The aging Middle Eastern man closed the tattered book and for the first time in his life shared a joy he had never understood before. He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to visit a once forbidden place.
… Abdul al-Jabbaar’s mother was an unusual woman. Even as a young boy he could see his mother knew more about life and what followed it than anyone else in his village. Whatever token of true love and acceptance Abdul ever knew as a child came from his mother and the only time he had ever felt safe was with her.
Then came that fateful afternoon, after his father departed for business, when Abdul went into his mother’s closet looking for something; what he couldn’t remember. Hidden beneath some boxes and wrapped in a scarf was a small black book. The despised symbol of a cross stood out in gold on its spine mesmerizing his young imagination. Books were rare in the village so he ran with it in his hand outside to show the other children.
An uncle had stopped by to pay a visit and Abdul ran to greet him, “What is that you have there my nephew?” Abdul held the book up proudly for his uncle to see. The older man took the book and scanned a few pages. His face reddened and demeanor darkened. “Where did you find this?”
Abdul knew he must have done something wrong and didn’t want to incur the wrath of his uncle. So, he took him in the house and showed him where he found the book. Just as they were leaving the room Abdul’s mother walked in singing to herself as she always did. Seeing the book in the man’s hand his mother grew silent.
“Is this yours?” snarled the uncle.
“I will not lie,” answered his mother, “it is.”
Before Abdul could understand what grievous thing had been done he found himself following his mother as she was being drug to the local cleric’s home. He screamed for his uncle to let go of his mother but to no avail. A sister ran up and grabbed her brother’s hand motioning for him to be silent.
Within minutes the village was abuzz with news that Zafar al-Jabbaar’s wife was an infidel. Abdul looked on with horror as the men of the village stripped his mother of her outer garments and spit on her. A cleric demanded she recant of her evil. But his mother stood quietly, almost serenely amidst the insanity.
Abdul screamed and broke away from his sister. He ran crying toward his mother but was restrained by the uncle. The men stepped away turning their backs on her. An old woman stepped forward and spit in her face. Other women took off their sandals and began to beat her where she stood. Someone ran up with a pair of scissors and cut all of his mother’s beautiful hair. In a final act of degradation the women stripped Abdul’s mother to the waist and threw dust from the village square on her.
There stood his beautiful and loving mother. She crossed her arms over her chest trying to regain some degree of modesty and looked across the way to her son and daughter. And there it was, that look of shame overcome with what must be joy. His once beautiful mother now a nightmarish figure of dust, spittle and degradation was smiling at him. How could she rejoice in the face of such humiliation? He never understood … until now.
For years Abdul hid the book that had caused his mother’s disgrace and yet apparent triumph. At last he read the book and now he understood.
… He opened his eyes and smiled. His mother saw things no else saw because of that book and the One she saw in its words. And now, Abdul saw as well and rejoiced. And once more he read aloud those glorious words from his mother’s little black book with the gold cross on its spine.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”
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