I met Ahmed at the mall. I wasn’t looking to talk to him, but I was asking God that I be aware of anything He was doing around me. This isn’t something I do regularly. Its partly because I am often turned in to myself, only thinking and doing what relates to my little slice of the world. But, it is also due to the fact that God usually answers that prayer by showing me something He is doing. He interjects me into someone else’s little world, and a lot of times in my selfishness I don’t want to deal with that.
But in this instance, I was asking for it. I was leaning on Ahmed’s counter at his booth in the mall, watching the teenagers I was supervising. Ahmed asked if he could help me. I told him that I wasn’t looking for a watch, and then asked him some general questions, which he answered willingly. We introduced each other and shook hands.
Active Christians are really weird this way. We make a lot of eye contact, shake a lot of hands, and ask un-superficial questions. It is pretty annoying to the uninitiated, but it is also how humans were meant to be. I sometimes tell foreign exchange students how Americans often greet each other with “How’s it going.” This isn’t really a question at all. It is not meant to be answered, and the person asking it doesn’t want any answer other than, “Good, and you.”
But active Christians are always waiting around for a real answer. People aren’t used to that, and it makes them uncomfortable, and if they get past that, they often find it a breath of fresh air. It is how we are supposed to be.
But back to Ahmed…
After we shook hands, he must have known something was up, because he immediately asked me “What do you do?”
“I am a youth minister,” I said.
He looked at me and immediately (as if he was prepared) asked, “Do you ever feel the presence of God?”
I told him that I did, that sometimes it was very powerful and sometimes it was less so, but it was always there. In fact, sometimes it was almost overwhelming.
“What’s that like? Does it make you want to hurt people?”
“Umm..no. It is pretty much the opposite of that,” I said. And then I explained how I sometimes feel God’s love pouring over me like rain, letting me feel loved and making me want to love. “Do you ever feel that?” I asked.
I listened to him tell of his faith background and about his life. I suggested we pray together, and he let me. Although I couldn’t stay much longer after that, I promised I would see him again, and I have. He told me he’d have more questions, and he has. A couple days later I introduced him to my wife as we were cruising the mall food court to pick up free samples. He told my wife we were “soul buddies,” whatever that means.
I don’t know that I’m going to end up with Ahmed on one knee in the middle of the mall accepting Jesus sacrifice for his life. I don’t know that it will even make a massive difference in Ahmed’s life. I do know that Ahmed has reminded me that God is always at work around me, and that I like most Christians am too often dissolved into myself. Every little invasion by God into my life is disruptive to my reality, because that reality is wrapped up in myself. But also, every interruption reminds me that my reality is all too small and weak. I thank God for that.
*Ahmed’s name has been changed from his real name.