Eph 1 Father
Part 1 – when Baptism party present.
That night I retired to my bedroom planning to read and meditate. I took the Bible with me and settled among the soft white pillows of my bed. Once again I leafed through its pages and read another puzzling passage:
But Israel, following the Law of righteousness, failed to reach the goal of righteousness.
Ah, I thought. Just as the Quran said; the Jews had missed the mark. The writer of these passages might have been a Muslim, I thought, for he continued to speak of the people of Israel as not knowing God's righteousness.
For the secret is very near you, in your own heart, in your own mouth. . . . If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I put the book down again, shaking my head. This directly contradicted the Quran. Muslims knew the prophet Jesus was human, that he did not die on the cross but was whisked up to heaven by God and a look-alike put on the cross instead. Now sojourning in a lesser heaven, this Jesus will someday return to earth to reign for forty years, marry, have children, and then die. In fact, I heard that there is a special grave plot kept vacant for the man's remains in Medina, the city where Muhammad is also buried. At the Resurrection Day, Jesus will rise and stand with other men to be judged before God Almighty. But this Bible said Christ was raised from the dead. It was either blasphemy or. . . .
My mind whirled. I knew that whoever called upon the name of Allah would be saved. But to believe that Jesus Christ is Allah? Even Muhammad, the final and greatest of the messengers of God, the Seal of the Prophets, was only a mortal.
I lay back on my bed, my hand over my eyes. If the Bible and Quran represent the same God, why is there so much confusion and contradiction? How could it be the same God if the God of the Quran is one of vengeance and punishment and the God of the Christian Bible is one of mercy and forgiveness? I don't know when I fell asleep. Normally I never dream, but this night I did. The dream was so lifelike, the events in it so real, that I found it difficult the next morning to believe they were only fantasy. Here is what I saw.
I found myself having supper with a man I knew to be Jesus. He had come to visit me in my home and stayed for two days. He sat across the table from me and in peace and joy we ate dinner together. Suddenly, the dream changed. Now I was on a mountaintop with another man. He was clothed in a robe and shod with sandals. How was it that I mysteriously knew his name, too? John the Baptist. What a strange name. I found myself telling this John the Baptist about my recent visit with Jesus. "The Lord came and was my guest for two days," I said. "But now He is gone. Where is He? I must find Him! Perhaps you, John the Baptist, will lead me to Him?"
That was the dream. When I woke up I was loudly calling the name, "John the Baptist! John the Baptist!" Nurjan and Raisham rushed into my room. They seemed embarrassed at my shouting and began fussily to prepare my toilette. I tried to tell them about my dream as they worked.
"Oh, how nice," giggled Nur-jan as she presented my tray of perfumes.
"Yes, it was a blessed dream," murmured Raisham as she brushed my hair.
I was surprised that as a Christian, Raisham wouldn't be more excited. I started to ask her about John the Baptist but checked myself; after all, Raisham was just a simple village woman. But who was this John the Baptist? I had not come across the name in what I had read so far in the Bible.
For the next three days I continued reading both the Bible and the Quran side by side, turning from one to the other. I found myself picking up the Quran out of a sense of duty, and then eagerly turning to the Christian book, dipping into it here and there to look into this confusing new world I had discovered. Each time I opened the Bible a sense of guilt filled me. Perhaps this stemmed from my strict upbringing. Even after I had become a young woman, Father would have to approve any book I read. Once my brother and I smuggled a book into our room. Even though it was completely innocent, we were quite frightened, reading it.
Now as I opened the Bible, I found myself reacting in the same manner. One story riveted my attention. It told of the Jewish leaders bringing a woman caught in adultery to the prophet Jesus. I shivered, knowing what fate lay in store for this woman. The moral codes of the ancient East were not very different from ours in Pakistan. The men of the community are bound by tradition to punish the adulterous woman. As I read of the woman in the Bible standing before her accusers, I knew that her own brothers, uncles and cousins stood in the forefront, ready to stone her.
Then the Prophet said: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone (John 8:7).
I reeled as in my mind's eye I watched the men slink away. Instead of supervising her lawful death, Jesus had forced her accusers to recognize their own guilt. The book fell into my lap as I lay there deep in thought. There was something so logical, so right about this prophet's challenge. The man spoke truth.
Then three days later I had a second strange dream:
I was in the bedchamber when a maid announced that a perfume salesman was waiting to see me. I arose from my divan elated, for at this time there was a shortage of imported perfumes in Pakistan. I greatly feared running low on my favorite luxury. And so in my dream I happily asked my maid to show the perfume salesman in.
He was dressed in the manner of perfume salesmen in my mother's day when these merchants traveled from house to house selling their wares. He wore a black frock coat and carried his stock in a valise. Opening the valise, he took out a golden jar. Removing the cap, he handed it to me. As I looked at it, I caught my breath; the perfume glimmered like liquid crystal. I was about to touch my finger to it when he held up his hand.
"No," he said. Taking the golden jar he walked over and placed it on my bedside table. "This will spread throughout the world," he said.
As I awakened in the morning, the dream was still vivid in my mind. The sun was streaming through the window, and I could still smell that beautiful perfume; its delightful fragrance filled the room. I raised up and looked at my bedside table, half expecting to see the golden jar there.
Instead, where the jar had been, now rested the Bible!
A tingle passed through me. I sat on the edge of the bed pondering my two dreams. What did they mean? Where I had not dreamed in years, now I had two vivid dreams in a row. Were they related to each other? And were they related to my recent brush with the realities of the supernatural world?
That afternoon I went for my usual stroll in the garden. I was still bemused by my dreams. But now something else was added. It was as if I felt a strange delight and joy, a peace beyond anything I had ever known before. It was as if I were close to the Presence of God. Suddenly, as I stepped out of a grove into a sun-flooded open area, the air around me seemed to be alive with another lovely fragrance. It wasn't the fragrance of flowers—it was too late for any of the garden to be in bloom—but a very real fragrance nonetheless.
In some agitation I returned to the house. Where did that fragrance come from? What was happening to me? Who could I talk to about what was happening to me? It would have to be someone with a knowledge of the Bible.
Part 2 – for later in the service. Returning from Mission hospital run by Christian nuns
We drove up the lane, Manzur sounding the horn. The servants ran out and surrounded the car. "Is the little one well?" they all asked at once.
Yes, I assured them, Mahmud was fine. But my mind was not on homecoming formalities. It was on this new way to find God. I went to my bedroom to consider all that had been happening. No Muslim, I felt certain, ever thought of Allah as his father. Since childhood, I had been told that the surest way to know about Allah was to pray five times a day and study and think on the Quran. Yet Dr. Santiago's words came to me again. "Talk to God. Talk to Him as if He were your father."
Alone in my room I got on my knees and tried to call Him "Father." But it was a useless effort and I straightened in dismay. It was ridiculous. Wouldn't it be sinful to try to bring the Great One down to our own level? I fell asleep that night more confused than ever.
Hours later I awoke. It was after midnight, my birthday, December 12.1 was 54 years old. I felt a momentary excitement, a carryover from childhood when birthdays were festivals with brass bands on the lawns, games and relatives coming to the house all day. Now, there would be no celebration, perhaps a few phone calls, nothing more.
Oh, how I had missed those childhood days. I thought of my parents as I liked to remember them best. Mother, so loving, so regal and beautiful. And Father. I had been so proud of him, with his high posts in the Indian government. I could still see him, impeccably dressed, adjusting his turban at the mirror before leaving for his office. The friendly eyes under bushy brows, the gentle smile, the chiseled features and aquiline nose.
One of my cherished memories was seeing him at work in the study. Even in a society where sons were more highly regarded than daughters, Father prized his children equally. Often, as a little girl, I would have a question to ask him and I would peek at him from around the door of his office, hesitant to interrupt. Then his eye would catch mine. Putting down his pen, he would lean back in his chair and call out, "Keecha?" Slowly, I would walk into the study, my head down. He would smile and pat the chair next to his. "Come, my darling, sit here." Then, placing his arm around me, he would draw me to him. "Now, my little Keecha," he would ask gently, "what can I do for you?"
It was always the same with Father. He didn't mind if I bothered him. Whenever I had a question or problem, no matter how busy he was, he would put aside his work to devote his full attention just to me.
It was well past midnight as I lay in bed savoring this wonderful memory. "Oh, thank You . . ." I murmured to God. Was I really talking to Him?
Suddenly, a breakthrough of hope flooded me. Suppose, just suppose God were like a father. If my earthly father would put aside everything to listen to me, wouldn't my heavenly Father. . . ?
Shaking with excitement, I got out of bed, sank to my knees on the rug, looked up to heaven and in rich new understanding called God "my Father."
I was not prepared for what happened. "0 Father, my Father . . . Father God."
Hesitantly, I spoke His name aloud. I tried different ways of speaking to Him. And then, as if something broke through for me I found myself trusting that He was indeed hearing me, just as my earthly father had always done.
"Father, 0 my Father God," I cried, with growing confidence. My voice seemed unusually loud in the large bedroom as I knelt on the rug beside my bed. But suddenly that room wasn't empty any more. He was there! I could sense His Presence. I could feel His hand laid gently on my head. It was as if I could see His eyes, filled with love and compassion. He was so close that I found myself laying my head on His knees like a little girl sitting at her father's feet. For a long time I knelt there, sobbing quietly, floating in His love. I found myself talking with Him, apologizing for not having known Him before. And again, came His loving compassion, like a warm blanket settling around me.
Now I recognized this as the same loving Presence I had met that fragrance-filled afternoon in my garden. The same Presence I had sensed often as I read the Bible.
"I am confused, Father," I said. "I have to get one thing straight right away." I reached over to the bedside table where I kept the Bible and the Quran side by side. I picked up both books and lifted them, one in each hand. "Which, Father?" I said. "Which one is Your book?"
Then a remarkable thing happened. Nothing like it had ever occurred in my life in quite this way. For I heard a voice inside my being, a voice that spoke to me as clearly as if I were repeating words in my inner mind. They were fresh, full of kindness, yet at the same time full of authority.
In which book do you meet Me as your Father?
I found myself answering: "In the Bible." That's all it took. Now there was no question in my mind which one was His book. I looked at my watch and was astonished to discover that three hours had passed. Yet I was not tired. I wanted to go on praying, I wanted to read the Bible, for I knew now that my Father would speak through it.