A Teenager’s Journey to Faith
After reading literature and discussing belief with various Muslim girls, NATASSIA M. KELLY, an ex-Christian accepts Islam at the age of fifteen. This is her own account of her journey to faith.
I was raised to believe in God from childhood. I attended church nearly every Sunday, went to Bible school, and sang in the choir. Yet, religion was never a really big part of my Me.
There were times when I thought myself close to God. I often prayed to Him for guidance and strength in times of despair or for a wish in times of want. But I soon realized that this feeling of closeness soon evaporated when I was no longer begging God for something. I realized that even though I believed, I lacked faith.
I perceived my world to be a game in which God indulged in from time to time. He inspired people to write a Bible and somehow people were able to find faith within this Bible.
As I grew older and became more aware of the world, I believed more in God. I believed that there had to be a God to bring some order to the chaotic world. If there were no God, I believed the world would have ended in utter anarchy thousands of years ago. It was comfort to me to believe there was a supernatural force guiding and protecting man.
Children usually assume their religion from I parents. I was no different. At the age of twelve, I began to go in-depth thinking of my spirituality. I realized there was a void in my life where a faith should be. Whenever I was in need or despair, I simply prayed to someone called Lord. But who was this Lord truly? I once asked my mother who to pray to, Jesus or God. Believing my mother to be right, I prayed to Jesus and to him I attributed all good things.
I have heard that religion cannot be argued. My friends and I tried to do this many times. I often had debates with myfriends about Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism. Through these debates I searched within myself more and more and decided I should do something about my emptiness. And so at the age of thirteen, I began my search for truth.
Humankind is always in constant pursuit of knowledge of the truth. My search for truth could not be deemed as an active pursuit of knowledge. I continued having debates, and I read the Bible more, but it did not really extend from this.
During this period of time, my mother took notice of my behavior, and from then on, I have been in a “religious phase.” My behavior was far from a phase. I simply shared my newly gained knowledge with my family. I learned about the beliefs, practices and doctrines within Christianity and minimal beliefs and practices within Judaism.
A few months within my search, I realized that if I believe in Christianity I believed myself to be condemned to Hell. Not even considering the sins of my past, I was on a “one-way road to Hell” as southern ministers tend to say. I could not believe all the teachings within Christianity. However, I did try.
I can remember many times being in church and fighting with myself during the Call to Discipleship. I was told that by simply confessing Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I would be guaranteed eternal life in Heaven.
I never did walk down the aisle to the pastor’s outstretched hands, and my reluctance even increased my fears of heading for Hell. During this time, I was at unease. I often had alarming nightmares, and I felt very alone in the world.
But not only did I lack belief, but I had many questions that I posed to every knowledgeable Christian I could find and never really did receive a satisfactory answer. I was simply told things that confused me even more.
I was told that I am trying to put logic to God and if I had faith I could simply believe and go to Heaven. Well, that was the problem: I did not have faith. I did not believe.
I did not really believe in anything. My questions and reasoning did, however, exceed my beliefs. The questions went on and on. My perplexity increased.
My uncertainty increased. For fifteen years I had blindly followed a faith simply because it was the faith of my parents.
Something happened in my life in which the little faith I did have decreased to all but nothing. My search came to a stop. I no longer searched within myself, the Bible, or church. I had given up for a while. I was a very bitter person until, one day, a friend gave me a book. It was called “The Muslim-Christian Dialogue.”
I took the book and read it. I am ashamed to say that during my searching never did I once consider another religion: Christian was all I knew and I never thought about leaving it. My knowledge of Islam was very minimal. In fact, it was mainly filled with misconception and stereotypes. The book surprised me. I found that I was not the only one who believed there was simply one God. I asked for more books. I received them as well as pamphlets.
I learned about Islam from an intellectual aspect. I had a close friend who was Muslim and I often asked her question about the practices. Never did I once consider Islam as my faith. Many things about Islam alienated me.
After a couple of months of reading, the month of Ramadan began. Every Friday, I could join the local Muslim community for the breaking of the fast and the reciting of the Qur’an, posed questions that I have come across to many Muslim girls.
I was in awe at how someone could have so much certainty in what they believed and followed. I felt myself drawn to the religion that alienated me. Having believed for so long that I was alone, Islam comforted me in many ways. Islam was brought as a reminder to the world; it was brought to lead people back to the right path.
Beliefs were not the only thing important to me. I wanted a discipline to pattern my life by. I did not just want to believe someone was my savior and through this I get the ticket to Heaven. I wanted to know how to act to receive the approval of God. I wanted a closeness to God. I wanted to be God-conscious. Most of all I wanted the chance for heaven. I began to feel that Christianity did not give this to me, but Islam did.
I continued learning more. I went to the Eid celebration (the celebrative day following the fasting of Ramadan) and (Friday) and weekly classes with my friends.
Through religion one receives peace of mind; and my Muslim friends had a calmness about them. This I had off and on for about three years. During the off times I was more susceptible to the temptations of Satan. In early February of 1997, I came to the realization that Islam was right and true. However, I did not want to make any hasty decisions. I did decide to wait.
Within this duration, the temptations of Satan increased. I can recollect two dreams in which he was a presence. Satan was calling me to him. After I awoke from these nightmares, I found solace in Islam. I found myself repeating the Shahadah. These dreams almost made me change my mind. I confided them in my Muslim friend. She suggested that maybe Satan was there to lead me away from the truth. I never thought of it that way.
On 19 March 1997, after returning from a weekly class, I recited the Shahadah to myself. Then on March 26, I recited it before witnesses and became an official Muslim. I cannot express the joy I felt. I cannot express the weight that was lifted from my shoulders. I had finally received my peace of mind.
Since I recited the Shahadah, Islam has made me a better person. I am stronger now and understand things more. My life has changed significantly. I now have purpose. My purpose is to prove myself worthy of eternal life in Heaven.
I have my long sought after faith. Religion is a part of me all the time. I am striving everyday to become the best Muslim I can be. People are often amazed at how a fifteen-year-old can make such an important decision in life. I am grateful that God blessed me with my state of mind that I was able to find it so young.
Striving to be a good Muslim in a Christian dominated society is hard. Living with a Christian family is even harder. However, I do not try to get discouraged. I do not wish to dwell on my present predicament, but I believe that my [effort] is simply making me stronger.
Someone once told me that I am better off than some people who were born into Islam, in that I had to find, experience, and realize the greatness and mercy of God. I have acquired the reasoning that seventy years of life on earth is nothing compared to eternal life in Paradise.
I must admit that I lack the aptitude to express the greatness, mercy, and glory of God. I hope my account help others who may feel the way I felt or struggle the way I struggled.
[Courtesy: www.islamreligion.com, As reproduced in Arab News, Friday 23 March, 2012]