“Would I bring you a stone if you asked for Bread, or would I bring you a serpent if you asked for fish? If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will I give to you, if you ask?” the King kept reminding the self-reliant Princess. He wanted her to have more faith in Him. (Matthew 7:9)
The Princess was used to fighting for everything she needed. She hung back from asking the King to provide because she did not want to be disappointed, although she was trying. Little by little she began to trust the King enough to relax her grip on money, and spend more on the household. One of her purchases was a fridge she bought from Ishmael, a friend at work. It was nearly new, but when she opened the door, she found he had not cleaned it.
At work the next day the Princess eyed Ishmael, who sat at the desk facing hers. Although the Princess called him by a different name, the name the King gave him was Ishmael, meaning “whom God hears.” Ishmael had escaped Iraq, which was still in the ruthless grip of the dictator Saddam Hussein. He was a moderate Moslem, not the hairy fundamentalist type with the waving finger. A gentle charming man with a ready laugh, he was liked and respected by all at work, even the bullies. For the Princess, he was a friendly face at work. She often teased him in a gentle manner. On this day her eyes caught and held his, as she gave him a mocking smile. “YOU have a fridge to clean” she told him. Ishmael gave her a guilty smile.
After work her mentor Princess Livia came around. Work was forgotten as they discussed the King. While cooking dinner the Princess explained her problem to Livia. “The King says He wants to give me good things, but I get a negative feeling when He tells me that. How can I get past it?” Princess Livia replied “That is a sign of a wounded spirit.”
Just then Ishmael arrived unexpectedly. She broke off her conversation with Livia and introduced them. Livia left, after raising her eyebrows at Ishmael’s presence. The Princess was annoyed at the lack of trust from her mentor Livia. She supposed her visitor was handsome but did not look at Ishmael that way. He was from a different kingdom altogether, not a man she could be interested in, and he was married – or separated. His wife had left for Australia six months before and refused to come back to New Zealand. She couldn’t blame his wife for preferring to live in Australia. Since Ishmael had arrived at mealtime, she added a plate of food for him. “I hope you like good old English cooking. You are lucky we are not having pork” she said as he joined them at the table. Ishmael smiled and pointed at the sign on the wall called ‘Mum’s rules’, which read “I have made it, and you will eat it, and you will like it”. “I would eat it” he promised. “Then you are a bad moslem!” she joked.
After the children were put to bed she made Ishmael help with the dishes. It was soon obvious he had never cleaned a dish in his life. As they were laughing about the suds going everywhere, he suddenly lifted his arms out of the sink and soundly kissed her. Taken by surprise, the Princess allowed the kiss, which she found to be very agreeable. Tightening his arms around her, Ishmael confessed he had grown to love her. Confused, she said “What? When did that happen?” Her head was reeling. Ishmael told of all the good he found in her and the day he had fallen in love. How could it be? “I do not believe you!” she added, retreating into denial.
“It’s true. I went to Canberra for you!” he insisted. Stunned and blind-sided, her mind flashed back to Canberra. It would have been a wasted trip to Canberra for him, as she had not paid him much attention. The Princess thought he had come over to Canberra for a holiday, to stay with other people on her team. On his arrival in Australia, she remembered that she had asked him to come down from Sydney on the same Friday night bus as her children. As he greeted her at the bus station she remembered he said she looked beautiful. The Princess thought he was just being polite. After greeting him happily she had immediately switched her attention to her children. He had been in her peripheral vision after that.
The pieces of the puzzle were rapidly assembled in her mind. How had she not seen this! How could she have been so blind?
Now she fought a fire that Ishmael wanted to fan, smothering flames of desire that crept up unwanted and uninvited. This was no fire to warm herself by. The dishes and the fridge were forgotten as her body threatened to turn traitor. Although Ishmael held her close, he did not have her heart or her mind. If he had not been married, and if he belonged to the Kingdom, it would have been easy for her liking to turn to love.
If, if. It was the most futile word in the world. She would not allow herself to go there. He was married, even if his wife had left him six months ago. That knowledge did not stop them embracing. She knew she was supposed to run from this situation, but there was nowhere to go. She was at home and her children were sleeping. She eventually made him go home and exhaling, went back to the pile of dishes in the kitchen. Shaken and tired, she left the dishes in the sink, and had a quick talk to the King. “What was THAT all about? Where did that come from? Have I ever flirted with him, or encouraged him?” The question was directed as much at herself, as it was the King. Then anger came, replacing astonishment. “This really sucks. He is leaving for Australia where he will go back to his wife, but he wants me too! How could he do this to me? I should despise him for this. He is just like all the rest” she said sourly.
The King replied “Listen, he means no harm to you. He is vulnerable, and thinking only of himself. This has come about through his wife not coming back. He is a bird away from his nest, and he will fly off.
“Like a bird that strays from its nest, is a man who is away from his home.” Proverbs 27:8
The Princess frowned. “He said he was home, as he took me in his arms.” she replied, pushing down unwanted feelings. “He is drawn to me and the Kingdom within,” the King replied, shaking His head. “He is very wrong to think I would allow this. Stay away from him.”
For the next two nights, the wary Princess kept her distance from Ishmael. It was weird at work, they were very attracted to one another, yet no-one noticed the changed and charged atmosphere between them. At the end of each day she bolted for home.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18
Ishmael’s last night came. The Princess relented and allowed him to come over to say goodbye. She did not know how she felt about him. Their spirits recognised each other. She had always felt a bond with him as they were both children of Abraham. He was a true son of Ishmael, whereas she was adopted into the line of Isaac. He respected the King as a Prophet, but had never heard of salvation.
They discussed having a relationship. Even if he did not return to his wife, they were from different faiths and Kingdoms. Although Ishmael revered his God, he could not understand how the Princess could hear from her God. In spite of believing her book the Bible had been changed, he was prepared to accept her as a fellow believer in God. He thought their spiritual descent from Abraham and united belief in God would be enough. She knew it wouldn’t.
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
The righteousness that is by faith says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart; that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:5-9
The Princess did her best to explain what Ishmael as a moslem had not been taught, his need for salvation. Even though he could not be hers, she wanted him for the King who she wished he would someday believe in. Every time the word ‘love’ came up she had a problem. He was very attractive but she guarded her heart and kept herself safe. The Princess knew that discipline weighed an ounce, but regret weighed a ton. She exercised self-control and said ‘no’ to Ishmael.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality: that each of you should learn to control their own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in a passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God: And in this matter no-one should wrong a person or take advantage of them. 1 Thessalonians 4:3
The Princess had to admit that Ishmael made her feet good again as a woman. In the desert of her heart, this was an oasis. The dry and thirsty land of her soul found refreshment from his words and embrace. “You are like water for me in a desert” she said to Ishmael, as she drank his attention up. For just a little while, she no longer felt alone.
The Princess watched him leave in the winter’s dawn. “My King, go with him. Forgive us for our weakness for each other. May he come to know what you did for him on the cross, and put his trust in you”.