Jinn and Tonic
Updated: May 17, 2019
God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. -Genesis 21:6 Sarah, when her son was born. Isaac means Laughter.
Khaled I found out what my name means from Khaled. He'd asked his question as if it were casual conversation: "My name means Immortal. What does your name mean?" I told him that my name means nothing. The message was sent in print, so I can't say that I heard him smirk. But I felt it in the message that came next. "Uhh...actually, it does have meaning. Your name means demons. Like a big group of them." "What?" "Jinn is a demon. Your name is the plural. What's the word for that? A big group of demons?" "Like a legion?" "Yes! A legion." I paused. "Oh hey but don't worry! It's probably only a small legion. Like maybe just 40 or 50."
Daniel Daniel wanted to meet some Jinn. We didn't know that when he ended up in the car with us. He was sick and he needed a ride home from the hospital. On the way back, we got a call from Abdul. He asked us to stop by his house; he and his wife were waiting. We went, with Daniel still with us. When Daniel heard Abdul speak in Arabic, he looked at us in surprise: "I want that." "You want to speak Arabic?" we asked. "Yeah. I need to know that language so I can talk to the Jinn," he said. In the English language, Jinn has been commonly translated to mean genie — and portrayed as a fictional spirit that can grant wishes if mastered. But Daniel's concept wasn't drawn from American pop culture, but from Islam. He wanted to seek out Satan, the first Jinn (Surah 18:50). (Strangely, he'd also taken the Islamic concept that all prayer should happen in Arabic, and had also applied it to seeking demons.) As we got to know Daniel better, we came to understand why he ran to them.
Daniel believed that his being was so defined by evil — both what had been done to him, and what he had done — that his only hope was in embracing darkness. No matter where that led. He wanted power, immortality, and dignity: Satan promised it all.
Daniel might have ended up as another tragic story told on the news. But God intervened.
I remember the expression on Daniel's face when he understood and accepted the gospel.
The look in his eyes of almost boyish fear and wild hope as he listened: the relief that seemed to visibly pour over him as he prayed; his hushed voice as he said "Amen."
I remember the hours he spent in prayer, naming and repenting of sin, asking God to break all ties to darkness. I remember his baptism, and the days and months that came directly after, as Daniel struggled to "take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [him]."
I remember the day that he tore up his old drawings of himself in demonized states, and showed us a drawing that represented God's rescue and love instead.
But what I remember most of all God's awesome display of joy that came right after Daniel came to Christ.
We had stopped by the church office so that he could tell the pastors that he was saved. We'd been waiting for them to finish a prayer meeting, and he tried to make a coffee from the Keurig set up in the office. Nothing happened. The woman in the waiting area said she was sorry: she'd forgotten to pour in water that morning. It was empty. She pulled out the container to fill it. We said it was okay, that we didn't need any. And then suddenly, coffee started pouring out of the spout — not just dripping out, but overflowing, running over the top of the cup. (The pastors came out and saw us staring at the coffee cup in Daniel's hand, all frozen and laughing in surprise. They asked what was going on. "I just got saved. And I feel so high," he had said. Then, seeing their faces, he laughed and tried to clarify: "Not literally. I'm happy. I'm just happy. . .") We drove back to our house to celebrate more. There was a birthday cake — our attempt to symbolize his new life in Christ. We stood in the kitchen, getting plates. Daniel asked us to turn on another light. It was so dim in the room; the overhead bulbs were almost all burnt out, and the only one that was left kept flickering on and off. My husband wanted to give Daniel his gift first — a Bible. In the exact moment he took it in his hands, the lights burst on. Daniel laughed. "I have seen the light...And my cup runneth over." God's symbols were so much better than ours.
A Second Khaled Another man named Khaled contacted my husband. He was an activist, and he wanted us to help raise awareness about how dogs are treated in his country. He told us about acid being thrown on them in the streets. He said that there's a plan being made to send street dogs to South Korea to be eaten as meat. He wanted my husband to support a campaign to put pressure on the government by using tourism as leverage. By some strange coincidence, Korean "meat dogs" had just been brought to our city for rescue. We'd gone to the shelter to play with them; we'd hoped to bring one home. Instead, we'd signed the papers for a feral dog that we later learned had just been flown in from Saudi Arabia. By then, we had learned a little about what Islam teaches about dogs. It had started when we'd looked into renting from a Moroccan landlord. We had asked if you can have a pet dog in any apartments available. His first answer was subtle: "Mohammad had a cat." Then, after we asked again, a more direct answer: "Angels can't come in your house if you have a dog. They're evil" (Sahih Muslim 5428; Bukhari 4, 448; Bukhari 7, 843, and more). The landlord had waited a second and then asked us to clarify: "How big is your dog?" "So small," we had said. "Maybe 15 pounds."
"Oh!" he'd said. "Fifteen pounds? Then he's only a little bit evil. Don't worry."
(A small Legion with a small dog: the perfect tenants.) This one was much bigger than our first dog. Not a little evil; a lot evil. She'd been dangerous when we got her. It was so pronounced — her behavior was so unnatural, even for an abused animal — that my husband had thought of the tormented man of Gerasene: Legion, whose demons had filled the pigs. But we thought of Jonah 4:11 — of God, whose compassion is big enough even to extend to animals — and we'd prayed over her in the name of Jesus.
And God gave a miracle.
Like light spoken into darkness — she had been released. We saw relief pour over her and we felt a rush of that same awe and joy that we'd experienced when Daniel held his coffee cup, overflowing, and the darkened room turned bright — when we could almost hear God rejoicing over his son.
Rescued from darkness; his cup pouring over. My husband smiled. There was so much he wanted to tell Khaled.