‘I am doing a new thing … do you not perceive it?’ … some words from Isaiah 43 which we normally read each week in morning prayer when we are in ‘ordinary time‘.
These are words that have caused me to smile in both delight and confusion as I remember a story about a muslim lady I came into contact a little while ago which I now feel is ok to share . I have already shared it with friends verbally – I’m not sure I understand it; but in many ways that is not the point … the point is that God is God and seems to be working in ways that don’t fit the formula of the established (maybe evangelical) church in which I have grown.
The story starts with a phonecall from the welcome desk in the cathedral. A woman wishes to talk with someone and they decide a priest is who she needs. I am available and so I wandered over to the cathedral. To cut a very long story short, below is an outline of this young lady’s story:
The lady told me she had quite a weird and confusing dream a week or so ago that had been puzzling her. She also told me as she was walking past the cathedral she felt something within her say ‘you will find the answer to your dream in there’. So … she came into the cathedral.
We chatted generally for a little while and then she started to speak about why she had come into the cathedral. She told me she dreamt that a man was sitting at the foot of her bed and that there was something quite odd about the man. The man was ‘all in white and kind of glowed’ she said and that, ‘and this was the weird thing … he had holes in his wrists and his feet!’
She thought I would think her mad and seemed a little relieved when I smiled and said ‘tell me more’. She then went on to outline that this man spoke to her. I asked ‘what did he say?’ She answered ‘he said “I want you to follow me”‘ and the conversation went on for a while.
I decided I should read a part of the gospel to her. When we got to the crucifixion scene her face lit up and she sat up as she asked ‘do you think that was Jesus in my dream…?’ not really expecting an answer. The woman was genuine, she had no knowledge of the gospel. This was really happening!
After we chatted a little more I asked her what she felt she had done in the dream. Her response floored me … “I have agreed to follow him and kind of given my life to him and go wherever he asks me to go.’ After we chatted some more she asked ‘so … are you saying that I need to become a Christian?’ I responded that I thought that had already happened … and her final response of that day was ‘yes … i think I must be … but can you help me understand what it is that I have done?’
Together for a few weeks we went through some baptism/confirmation material. This person is no longer in Rochester or Kent and for reasons of her safety I won’t say where she is; but as I reflect on the whole incident of a few months ago I am left with questions:
I am left wondering why God chose this woman to meet with in such a special way? I am left wondering how come God can break the rules that I have grown up with since I was 17 … i.e. she should have heard the gospel first , understood it and then given her life to Jesus … this is all the wrong way round! I am left wondering what on earth God is up to. I am left wondering how she is getting on now.
But I am not wondering whether it was God …. for it seems God is doing a new thing ….. and I need to learn a lot more about expecting the unexpected!
When Jesus met with the woman at the well he didn’t take her through the Old Testament before telling her about her life, he went straight to where he knew she was in her spiritual life an showed that through him she could be born anew. My personal view is that Jesus isn’t particularly worried about our imposed structures and processes he just wants to cut to where we are hurting, show us his love and that he will heal us if we believe in him and let him. As a Church we shouldn’t get in his way but help support and follow up afterwards.
Awesome! I love that about God – often doing things upside down or back to front, full of great surprises. With an encounter like that with Christ, I am certain she must be enjoying her new adventure with him! What an exciting privilege for you.
yes it was a privilege … amazing …
and yes I don’t think he cares about are created structures…
the thing that really grabs me here is that Jesus didn’t even seem to care if she knew who he was not … mindblowing!!
Rob, this is amazing, thanks so much for sharing it!
Thinking about whether Jesus cares if she knew him or not, isn’t that the point of a lot of his words in the gospels (or even throughout scripture)? God seems to reveal himself slowly, on terms that we won’t necessarily recognise and that seem to have more to do with the person/people’s reception of him than any systematic doctrinal discourse. Maybe Jesus is more person-centred than us because he recognises the fact revelation is more valuable in that context.
yeh i think theres a lot of truth in what you say … but sadly there is a fear of allowing God to do what God does …. in this case illustrated by the (large) number of people who asked whether I gave something like ‘Why Jesus’ or prayed a prayer of commitment with her ….. structures!!!