Saturday, April 21, 2007

Have I ever been a Christian?

Yes. I think it was Yusuf Estes (and perhaps others) who said that becoming Muslim allowed him to be an even better follower of Christ. I take that viewpoint at times.

When I was five years old, I told my parents "I want to be saved." How cute. (I told this to the girls at dinner once when we were joking about our Christian backgrounds actually. One sister went aaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww.) I had a little talk with the preacher, do I really want Jesus to come into my life? Yes really! Save me from my sins? Yes really! And so on and so forth?

So I got a little white dress, went up in front of the congregation one Sunday and was forcibly held underwater by an old man. Panic! That's what you think when you're 5 and someone pushes you under water and won't let you up (and he's a lot stronger than you, too!) And so I was baptised "in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit." I was in Awanas--we held competitions to see who could memorize the most Bible verses. I guess it was kind of like a Bible study for kids. That church we went to was also a school, and I went there up through 2nd grade--a private Christian school. They were of the mind that women should absolutely not wear pants--and I blame them for 4 straight winters of strep throat from playing in the cold, damp weather in a knee-length skirt. The two probably aren't related, but I got sick every winter while I was there (I can still remember the smell and taste of the meds I had to take--every year.) and I'm sure that playing outside in the cold like that had something to do with it... I'm just sure of it. But that's why I have a very interesting opinion on school uniforms. Going to a church that won't let women wear pants has a strange effect on a girl.

We went to that church for a while, leaving when I was a bit older, and we left the school as well (my whole family.) Then my family, or just my parents, me and my brother, settled on a church closer to a new place we lived, and we joined up, and they had a revival. So at 13 I decided again that I had been weak in my faith and was not letting Jesus control my life and so on and so forth (these were the days of the W.W.J.D. bracelets!) and so I got baptized again, this time with a friend, my neighbor Stacey. So I was more active in my church for about a month, and the passion faded, and we eventually stopped going to church altogether. I didn't mind--it meant I could sleep in on Sundays.

As I got a little older I started to feel bad that I wasn't going to church--especially when I started working at a fast-food joint where one of the main hiring questions is "What church do you go to?" So I started looking around and trying to figure out how to make religion more important in my life. I sought churches, but never got real far. My study of Islam was not because I was looking for religion or faith in that direction at all. It was mostly an academic exercise that was initially divorced from my heart and spiritual opinions. Reading the Qur'an took my study of Islam to a different level though, and I think that's when it started affecting my heart, and that was the snowball rolling down the hill.

It was like I started to understand spirituality, and in a much deeper sense than I found in churches. Because it was inside of me it was more real than what seemed so superficial to me from Christians that I knew. Some people might think Islam looks rigid but for someone who really wants to worship God, it's like the answers are there. How to pray was a big one for me, and I'm specifically talking about the chapter of the Qur'an that is recited in the prayer. It is praise, it is glorification, and a plea for guidance, and the beauty of it was then and is now stunning to me. Does something similar exist in Christianity? Yeah actually it does. But in Islam, when you repeat it 17 times a day, it absolutely has a much greater effect than something you think of only when problems arise. So in a way it is a kind of discipline, and that's something I never found.

So I was a Christian, definitely. I identified myself as such and I really did believe and never really looked outside of Christianity for faith. Just like you aren't looking for money on the ground but when it catches your eye...

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