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Sara: I literally felt like God was hugging me

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I was born into a Catholic family, so when I was still a baby, I was baptized in a Catholic church.  When I was six, my family moved to California because my father received a great job offer.  It took me a couple of months to get used to California, but I quickly began to love it. There was so much to do there!

We found a new Catholic church to attend in California.  We went every Saturday night, and I remember restlessly sitting through services.  After our first year-and-a-half in California, my parents enrolled me and my brothers in a private Christian school.  Part of our schooling included Bible study (or probably more accurately, Bible verse memorization).  We were taught that believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior was the only way a person could be saved.  I was young and didn’t really think anything of it.  Jesus was God’s Son, and that was all there was to it.  If you didn’t believe He was the Messiah, you were going to hell.

When I was in third grade, my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.  I had no clue what cancer was.  And because he was my dad, I knew it couldn’t be anything too serious, because he was invincible.  However, only a year later, I found out he wasn’t.  He died on April 21, 2000 – Good Friday.  I was only ten.  In my mind, I thought my dad would rise again on Easter, like Jesus.  My dad was a great person, so it only made sense.  I don’t think I have to explain to anyone that he didn’t.

At the end of that school year, we moved to Tennessee to be closer to family (we were the only ones on the West Coast).  We had to find all of our pets new homes because we were unable to take them on the move. I lost a lot of family members on that move.  When school started in Tennessee (I was now in fifth grade), I remember hating it.  I thought everyone was so judgmental and mean.  It was the first time I had ever heard someone say “God hates gays” and it broke my heart.  I got in an argument with that person.  I had never heard someone say that God was capable of hate.

We were unable to find a Catholic church in Tennessee that my mom liked.  One of my older brother’s friends invited us to his Baptist church, so we went.  My mom was able to sit through the service without bawling, so we began to attend somewhat regularly.  Whenever I had to sit through the services, I remember disagreeing a lot with what the pastor said.  We stopped going after a couple months or so. One of my friends invited me to her church (Church of Christ) a couple times.  After going twice, I started making up excuses for why I couldn’t go.  I was beginning to realize that I didn’t feel like I belonged in any church.

I think I was in seventh grade (maybe younger, I can’t remember for sure) when I decided that there was no God.  If there was, how could He have let my dad die?  And how could He send people to hell just because they didn’t believe in Jesus as the Savior?

My atheism didn’t last long, though.  It soon turned into agnosticism. I knew there was a God, but I also knew He wasn’t the God the Bible described.  There was no way He would expect someone who was Muslim or Hindu or whatever to throw away what he/she had believed his/her whole life and follow the Christian faith.  It didn’t seem right to me.

In my senior year of high school, though, I started calling myself a Christian again.  I believed in God and Jesus, but I still didn’t believe that someone would go to hell simply because they didn’t believe in Jesus as their Savior.  One of my friends in high school was Muslim, and never for a second did I think I needed to try to convert her in order to save her soul.

The summer before my freshman year of college, I started reading the Bible.  I wanted to finish it in 180 days.  It ended up taking a lot longer than that, but I did finish.  As I went through, I would underline and highlight passages that I loved or ones that I disagreed with.  I tried to read it with a completely open mind though, as if I didn’t know anything about it.  There was quite a bit of it that I loved, like all of Jesus’s teachings about loving your neighbor.  But there was even more I disagreed with, like how women are supposed to be quiet and fully submissive.  I started feeling like “Christian” wasn’t an accurate way to describe what I believed, but I had no other word for my beliefs.

My freshman year of college was my first encounter with Islamophobia. I had vaguely heard of it, but never really thought it was possible for someone to fear Islam.  Sadly, though, I met someone who not only feared Islam, but hated it.  They believed (and sadly, still do) that Islam is the religion of hate and that all Muslims are evil people. Not more than a year later, I met another person with a similar viewpoint (although not quite so hateful).  I have countless times tried explaining to both men that Islam is not a violent religion. However, they are set in their ways.  Both even believe that Muslims do not worship the same God as Christians.  It was this ignorance (that is the only way I know to describe it) that made me want to start reading the Koran.  I began to see how important it is to know more about the world’s religions.  I just started reading the Koran the end of my junior year of college.

It wasn’t until the first semester of my junior year of college that I heard of the Baha’i Faith.  I was looking at a friend-of-a-friend’s Facebook page.  Under the “beliefs” section, hers said “Baha’i Faith”.  I had never heard of it, and I was curious to know what it was.  I entered it into Wikipedia and read up on it.  I remember thinking it was almost exactly what I believed, other than I didn’t know who Baha’u'llah was.  After that day I didn’t really think about it and it kind of left my mind.  A couple of months later though, I randomly remembered it and decided to read about it on Wikipedia again.  After I reread, I decided to check and see what books I could find on the Baha’i Faith.  I checked on thriftbooks.com and found a book called “The Elements of the Baha’i Faith” by Joseph Shepherd.  I also found The Hidden Words and The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys.  I ordered all three.

As soon as the books came in, I eagerly began to read them.  It wasn’t long before I realized that this was my faith.  I just never knew there was a name for it.  I suddenly found myself feeling about Baha’u'llah the same way I have always felt about Jesus.  I was in awe.  And I felt such love. And that was the part I thought would be the hardest: Opening my heart to another Manifestation of God the way it had been engrained in me to open it to Jesus.  But I just prayed to God for Him to let me know what was right. And He definitely did.

On Wednesday, June 8, 2011, I officially registered online as a Baha’i. I received an email immediately saying that someone would be contacting me soon to finish up the process.  I can’t even describe the feeling I had at the moment.  But it only got better.  Less than five minutes later, I got a text from the Office of Baha’i Information.  I started crying then.  I was so happy.  I literally felt like God was hugging me.  And I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve never felt more whole or complete in my life.  I know I’m home.


14 Responses

  1. Barnabas Max

    Allah’u'Abha! Wow!! I am delighted to read about this story!! I felt and passed through the same route—–I also made my declaration online. Welcome Sara!! May God bless you!!

  2. Oh Sara… Welcome Sister! :) . I’m so happy for you! One love!

  3. Hartson Doak

    I was raise Protestant but our paths were the same. That hug you feel lasts. Well, it has for me and it has been 40 years.

  4. Charlotte Todd

    Such a beautiful story! :) Thank you…

  5. Ruthanne Wing

    Loved your story, Sara! I also learned about Baha’i my Junior year in college, but didn’t actually study it until the end of my senior year. It has been the biggest blessing for my whole life. My early life was very hard and sometimes traumatic, but the Faith has brought me a lot of healing and the ability to support others spiritual growth. God bless you!

  6. Shanaz

    Really inspring ! Words of God is always the key to opening up human hearts. Thanks for sharing the love sister.

  7. Michael Woodward

    Dear Sara, I’m a 73 year old Baha’i in Taiwan who became a Baha’i in Hawaii back in ’64. When you got to the part where you got the online message back from the Baha’i office and cried, I cried. What a beautiful and touching story. I’m so happy for you. God bless! Warmest love, Mike Woodward

  8. Julie Hutchinson

    Sara, your story is so incredibly beautiful. I also started investigating the Baha’i Faith at some point after my father passed away. I think both of our fathers gave us some assistance from the next world on our path to finding Baha’u'llah. :) May your continued journey towards Him be exceedingly blessed.

  9. nicki Adgoiy

    dear Sara it amazing I was a bible student & my family from Lutheran Church My problem was I don’t want to be under any man as his loyal servant. that worries me a lot and the other one was if we believe God is Love how did He create a hell to cook us .& I was asking what is the passing grade to go to heaven. I am originally from Ethiopia now I am a Texan. I admire the way you were thinking about Religion now I am a Bahi fo 40 years.

  10. Barbara

    Dear Sara, I enjoy reading your story. i been though ups and downs, However i felt like God was hugging me.
    God Bless.

  11. Etemad

    Dear Sara,

    Your story is so beautiful and well written, you took us all along with you on your amazing journey. Yet more importantly, I give you praise for having the intellect and love in your heart to seek truth.

    Loving Baha’i Regards

  12. Dearest Sister,
    I also found this wonderful Religion when I lost my dad…..I know he was the one who led me to it…..I was also raised a devout Catholic and had 12 yrs in a Catholic school…….I was never allowed to visit a Protestant church and I always wanted to know what the difference was in there beliefs…..as soon as I left the church I started searching by attending churches here and the one I was drawn to was the Unitarian however a week later I heard about the Baha’i Faith and a week later I signed my declaration card [2-26-1969] I love being a Baha’i…….May you be happy always……your Baha’i mother.

  13. I’ve read Sara’s story several times and each time I do it reinforces why I became a Bahai in September 2012.

  14. i am from democratic republic of congo my name is Mouskhynal,i adhered the baha’ie faith since 1988,when i was eigtheen now i am looking the one who can share with me this religion