Far·zin (noun) – learned
Farzin pulled into the grocery store parking lot. His feet felt heavy as he walked inside to buy some barbari (bread). His wife Nayyar was waiting at home with a home-cooked meal, but Farzin wasn’t thinking about ghorma sabzi (spinach entrée). The only thing on his mind was the question he had been asking himself since last March.
What will happen to me on Judgment Day?
Last Nowruz, he had taken his family across the Iranian border to a neighboring city for vacation. Those few days turned his world upside down. Halfway through the week, an American who knew a few words of Farsi walked up to him, kindly greeted he and his family, and then gave him the Book of John.
That book, he sighed as he entered the crowded grocery store. That wondrous, precious book!
“It is a gift – hediyeh,” the American had said.
Yes, Farzin gulped, A gift that changed everything. He checked his rising emotions and made his way to the bakery section.
Farzin placed himself in a line of about 15 people. The aroma of fresh barbari brought Jesus’ words to his mind: “I am the bread of life.” Farzin felt the familiar tug of hope, a longing that arose whenever he thought about the words of Jesus or read His words in the Book.
He was amazed that he could read the words Jesus actually spoke. He had always loved Jesus as a prophet. But there was an authority that emanated from the words of Jesus. It left him in awe…
… and also with questions.
The line moved quickly. He noticed a modestly-dressed woman in her 70’s kindly chatting with the other women. The smell of saffron spice wafted from her clothes. His own mother seemed to wear saffron like perfume when she cooked with it, too. Though not a real perfume, it was the aroma of Iran.
He couldn’t hear what she was saying, but the ladies around her listened attentively. He supposed they were receiving motherly wisdom, a gift shared generously among Iranian women. Oh that my father were alive to help me now, wished Farzin as his thoughts drifted back to Jesus.
It was his turn in line when familiar questions barged in on him:
Is God really a Father who wants a relationship with me? Why did God allow Jesus to die on the cross? Did Jesus rise from the dead? If judgment was given to Jesus, would Jesus then judge him? Is Jesus the Savior of the world? What will happen to me on Judgment Day?
The questions weighed heavily, and a now familiar sense of desperation filled him. He picked up the barbari, still warm from the oven, and paid the baker.
He wandered over to the tea and coffee aisle, only vaguely aware of his surroundings. “Dear God,” he whispered, “I need to know the answer.”
He had kept the growing hunger for answers a secret from his wife and two children. He kept his fear of dying and the coming judgement stowed away, hidden from their knowledge. They had no idea how agonizing his thoughts were at night. They did not see his tears of anguish, his pressing fear that he was failing as the spiritual leader of his family. In the wee hours of the morning, he was driven from his bed to that precious book Book of John. With a yearning heart, he read the words over and over again.
Farzin wove through the crowd and turned the corner to aisle 3.
“I cannot go home and face my family with these unanswered questions pressing upon me,” he continued to plead to God. “I cannot hide this anymore. If you want me to know the way, then tell me. Show me the answer to my question. What will I do on Judgement Day?”
As far as he could see, there was no hope offered in Islam, only the gaping emptiness between humanity and a distant God. There was no assurance of eternal life.
And Farzin hungered for assurance. He hungered for hope.
He stared at the tea packages, not quite seeing them as his eyes blurred with tears. He stood motionless in the aisle, when suddenly he caught a waft of saffron. The same elderly woman from the bread line stood beside him, and she wasn’t looking at the tea. She was facing him, looking right into his eyes.
She reached into her oversized tan purse without moving her eyes from his face. Her keen eyes smiled joyfully as she pulled out a small, colorful pamphlet.
“This is your answer, son,” she stated. Farzin hardly knew what was happening, but before he realized what he was doing, he accepted the pamphlet from her hands. She didn’t stay for a reply; instead, she left him as quickly as she had come and took the scent of saffron with her.
He discreetly eyed the pamphlet. On one side was a sketching of Jesus on the cross and on the other, an empty tomb. These words were emblazoned on the middle of the pictures:
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
How did she know?! Farzin’s eyes grew round, and he hastily stuffed the pamphlet inside his jacket. Surely the woman was a Christian, a believer in Jesus. And surely, Farzin paused as he saw no sign of the woman in the crowded store, Surely it was God Himself speaking!
The lights in the grocery store parking lot were beginning to glow amidst the August dusk when Farzin walked quickly to his car. His hands shook, and his 55-year-old heart pounded against his ribcage. He was incredulous, absolutely stunned, that God would speak so clearly! Yet if Jesus really is the Savior of the world, and if God is really so loving, then wouldn’t He want me to know?
Farzin opened his car door and quickly got in. It was so quiet compared to the bustle of the store. He sat still while all his thoughts, questions, and emotions centered on one reality: God was giving him an answer. He pulled out the pamphlet; the words were unmistakably clear. He read them again and again, they poured over his hungry heart like warm honey.
Eventually, Farzin closed the pamphlet and leaned his head back. He breathed in slowly and exhaled in relief. Hope melted all the fear and doubt that had plagued him for the last five months. Farzin’s hands were no longer shaking. He was calm, peaceful even.
The answer is Jesus… My Jesus. My Savior.
Laughter bubbled up. Or was it praise? How thankful he was that God was not distant! He was right here, providing answers! Jesus was his hope! He was saved! He didn’t need to fear judgment day. What could he possibly fear when such powerful hope existed? God no longer seemed distant; Farzin sensed His nearness, His presence.
At that moment, his phone chimed with a text message. He picked it up from the passenger’s seat and felt himself tilt him back to reality.
The message was from his wife Nayyar, “Are you still at the store, my dear? I hope the barbari is fresh! We are waiting for you.”
Dearest Nayyar, Farzin closed his eyes, What will you say when I tell you I have become a believer in Jesus?
How can we pray?
Just as Farzin’s name indicates, he learns the answer to his question. Today, let’s pray for:
- Iranians who have had (or will have) divine interactions with Christians this week, both inside and outside of Iran.
- Iranians who are seeking answers to their questions. Pray that they not only ask God to reveal Himself but also recognize when He answers them.
- Those who are spiritually starving. May they encounter the Bread of Life!