Recently, I had a “moment” over coffee and croissants with a new Muslim friend. She is from Saudi Arabia, but for now she lives where I do.
The freshly baked, chocolate-filled pastries were delicious. We chatted about more stuff we loved to eat, particularly a rice dish she had recently cooked, called kabsa. Then she wanted to know if I liked lamb, one of her favorite foods. In broken English she lamented its scarcity and how expensive it is in the few stores that carry it. She managed to explain how she and her husband drive to a farm about two hours out of town, where they can purchase good lamb from a farmer who kindly sells to them. Then I watched as my friend’s thoughts inevitably veered toward her Saudi homeland, where her parents and her younger siblings still live. She began to share about her dad.
“My father…he take care…you know…the sheep. What’s is this name?”
I wasn’t sure I understood what she was trying to say, so I gave it my best shot. “You mean shepherd? Your father is a shepherd?” I could barely contain my hope for the direction this conversation was taking.
“Yes! This!” she exclaimed. She savored the word as she practiced it. “Shep-herd ….”
Slowly, a sentimental smile overtook her face. She looked into my eyes and said, “My father, he loves his sheep.”
Even now, like they did on that day, tears well up in my eyes when I recall her words. “My father, he loves his sheep.” Instantly, I felt Jesus right there, with us, lovingly guiding our conversation, drawing us both into His palpable presence with every word.
What a gift! In that moment I was able to share how God loves us like her dad loves his sheep. Initially, she appeared a bit startled by the analogy, but I watched as she listened and longed to see God in this new way. That I would compare God’s love to any father’s love comes dangerously close to blasphemy in Islam’s theology, but the whisper of her longing to know more spoke loudly in that divinely ordained moment.
Her phone rang. Her husband was caring for their infant son while we visited, and the baby needed mom. We hugged our farewells, and as she walked out the café doors, I thanked God for the path He had cleared for a conversation that we’ll certainly carry forward.
Hallelujah! The Lord, our shepherd, guides [our conversations] along right paths for His name’s sake, that we might “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Ps. 23