It was February 10, 1990 on a Saturday when I sat at the airport at the age of 23. I thought about what happened in my past life, what is happening to me now, and what could happen to me in the future. My plane to Jordan would leave in an hour and my life would never be the same. I would marry a man whom my father chose for me and I would never return to the U.S. unless my husband decided to move here.
You see, I was born in Jordan to a Palestinian family. As the third and middle child, my grandmother decided I should be the first of my brothers and sisters to carry a Muslim name. She named me after one of the messenger Mohammed's daughters. When I was at the age of eight, my father decided to come to the U.S. to make some money and eventually go back to Jordan because he feared his daughters would grow up to become American women and possibly even marry American men. My father held very strongly to his Arab customs and wanted his children to follow the customs and Islam, especially his daughters. It is a disgrace to the family and forbidden in Islam for an Arab Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man. On the other hand my brothers were allowed to marry anyone they want as long as they are believers of the Books (Torah and Gospel) because Islam gave them that right. That is why my father sent me to Jordan to go to school.
I lived with my grandmother, my uncle and his family for a few years. My father was so pleased with me because I became a devout Muslim. He was relieved to know he didn't have to worry about my older sister because she was already married to an Arab Muslim, my younger sister was too young for him to worry about, and I was living the life that would please God and him. I traveled back and forth from Jordan to the US so I can be with my family while I was going to school in Jordan. As much as I loved seeing my family, I felt happy living in Jordan and following God's ways. I prayed five times a day, fasted the month of Ramadan, read the Qur'an daily, wore the veil (covering the entire body and showing only the hands, face and feet) and tried to imitate the prophet Mohammed in every way. No matter what I did for God, I felt I needed to do more to show him how obedient I am to Him. I would sit with my brothers and sisters and start quoting the prophet Mohammed and the Qur'an to them. My father was so proud of me.
The more I spent time in Islam, the further I drifted from God. The Muslims I knew didn't seem to truly love God. They worshipped Him to obtain heaven and feared His wrath and anger. I also began wonder about my motive in following Islam. "Was I following it for God or for the people around me?", I thought to myself. I'm not sure what my answer was, but I decided not to wear the veil anymore and act like a Muslim instead of looking like one. Worshipping God suddenly became an issue only between God and me.
At the age of twenty three, my father decided I should be married. In the Arab culture, the marriage process required a man asking for a woman's hand from her family. Dating is not allowed, but both have a chance to talk to each other in the presence of their families before they decide if they are right for each other. Several Arab Muslims came to ask for my hand, but I refused. I had a hard time marrying someone that I didn't know just to please my father. The culture and Islam allow marriages between first cousins. I refused to marry my cousin along with distant relatives and even strangers. "Why would my father want me to marry someone I didn't love or even know?", I felt. At the same time, my father didn't understand why I would refuse all these good men when he knew quite well that love comes after marriage and not before. When my dad realized that reasoning with me wouldn't work, he tried force. He decided I should go back to Jordan and stay there until I was married. My younger sister was sixteen at the time, so my dad felt she should come with me. That was a trying moment in my life.
Disgrace in the family brought by a daughter is the worst shame a family can go through. Many families have killed their daughters for what the culture considers disgrace. That was what I had to think about when I sat at the airport with my sister as we prepared to leave for Jordan. My dad flew to Jordan before us to prepare for my wedding and my brother made sure we would get to the airport without any problems. As I sat in the airport, I knew what I had to face; disgrace or misery: disgrace the family if I ran away or be miserable when married to one of my cousins for the rest of my life. At that point, I was so angry at my father and God: angry at my father for what he was doing and angry at God for allowing what was happening to me. I felt my heart screaming at God and saying, "Out of everyone in my family, it was ME who prayed to You, ME who fasted for You, ME who studied the Qur'an and this is what You allow to happen to me?! Why did You allow my family to send me to Jordan when I was still a teen-ager? Why did I have to live in an uncaring home? Why didn't You help me pursue my education when my dad refused to let me continue my education? Why did You allow my grandmother, my uncle and his family to treat me so harshly when I was with them? Why did You allow all these bad things to happen to me? Why God, WHY?!" I made a decision that day to stop praying to God and stop worshiping Him the way I did in the past.
February 10, 1990 was the day that completely changed my life. My younger sister and I took our luggage and we were on our way to the nearest hotel. The plane landed sixteen hours later as my father, along with other relatives, waited for us in the airport to greet us. When my father realized that we weren't on the plane, he went out of his mind! He called my brother and told him we weren't on the plane so my brother began to desperately search for us. My sister knew she had to go back home because the family would kill us both once they found us. There was a possibility they would claim I kidnapped my sister because she was under age. We both agreed she would tell them that I dragged her off the plane and forced her to come with me so they would not harm her. I promised her that if they try to force her to do anything she didn't want, I would come back and get her. We tearfully said good-bye to one another thinking that we would never see each other again.
God alone was the only One who could protect me, but I was so angry at Him that I didn't ask for His help. I didn't have much money and I couldn't work because they would find me under social security number. I didn't have many American friends because my father wouldn't allow me to be influenced by their "Satanic ways". And more importantly, I didn't know what to do in a society I hardly associated with. I needed courage, strength and wisdom.
I joined the U.S. Army National Guard so the government can protect me. Once I was done with my military, I went back to a suburb in the city where my family lived and lived there in hiding. During that time, I found a job and became very successful at work, I rented an apartment from the money I saved while I was on active duty in the military, and met many friends that would care for me as if I was a member of their family.
Four years later, I slowly began to contact my family. My father had moved to Jordan and married another woman there, my brothers were living on their own, and my mom and younger sister were living together. After five years, I made peace with my family and they accepted me living alone and running my own life. It amazed me to see how accepting my family was of that I began to see God's grace in my life. "He didn't neglect me after all", I thought, "I don't know what I would have done without His love and grace. He took me out of a bad situation to put me in a better one. He protected me and gave me the courage, wisdom and strength to survive on my own." I felt ashamed for being angry at Him and I needed to make peace with Him by going back to Islam. I didn't pray five times a day, but I thanked daily and did nice things that I thought would please Him.
February of 1998, I accepted a job for a company that would move me to another state to work as a salesperson. That same month a dear friend of mine died of a car accident leaving me in agony and distress. Because I had made peace with God, I was able to talk to Him and for the first time have conversations with Him. I didn't know why He did what He did, but I had to accept it because from my past experience, I knew He did things for a reason even though I don't understand. Nonetheless, I asked for His help, and actually asked Him to help everyone in the world who needs help.
The month of May had arrived and it was time for me to move. I arrived not knowing anyone or what to expect from this city. I was scared being in a new city, and sad that I left my family and friends, but excited about my new job. I wanted to be close to Mexico so I could learn more Spanish and travel there for my company. My plan was to be successful in international sales, but the Lord had other plans for me.
Under the strangest circumstances, I met a woman one evening that was walking her dog in front of my apartment. She and I became friends instantly so one day she invited me to go to her church. I didn't think there was any harm in me going to church, "After all", I thought, "God sent down Judaism and Christianity so He would not be upset if I went to church even though I'm a Muslim"
I really enjoyed the pastor's sermons and felt that he offered sound teachings. The only thing that didn't seem sound to me was when the pastor talked about Jesus being the Son of God. I felt, though, that God would forgive the pastor because he was misled by his family to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Sometimes the pastor would say that Jesus is God in the flesh and sometimes he would say that Jesus is the Son of God. I knew for sure that the pastor was obviously confused because how can Jesus be God and then be God's Son? That just didn't make any sense to me. I continued to go to church until one day the pastor said that Muslims didn't know Jesus Christ. I was struck by that comment. Something inside of me said, "Of course Muslims know Jesus; the pastor is sadly mistaken and I need to set the record straight." After the service, I went to the pastor, introduced myself to him that I'm a Muslim and I DO know Jesus Christ. He apologized for making a blanket statement, and said, " I know that Muslims believe he is a prophet." I told him that I would like to meet with him to talk about his faith. Sooner or later, I would have approached the pastor, but that comment expedited the whole process for me to search for the truth. That was another turning point in my life.
My heart and soul were convinced that the prophet Mohammed was the last messenger and the Qur'an was the last book sent by God. The Qur'an clearly states that Jesus was a messenger that was born of a virgin mother, Mary. He had many miracles including bringing the dead to life, healing the sick, speaking when he was a baby, and creating a bird out of clay. The Lord loved him so much that when his enemies were preparing to crucify him, God sent someone to look Jesus and die on the cross instead of Jesus. Muslims believe that he never died, but was raised to heaven to be protected from his enemies. Jesus, in the Qur'an, claims he never told anyone to worship him but to worship the One true God. The Bible has been changed, according to Muslims, that Christians and Jews really don't have the true Books. When God gave Mohammed the message, God preserved the Qur'an and made sure no one would change it like the Torah and the Gospel.
I continued to go to Church and listen to the pastor's sermons, but I began to wonder why Christians had different beliefs than Muslims. As I listened and began to read different books on Christianity and Islam, I became very confused and didn't know what to believe anymore. I had to wrestle with many issues: Was Jesus crucified? Did Jesus die on the cross for man's sins? Is Jesus God or the Son of God? Is God a Triune God? Is the Bible really accurate and had the Bible been preserved after all these years? If the answer was yes to all my questions, that would mean then that Mohammed was a liar and the Qur'an was not from God. Work, family, friends, and everything else around me suddenly became meaningless. My days and evenings were consumed with tears and agony over God and the truth. How could I know what really happened 2,000 years ago? How could I betray my family or maybe even God if I believed in Jesus Christ? That was a decision I was not willing to make myself. Nonetheless, I continued to read and search for answers to all my questions.
My questions needed convincing answers and I didn't know who would help me until the pastor recommended a professor at a seminary. As I spoke with the professor and read many books, things started making sense. The Bible had to be accurate because of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls was the book of Isaiah that dates back to 125 BC. Apart from the Dead Sea Scrolls there are also parts of very old manuscripts of the Gospel according to John and the Gospel according to Matthew that we currently have that are in museums around Europe and the Middle East. I began to read compare the prophesies that were in the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah and how they were all fulfilled in the New Testament. The Old Testament talks about the Messiah's hands and feet being pierced for man's transgressions, he would be born of a virgin mother, he would be led like a lamb to the slaughter, he would be sold for 30 pieces, he would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, and he would be called the Almighty God and Prince of Peace. These prophesies in the Old Testament and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament lead me to believe in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The only thing left for me to wrestle with was Jesus' deity as part of a Triune God. "I can not, under any circumstances, believe that Jesus is God; that would be pure blasphemy!", I thought to myself. I had to either end my search or challenge Jesus' deity because I knew I couldn't embrace Christianity if I knew I had to believe in Jesus' deity. I needed a miracle.
One day I said to Jesus, "O.K. Mr. Messiah, it's my way or the highway. If you are God, you would prove it to me by doing what I want you to do." Jesus didn't respond. I was beginning to believe that God didn't want me to trust in Jesus because I thought for He'd respond to my prayers. Then one Sunday, I went to church and the pastor was talking about prayer. He said, "When I pray for something, I usually say: God, if this is Your will, then open the door wide open or slam it shut, but please Lord, don't let me make this decision myself." I felt good about that prayer because I was afraid of making the wrong decision about God. As soon as I got home that day I prayed and said, "God, if you want me to follow Christianity, then open the doors wide open or slam it shut, but please Lord let me make this decision myself." For a whole week nothing happened.
Sunday morning August 2, 1998, I woke up feeling depressed as usual about my search. I decided not to go to church because I didn't want to hear people say that Jesus is God anymore. An Iranian Christian pastor called me and said he would like a Qur'an. That evening, I went to his church to give him a Qur'an because I thought it was nice thing to do. He knew I had been searching for a few months. When I arrived at church, he asked me where I was in my search. I told him that I believed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but I didn't believe in his deity. I also told the Iranian pastor that I've studied the life of Jesus, I would want a man like him to be my neighbor, my brother, my father, by boss, my judge in a court of law, my king in a country because no one in history compared to him. He said, "Well, if you think he is that wonderful and that he died on the cross for your sins, will you confess that before God?" I agreed so we prayed together and he told me he would like to be the first person to shake my hand and congratulate me for being one of God's children. He asked me to continue to pray, read the Bible daily, and tell everyone what I just did. I had no idea what he was talking about. The pastor and I said good-bye to one another and I headed for my car. I got in my car and it all hit me. I sat there in total shock and said out loud as if God was sitting right next me, "You really wanted me to do this all along didn't You? You really wanted me to take this step, didn't You? " I then began to cry because I realized what happened. God made the decision for me! I fought with Jesus and I lost! I wanted him to reveal himself to me on my terms, but he was willing to reveal himself to me on His terms. It was clear to me that Jesus wanted me to walk with him instead of challenge Him.
I am grateful that the Lord has been my shepherd throughout my life. He has been there for me when I needed Him and even when I thought I didn't need Him. He has taken me through roads and routes I never dreamed to take. Above all, I'm amazed and that He loved me so much, He sent Jesus do die on the cross for me! How humbling and precious that is to me! The Lord is my shepherd and He has been leading His sheep.
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