Through the Curtain
It was a stupid thing to do. Our instructors at the Institute of World Mission did their best to prepare me; I should have known better. But the fact is that I put my husband into a situation where another man had the legal right to kill him on the spot.
When we arrived in Pakistan to teach at a Christian college, I was eager to conform to the customs of my host country. I learned to stand back respectfully as my husband bargained with shopkeepers in the local bazaar for our fruits and vegetables. I adjusted my tastes to the unfamiliar flavors of golden curries, spicy dals, and flat breads. I set aside my western wardrobe and replaced it with the modest shalwar-kameez, an outfit consisting of a knee-length tunic over loose-fitting pants worn by the women of Pakistan.
Soon after we arrived, a Pakistani teacher led me out the compound gate and a block or two down the street to Sofia’s house. Sofia was a young Muslim mother who sat on the floor of her inner sanctum creating magic with her sewing machine. She was known to all as the “lady tailor.”
Lifting the curtain and stepping into the courtyard, my friend explained that I needn’t knock. “Just enter, then wait to be acknowledged,” she said.
The morning sun filtered into the central courtyard, which was open to the rooms of the house. An attractive young woman sat in the corner holding her new baby. She sent one of her children to lead us to her.
A smile spread across her face as she caressed the silky fabric and studied the pictures I held out to her. She nodded approvingly and through my translator I learned that I could return for the finished outfit at a specified time. This scene was repeated on a number of occasions as my wardrobe grew to cover my needs.
“Don’t ever leave the compound without an escort,” I was often cautioned. So I always found a friend to accompany me and to translate for me. It would be against local custom for a woman to walk through the streets of the village alone.
After one such visit, I recounted the wonders of that Pakistani home to my husband. “You really need to see it,” I enthused. “Why don’t you go with me when I pick up my order?”
I chattered to my husband as we walked down the street to the lady tailor’s home, completely unaware of the terrible mistake we were about to make.
I pulled the curtain aside as I had been taught to do and stepped inside, waiting for my husband to follow. He did. From the other side of the courtyard, we heard a commotion. We turned to see the women of the house falling to the floor and throwing blankets over themselves.
From underneath her blanket, Sofia called out orders to an older son. He hurried over to my husband, took him politely by the arm, and led him out to the shop in front of the house where his father was working.
Then I remembered something I had heard at the Institute of World Mission. In a Muslim country, if a man enters the women’s quarters of another man’s house and sees the wife without her proper coverings, the husband has the right to kill the intruder on the spot! Fortunately for us, Sofia’s husband chose to treat our mistake with forgiveness and grace, assuming our ignorance.
I can tell you from that experience that there are some curtains in this world through which not everyone can enter. But there is one curtain that is open to anyone—male, female, old, or young—yes, anyone who desires the help of our gracious God.
Hebrews 10:19 (NIV) says: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”
So don’t hesitate. Just enter in and wait to be acknowledged. Let God, the Master Tailor, create beautiful things in your life.