The seed that finally sprung to life

“Some planted, others watered, but God alone has made that seed of faith in me, that was dead and buried deep inside, finally spring to life and grow.”

Dear Glynanne, Asma, Andre and Olive

Glynanne, my Christian friend, it’s been around 30 years since we first met at school.  

Asma, you were my beloved sister. I lost you to cancer, and Jesus first spoke to me at your bedside.  

Andre, my husband and best friend – a beautiful Christian.  

Olive, such a little baby and you lived for only 46 days. Yet, your mom and dad, Nobahle and Chris, showed such strength through the grace of God.  I don’t know if I’ve ever let each of them know what a profound impact you had on me, and to thank you?

You see, I was born in Alexandra Township, in the turbulent 70’s, into a Muslim family. My name Zeynab is of Arabic origin and means Father’s precious jewel. I practised Islam growing up, fasted in the month of Ramadan, attended Muslim school and even learned parts of the Quran by heart.

But religion, all religions, didn’t sit too well with me. My family was broken and dysfunctional.  Screaming and violence was the norm. Asma, you were with me in those struggles – loving me and trying your best to protect me. Although I always tried to be and do good as a means to earn approval and love, my life never got any easier. I was sure there couldn’t be a God. On one desperately dark day, as a young teen, I even tried to take my own life. Little did I know, a few years later, my mom’s second husband would take his own life… another severe trauma in my life.      

I met you, Glynanne, when we were 12 years old. All the kids shunned you because of your religion.  Somehow though, we became best friends. Yours was the first Christian family I really got to know. In many respects, it was the first functional family I ever got up close with.  Over the many meals I shared with your family, we’d discuss what happened in our days, we’d talk about virtues and values, and we’d dream about our futures. I felt so included, and loved. Your folks would often ask me what I wanted to become one day.  I always knew I wanted to get out and go far away – but my future? I hadn’t thought about that before…

Those casual conversations may have felt desperately normal to you – but they were life changing for me. Through the momentum of dreaming kick-started around your dinner table, I applied to UCT for BA Law, got accepted and even sponsored. It was here, in my first week of university that I met my now husband, Andre. He hailed from Malmesbury and was Afrikaans speaking. I was terrible at Afrikaans, yet we clicked and have been together ever since. 24 years! My Afrikaans is deesdae nogals goed!

Glynanne, your love and friendship set me up to be able to receive love and give love to others. It’s no exaggeration to say it transformed my life.

I could put it down to mere coincidence or luck, but Andre – you and your Christian family would prove to be just as incredible, warm and gracious with me.  Andre, by way of your and your family’s example, I have learned so much. You are good people – good sounds pretty lame, but that’s what you are. Your family lives all the values I now live by and strive for.

Kindness, love, grace, honesty, generosity, respect.  

Never has your family forced faith on me – not when we met, when we got married, or even when we had our 2 boys.

Andre and Glynanne, you and your families have been a double blessing – miracles in my life!

Still, I kept your God at arm’s length. Perhaps from the outside, I seemed unmoved and hard to reach, but deep inside, like a dead seed below the soil that begins to unfurl with life, God was patiently at work, slowly healing and restoring my mind and my heart from all the trauma and also revealing himself to me in unlikely places and ways.

Still, I kept your God at arm’s length. Perhaps from the outside, I seemed unmoved and hard to reach, but deep inside, like a dead seed below the soil that begins to unfurl with life, God was patiently at work, slowly healing and restoring my mind and my heart from all the trauma and also revealing himself to me in unlikely places and ways.

Asma, my beautiful sister, it was at your deathbed, 5 years ago, that God spoke to me perhaps for the first time.  The week before you died, I stayed with you at the hospital. At night, when we were alone you were in so much pain and I felt so helpless. That’s when I heard His voice, telling me specific and practical ways to comfort you. And He told me to speak words of love to you too – which I did, all the time, until you passed.  

Initially, through your love Glynanne and Andre and your families, my heart was already open to the Lord.  Then, through the love the Lord showed me and you, Asma, in our time of need, I was led to open up more and more to Him.    

Then not long ago, I found myself on my knees desperately praying to God, any God, to save you, baby Olive. It was not to be. Our Father called you home after only 16 days. But seeing your parents, Nobby and Chris, at your funeral and afterwards exuding such supernatural strength, faith and courage – I finally accepted Jesus as my Saviour!

In all these ways and through all these people I sensed Him, and his unrelenting love drawing me inch by inch, closer to Him.

After your funeral Olive, your mom gently led me through a Christian Foundation Course – and we spent hours speaking about faith. I don’t think your mom knows how much that has meant to me, and taught me… and how much your life, Olive has had an eternal impact on mine.

Less than a month ago, on the 25th of March 2018, I was baptised. I asked your mom to baptise me, which she lovingly did.

Life hasn’t been smooth sailing since – but I have watched in wonder and amazement as God continues to go before me.

So here’s to each of you – Glynanne, Andre, Asma and baby Olive… to all of you in your special roles in leading me to the feet of Jesus. Like a multi-faceted jewel, each of you has shone a different aspect of Christ’s love and grace into my life. Some planted, others watered, but God alone has made that seed of faith in me, that was buried deep and dead inside, finally spark to life and grow.

With much love and gratitude,

Zeynab Titus

This is part of the Heartfelt Series of letters compiled by a selection of women in 2018. Each of these letters was addressed to a significant person in each woman’s life (sometimes this was the woman herself, sometimes it was a group of people). These letters were then read out by the authors at a Common Ground Constantiaberg Heartfelt women’s event.