“The True God must really care for your son!” I approached my friend in his clothing shop to take some advice and medicine to him to help with a pesky rash his son had been battling. I had it all worked out – I was going to tell him about how I had been to a graduation ceremony, 50,000 people in attendance at a huge stadium, I looked up and there was an old friend … who happens to be a dermatologist! What are the odds if you don’t factor in supernatural help to make such a connection?!? I was going to follow this up with the story of how I connected with this consultant, how this demonstrates the True Lord’s care for all His creation and how that care explains why he wants to have a real, deep relationship with my friend.
Well, man makes plans and God carries them out. My friend was too distracted by social media to listen to anything I had to say. I was relegated to a chair and a cup of tea, sipping and watching while he went back and forth with friends I couldn’t see, connected via an online chat room. My only interaction was through sound byte comments I was able to slip in when he came up for air. We have a number of tools to help us share The Truth with Muslims, they all require the Muslim to pay attention for longer than a few second between voice chat messages.
The advantage of being set aside was I was able to pray. I sat there angry and disappointed and shared that with the Father. I noticed my friend’s tattoo and looked at it trying to discern what it depicted. I asked him about it during one of my opportunities get a word in. He set down his phone and began to tell me the story of his youth. How 20 years ago (yes, social media addiction is not reserved for the young!), when he was in his 20s he was a bit of a wild child. Long hair, running with his buddies, doing questionable things. One of those questionable things was getting that tattoo. He and his buddies tattooed themselves (probably explains why the image was indistinct) one night while making questionable choices. He told me that self tattoo-ing is common in prison (though he said he wasn’t a convict) and the countryside (where he grew up). That tattoo is on the outer aspect of his left forearm, very obvious during summer months. This leads to his problem – it is not acceptable for a Muslim to have a tattoo, when he goes to the mosque to pray the elder men all criticize and judge him. He regrets ever making that choice. The Father brought to mind a story about a man who made a bad choice, a single bad choice and then had to pay the price for it – him and the rest of humanity. That phone stayed on the table while we talked about Adam and how one choice can lead to long term consequences.
In community health we have a concept of “learner centered” training – start where the learner is, build on what they know. I went into this situation with an agenda, my agenda. My friend wasn’t interested in my agenda but the Father had another opportunity, I thank Him for being patient with me and obvious with me when He had a plan for that morning’s interaction with my friend.
I told my friend I would check with my dermatologist friend about getting that tattoo removed, is it even possible? I admit I hope it is never removed – I want him to look at that tattoo and think about Eden, about what life with the True Lord could be and about the consequences one sin can have.