For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
My earliest recollection of ever hearing the name of Jesus and hearing anything about the gospel was the day my dad brought home a bunch of movies and he (I presume, unaware of the content) brought a copy of the The Jesus Film (1979). This was not about the Jesus I heard about growing up in Islam. This movie was about Jesus the Messiah, God as he really is and the Word that became flesh (see: John 1:14).
A few years before that, when I was 4, I had a vivid and powerful dream about ‘a man of light’ (as I described him to my mother when I woke from my dream and ran to tell her as she was doing the dishes). I had no idea who he was and concluded he was perhaps an angel. I only saw his hand and his side as he stood next to me. I couldn’t look directly at him though or look up to try to see his face. I do believe the dream was from God although I am afraid to say for definite who the ‘man of light’ was. However, the dream has stayed with me my whole life and I can’t deny its impact.
It’s amazing how the Lord plans little intricate details. It points to his sovereignty. I ended up going to a Protestant primary school where every Friday we had ‘assembly’ and would often sing Christian songs. One of my favourites was ‘Hosanna to the Highest.’ I had no idea what I was singing about, of course. Then I ended up attending an all-girls Catholic high school and there, during our religious education class, I had the chance to look at a bible for the first time ever. We turned to John 3:16 and my eyes and heart were fixated on the first four words
For God so loved…
That was stunning. It was unexpected. I thought He was a constantly angry, unapproachable and far removed Creator. The rest of the sentence made no sense to me whatsoever. The Holy Spirit hadn’t revealed that to me yet but that day, I came to realise something profound. God loves. And He loves intensely.
I began to be curious but as I wasn’t allowed access to a bible at home, I asked a nun and teacher at my school to borrow a bible. I would flick through it during our lunch breaks. Needless to say, I looked weird to my friends.
I moved away from Islam but I still didn’t know the Lord. From the age of 15 to 20, I gave little to no thought to God. I ran my own life and made a complete and utter mess of it. I also faced many difficult times: familial tensions, mental and physical health problems, financial hardships etc. Yet in all of those troubles, I never turned to God. He was always there, of course. I see that now as I look back…
I got saved in October 2014. God led me to read the bible with serious consideration this time around. And the Holy Spirit began to convict me of my sin. The first two or three months of being a Christian were the most painful. My whole world-view was being shattered. I saw that evidence was overwhelmingly for Christianity and not against. Things I had mocked before, now were being shown to be true. And so, I was changing at a rapid pace and honestly, at first, it was quite confusing and even frightening. It all happened so fast.
On one occasion, I said to my fiancé (who wasn’t a Christian at the time so he must have thought it strange) that I feel as if I’m “dirty with sin” and no amount of showering was going to change that. A few weeks later, I was startled to read, for the first time ever, Isaiah 1:5-6, which is a metaphor for the effects of sin:
“Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness– only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.”
And that’s how I felt and it was painful. It’s funny because up until then I thought I was a great person! And that there were ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people and I was part of the ‘good’ category. It was only when I had to pay attention to Jesus Christ that I began to see reality. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:7:
“…Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You should not covet.'”
You see, you can think you are the best person among your friends and family etc. But fact of the matter is, we’re all sinners and are in need of God’s grace. And I’ve come to believe that if you think someone else is beneath you or that you are better than someone else, it’s probably because you have a dim view of both your own sin and the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding (see: Ephesians 3:19).
For the first time, I came to realise I can bring all my weaknesses and sins to God and because of what Jesus did on the cross, He will handle them with unexplainable mercy, love and patience. One of the most hope-filled verses in the bible is 1 Timothy 1:15:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
No matter who you are or what you have done, you can come to Jesus. And this is the hope of my life. It is the only hope of my life.