I grew up in a happy home but I do not remember being happy. My parents had always provided me with everything I needed however I never felt happy or satisfied. The most striking memory from my childhood was of me lying in my bed in the middle of the night and crying because I wanted to go home. I was very confused at that time because I didn’t understand why I felt so out of place in my own home and among my own people.
I grew up in the United Arab Emirates and was exposed to religion from a very young age. I remember my classmates in school talking about being Muslim and about how they needed to fast during Ramadan, and I remember my Christian friends talking about their Christmas and Easter plans and going to church. I also remember frequently being asked if I was Muslim or Christian. These questions were almost always followed with a “so what are you?” question to which I would reply “Druze”. In the beginning I didn’t know what that was and how that was different from these other 2 religions, but I new it was different.
Our home was not a religious one, my parents never prayed in any obvious way and God was mentioned frequently but almost as an after thought. As an Arab I grew up hearing ‘inshallah’ and ‘alhamdullah’ frequently but not a lot was said about Him except that we loved God and that all we needed to do was believe in Him. Nothing was said about exactly how to believe in Him.
My grandmother a “shakha” talked about God quite a bit but never with joy and always with resignation. He was only mentioned by her, and by most of the people I knew when bad things happened but never out of love or joy. There was only one person who was different and that was my aunt. My aunt had given her life to the Lord and come to know Jesus when she was a teenager and even though her family disapproved severely, and still do till today, she lived her life with the name of Jesus on her lips and the hope and joy of her salvation in her heart. She was the one who had something that no one else I knew had…peace. Her peace came despite her circumstances (she had a very hard life because of her husband and still does till today) and was so powerful that it was able to comfort those who noticed it. My siblings and I always went to her for prayer; we knew that her God was different and that if she asked of Him it would be heard.
As I grew older my own confidence that I was a good person and that I was going to be with God when I died began to shatter. I was very idealistic when I was younger and I believed in the goodness of people. I believed that the world could be a heaven on earth if only we humans would love one another and care about each other. My idealism began to die as I was faced again and again with the reality of the human being. No matter how ‘good’ someone seemed there was always a limit of how much they could sacrifice or give. My biggest disappointment was myself. The more and more that I became exposed to the world and began to react to the world the more I realized what an awful human being I was. I realized that I was very selfish and self focused, I would complain all the time and would get jealous. My heart was able to do things like hate and be angry it was also able to lie. I began to wonder what the measurement of good was. How good did I have to be to go to heaven and was I good enough. My mom always said that God knew our hearts and that He knew that deep down we were not that bad…but my dilemma was in trying to find out how much bad was ‘not that bad’? Would only murderers and rapists go to hell? Would everyone else go to be with God? What about people who hated would they go to hell? How much hate was too much? All these questions went unanswered because I couldn’t imaging that heaven would have people who lied in it or people who cared about themselves more than others. I also didn’t understand what God would do with all the religions that already existed. What would happen on the Day of Judgment would He judge each religion according to its belief? And if so what were the people going to do if they hadn’t done enough good to out-way the bad, and my repeating question was how much was too bad and how much good was needed for every bad committed. What if I had prayed one prayer too little, or drank a sip of alcohol? What if I had only one hateful thought? Would God be so strict that only one lie would make Him send me to Hell? How would I know? Everyone around me said”you’ll find out when you die” but that would be too late!!! Once I was dead I couldn’t change the way I lived my life…I needed to know now so that I could do what was required in order to get to go to heaven.
I moved away from home when I turned 17 to go to university in Beirut. With all these questions in my head I was very confused and felt very lost. My depression became very severe. I began to think that if I could just stop living the pain in my heart would be over. Thoughts of harming myself came to me frequently; I would joke to friends in college telling them that I was going to kill myself. I felt empty and cold on the inside, it was like my soul was already dead but my body kept moving. I felt alone and completely isolated, I was away from my parents, my friends had left me and I had no one to turn to. So I turned to God. One night I wrote a letter to God. In that letter I asked Him to tell me the truth. I wanted to know what the way was, was it Mohammad, was it Jesus, was it through reincarnation and the purifying of my soul because of hardship (like the Druze believe) or was it the goodness of my heart. I asked Him to show me without people trying to deceive me. I sealed that letter and hid it between my books and prayed all night that “He would show me the Truth”. The Lord says in His word “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, Knock and it shall be opened ” that night I asked the Lord with all my heart I told Him that He had to tell me the truth because I really wanted to know so that I could be with Him. He did not answer right away…it took a whole year.
I graduated from university and was waiting to see where I would go to graduate school. All the schools I applied to rejected me and my depression got even worse. As a final resort my parents decided to send me to America, they thought that I had a higher chance of being accepted if I was actually in the USA. The only person they could send me to was my aunt (The one who loved Jesus). I didn’t know it at the time but that was God beginning to answer my prayer.
I went to live in the States with my aunt and cousins. In the first few months I was stuck home alone most of the time because I still did not have the necessary paperwork to get a driver license and my cousins had to go to work. I was home alone a lot but I would go to church and bible studies with my cousins because it would have been rude not to, considering I lived in their house. I would sit in church and tell myself not to listen to what the speaker was talking about, but I had underestimated the power of worship. That was how the Lord finally broke me, it was the singing. Every time the congregation sang to the Lord I began to cry. I didn’t know why I was crying but I couldn’t stop. The words of amazing grace felt like they were talking about me a soul who was lost and was so desperate to be found once again.
I began to ask questions like” How can God have a son? Why would God become a human being? Who was in heaven when God was here on earth? And how did He fit here on earth?” Every time I asked a question my cousin would open his bible and give me the scripture that would have the answer. On Christmas Eve I was given my first bible as a present and I opened it wanting to find the truth which I now had a feeling existed within its pages. I also began attending a bible study on the book of Revelations (last book of the bible) with my aunt and began to realize that time was running out. The last book of the bible talks about God’s return and His judgment on the people of the earth. It talks about the prophecy of what is to come and How Jesus will be coming back to take His church (believers) before the hardship truly begins on earth. That book made me want to be very sure about whose side I would be on the day that Judgment would take place. I began to read the Gospel of John and was struck with how clear the bible is about Jesus. In John 1: 1 it says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and then in John 1: 14 it says “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten from the father, full of grace and truth.” Also I was surprised to find that there were verses from the bible that talked about how awful man was and that there were none that were good enough to be with God. In Romans 3:10-11 it says “as it is written.’ There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seek for God’” and in Romans 3: 23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. That meant we would all go to hell all of us were bad and God says that the price of sin (all sin big or small) is death (Romans 6 :23). But then the Lord provides a solution “for God so loved the World that He gave His one and only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life, for God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him (John 3:16-17)” So Jesus paid the price of my sin by dieing instead of me, so if I believed in Him his payment would cover me and I would be able to be with God without my sin interfering.
God had finally answered my prayers. By isolating me in the USA alone with only His book and His people as a guide He showed me that the ONLY way was through Him. On January 7 1999 I knelt down and asked the Lord to forgive me of all my sins and then I asked Him to come and live in my heart. The minute I prayed peace came and dwelt in my heart. The Lord says that He sends us His comforter which is the Holy Spirit; that night the Holy Spirit came into my heart. I began reading my bible more intensely and was filled with a hunger to know more about this God who died and rose again in order to insure that I be saved.
I will never be alone again, even though some days are hard and the distance that my decision has led to between me and my parents is difficult. His peace never leaves me. Since I made my decision I have gone through trials and hardship but the difference this time is that I am never confused or lost because I know that all things work together for those who love the Lord and that He is in control. I have a peace that I never had before an inner quietness that is not shaken by any of life’s troubles and pains. I also have an understanding now of why I exist and what my purpose is. I know that I belong to the family of God and that my true home is up in heaven with Him. He said that in His father’s house there are many mansions and that He has gone up there to prepare a place for us so that were He is that we may also be. That promise among all the others that He provides fills me with the comfort of knowing that I am loved and taken care of and that I will never be alone again.
My family has had a very hard time accepting my decision and although it hurts me to hurt them I know that the Lord will honor my obedience and that in prayer ALL things are possible… including their salvation.
For questions or prayer contact me at: [email protected]