a The Message

As a young boy my husband was always keen to know if the watermelons in his mom's garden were ripe for picking. He would carve out a little square in one to check inside and then put the carved piece back in place. It didn’t take long until the checked watermelon would wither away. The fruit had not been ready to pick. He couldn’t speed up the ripening process naturally. The carving and the checking had produced trauma to the watermelon.

Frequently I take a look at the papayas in the supermarket. I wish I could buy them already ripened but usually I have to take a green one home and wait some time until it is ripened before enjoying it. That makes me think of some of my Muslim contacts. I would love them to be “spiritually ripe” when we meet - like they have just had a fantastic dream about Isa al Masih or are bursting with some significant questions. How delightful that would be! It does happen occasionally but most of the time there is a long waiting process for the spiritual fruit to ripen.

A few of my Muslim friends have taken decades to ripen, spiritually speaking. I haven’t been able to speed up the process. I have to accept the ebb and flow of my friendships and trust that God is at work speaking to them in various ways. Some of them get preoccupied with learning English, adjusting to the west, raising families, taking courses, buying houses, and sponsoring relatives and getting them established. Shazia has been in my life for a couple of decades. In the beginning she had many needs and was glad to accept whatever help I could offer. Little by little she got established and then turned her full attention to sponsoring her relatives to come. Our friendship went into hibernation. Every once in awhile I would call her and we’d have a short chat. But one day there was a sudden change. Things had settled down and now there was room for me once again. I was amazed to discover that God had been “ripening the fruit” slowly over the past two decades. There was nothing I could do to have speeded it up. I just had to wait and stay in touch and let God do His work in her.

I wish someone had told me three decades ago to think long term when it comes to evangelism among Muslims. It would have helped me to not give up so quickly with my friends.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you that while I wait you are at work in my Muslim friend’s life even though I can’t see it. In Jesus name, Amen.