I’ve heard that Christians are made, not born. How true that is, I don’t know. My wife, Jennifer, was born on a Thursday and baptized by her father, a Lutheran pastor, the following Sunday. She may not have been born a Christian, but she is about as close as one can get. For me, the path to Christian faith has been far rockier.
Both my parents were raised as Lutherans. But my mother never had much use for religion. And my father, who had taken religion seriously, lost his faith in God’s goodness in the jungles of South Vietnam.
My father hoped to make a career in the Army. So we moved a lot, five times during my first ten years. When he finally resigned his commission in 1977, we settled in a Southern California suburb.
It wasn’t home. It couldn’t be. And by that time, I had been on the receiving end of my father’s intense but sporadic violence for some years. I learned to both fear and hate him, and almost all authority. School quickly became unsafe as well: I was bullied, terrorized, and abused regularly, not just by classmates, but also by my fifth-grade teacher. There was no one to trust. I was frightened, incredibly alone, and increasingly angry.
But whatever I lacked in religious guidance, I never blamed God. I didn’t know how. Indeed, there was an intense God-hunger in my soul. I may not have known where I was going or even how to start, but I knew there was something out there worth finding.
Meeting God as a Muslim
At age 14, I launched my quest for God, attending a fairly generic dispensationalist church. It proved incapable of asking difficult questions about life’s meaning in the face of suffering, much less answering them. The people were kind, but I ...1