Testimony

I find it incredibly difficult to talk about myself (kind of ironic for a blog!), but I’ll do my best to lay this out there.

I was born in Huntington Beach, California to a Baptist mother and a Shi’ite Muslim father.  To most people reading this, it may not mean a whole lot.  In the Islamic world, however, this is an immensely important detail.  If your father is Muslim then you are Muslim.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s.  My mom actually didn’t know about my dad’s faith because he lied to her about it for their entire relationship.  When I was two years old my parents got a divorce.  This caused me and my mom to move to Wisconsin.

When I was growing up in Wisconsin I was raised in a church going family.  Sundays were always my favorite because I loved to sing the songs and learn stories from a long time ago.  I attended a small Assemblies of God church.  It was very exciting–someone even spoke in tongues once!  At the age of nine the pastor told me I was ready to be baptized. Of course, I had pretty much no idea what was going.  I could regurgitate all the “right answers” but I didn’t actually understand the meaning of it.  But I assumed that once I was baptized everything would make more sense.  After all, my family seemed to understand everything.  Well, nothing started to make sense.  After that baptism, everyone was cheering about how I was displaying my faith at such a young age…I guess you could say that congregation had a flair for the dramatic.  The really sad part about the church was that after baptism I stopped learning Christianity in a way I could understand.  Call it a flaw in their system, but the church assumed I knew everything I needed to know, which was very far from the truth.

The church started to develop some theological issues, which was really a shame; I think if I had stayed there things might have started to click.  We left that church when I was 11, leaving me to try and figure out all this complex theological stuff on my own.  Needless to say, that didn’t go very well.  For my 12th birthday, some family friends bought me a couple Left Behind books.  Actually, it was Left Behind: The Kids.  It was the popular series rewritten from a kids perspective.  I was absolutely enthralled by the books.  As the story progressed, I slowly became aware of what I was missing in my own spiritual life.  Reading these books actually brought me to the point of finding Christ. There I was, a 12 year old reading some books, and suddenly it all made sense and I enthusiastically invited Jesus into my heart and my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with whether or not that moment was a legitimate conversion experience or if I was just trying to emulate the characters in the books.  Looking back it’s very hard to see much fruit coming from my life. Yes, I typically acted like the role model student and child, but my life looked pretty much the same as anyone else’s. However, there have been many instances where it seemed like the Spirit was acting in my life.  It seems like my prayer may have been authentic, but I backed it up by attempting to quench the Spirit because it was my life, not God’s.

The Assemblies of God church left a sour taste in my family’s mouth, so much that we didn’t want to approach any church.  This left me somewhat wandering.  I checked out books from the library and I tried reading the Bible (I tried reading the OLD King James…).  Slowly, I developed a very unique theology regarding God and Christ and how everything fit together.  I was often at odds with Catholic and Lutheran friends, but Christ took more and more of a back seat in my life and in my thoughts.  It’s crazy for me to remember some of the things I thought about God at that point.  Fast forward to me being 17.  I’d had five years of confused stumbling and searching, when I finally settled into a Deist view point.

It was during this time (around 15 to be specific) when I began struggling with depression.  The entire thing is so terrible to think about, because I was surrounded by support from parents, teachers, and friends.  I couldn’t let anyone in on my depression (though I’m sure many people noticed), because that made me weak.  My depression developed to the point where I was ready to take my life.  Laying in my bed one night, I had finally decided I was ready, that there was no reason for me to bother living.  I got out of bed ready to take a knife and cut my throat.  For whatever reason, to this day I still don’t know why, I decided to pray as I was walking.  My exact words were, “If You have any reason for me to live, if You care at all, stop me.”  As soon as I finished the sentence my knees buckled and I fell on the floor. While laying on the floor, my entire body was overcome with a feeling of warmth.  I had no idea what was happening, but I knew I needed to abandon any ideas and go back to bed.

Given that experience, it amazes me that I was too stubborn to start seeking after truth.  But I didn’t think much of it at the time.  When I was 17 I started to date a wonderful girl who had a very strong conviction with her faith, as did her whole family.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I can see how much of Christ’ love was pouring out from them.  Even though it was subtle, Jesus and God and everything were slowly moving to the forefront of my mind. Eventually I started to attend church with this family.  It began with me wanting to impress them, but it turned into me finally getting the fuel I had so desperately been seeking.  Things were starting to make sense.  I was motivated to continue studying and learning and I was determined to keep seeking and trying to find truth as I went away to start my college career.

I happened to get placed on a dorm floor where my CA (or RA) was a Born-Again Christian.  He invited me to Cru, a giant Christian movement on campus.  The only way I can describe my first visit is magical.  Cru’s movement at my school was nearly 300 strong, and the sight of all these students worshiping and coming together for God really amazed me.  I realized, at that moment, that everything in my life had worked to bring me to this very point.  I’ll never forget how incredible, humble, and broken I felt listening to this song.  As it played, all I could do was fall on the floor and cry.  I wanted the relationship with Jesus that I had been turning away from.

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