I first met Heather at an Adult Forum hosted by her mosque where I’d been invited to speak about Jesus. Asked to take off my shoes at the door, I later learned that this is a reminder that just like Moses, we too were standing on holy ground. Why don’t we do this at church? I still wonder.
Everyone at the mosque welcomed me with warm words and appreciative smiles. I gave a twenty minute talk after which the President of the mosque invited questions. From the back row someone asked about the Trinity.
With a class or two under my belt about this sibling religion, I knew Christianity and Islam held the entirety of the Old Testament, Abraham as a father and even most of the stories about Jesus in common. But in Islam, “one” really means “one”, so the divinity of Jesus and the Christian doctrine of the Trinity are the line in the sand when it comes to inter-faith dialogue.
Gulping- I remembered someone using an egg to describe the Trinity to a Sunday School class because an egg has three parts but it’s still one. I gave it a try. As I looked out among the assembly everyone’s face was expressionless except for one, beautiful young woman in the second row who rolled her eyes. And that was Heather.
Later I found out that Heather had probably been in a class where an egg was produced to describe the Trinity. Born and raised in town, she had grown up in the local, Catholic Church. Discovering this is what led me to invite her to my church at another Adult Forum to talk about her conversion. She filled half the room with friends from the mosque. Her fifth grade teacher, a beloved member of my choir and her mother, a devout member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church were in the small crowd of Christians who gathered to hear what Heather had to say which was both simple and compelling: when she discovered Islam her faith came alive.
The word Muslim means “submitter to God”. This vocation has taken on new meaning Heather in recent months. Now in her thirties with four small children, she has been hospitalized with a serious heart condition.
When I visited Heather she shared a Surah (chapter) of the Quran that has shaped her experience, so far, of her illness.
“Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad))?
And removed from you your burden
Which weighted down your back?
And raised high your fame?
So verily, with the hardship, there is relief”
Heather relayed how, one after another, friends, neighbors and strangers have brought her relief in conversations and gifts to carry her and her family through this time. And in her illness Heather has had no choice but to submit, to let go of what she has no control over and although it’s been painful and frightening, hand everything over to God. She added, “You can’t experience this without loss or suffering.”
In the morning when I wash back up on the shore of time, when I’m not late I hold my whole life up and try to look at it like someone who’s picked up a shell on a beach and ask: Have I lived like someone who is moving ever day towards a vacuum of nothingness or completion? And since I can’t fix this broken world, but believe in someone who can, have I submitted myself to his will and love?
Stewardship is that question. It’s a question any person of faith is asked to answer again each day in the flood of mundane tasks, news, worries, hopes, opportunities to risk and to share: What will you do with your life? Will you throw this day away or give back to God?
Thank you God for all of the Heathers you send our way who in their lives ask us this question.