"I will never forget this as long as I live", said the student as he hugged and kissed me at the end of the exam.
Just half an hour before he had angrily stormed out, slamming furniture and disrupting the exam by arguing and raising his voice. Such disrespectful behaviour was once uncommon - after all, this is a culture whose prophet was said to highly esteem scholarship and educators. In this case I confronted him after suspecting him of communicating with another student in the exam. He returned, somewhat sorry, at the end of the exam to discuss it further and I found myself seeing him as God would. Although in his mid 20s he seemed like a little lost boy. As I felt compassion for him I steered our conversation away from the incident and sensed God directing the questions:
"Tell me about your family Yusuf… Are you the eldest son?"; "Do you feel that people have expectations of you that you can't meet?"; "Do you struggle to control your temper?"
He replied honestly and I felt led to tell him that he is loved by God no matter what he has or hasn’t done, no matter if he fails or succeeds. No matter what, his creator already knows all about him - the best and worst - and loves him anyway. As I told him he didn't have to do anything to earn God's love, that there was nothing he could do to make God love him more or less, and that his value is intrinsic, he teared up and thanked me profusely.
Often, when people ask us if we are seeing 'fruit' here, we forget to mention stories like this. They happen more often than we remember, both inside and outside of our family and home. Perhaps we're still conditioned by an institutional mindset which associates the kingdom with measurable 'results' and quantifiable 'decisions'. In reality Jesus' more organic metaphors, like the yeast in the dough, give us hope that his purposes through us here will be fulfilled - even if we don't always see, know or count it.
** Michael and Joy live in the Middle East and sent us this story recently. Names and places have been changed for security.**