Finding the right identity
How much do you love Allah? Your answer to this question will vary depending on the degree to which you recognize what He has done for you. To put it differently, the one who has been forgiven little will love little, but the one who has been forgiven much will love much. The truth is that once you see the heinousness of your sins in contrast to the holiness of the Lord, and then receive the outpouring of His grace on account of the Messiah, you cannot help but rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible, as He fills you with His love. The soul that has been delivered from the condemnation of sin will exult in such a great salvation, and the redeemed will gladly sing His praises.
Words could not express the joy that I felt on that special day! It was as though I had begun a new life, as though I was discovering the world afresh. Creation seemed to proclaim the glories of its Creator like never before: The sky and the stars seemed to declare the magnitude of His power; the intricate design of life seemed to display the depth of His wisdom; the fragility of life acted as a testimony to His tender care. I simply marveled that I could see His fingerprints everywhere, and that His signature was on every corner of His handiwork. Moreover, as a result of this spiritual awakening, I was freshly aware of the gifts that we get from above and the mercies that are new every morning: Each breath was a testimony to His love, and each smile carried a reminder of His goodwill; rain was a sign of His grace, and food was a proof of His benevolence.
Even more so, beyond the display of Allah's common grace to the entire created order, I also realized the excellence of His special grace towards those whom He has redeemed. It comes to us in the most astonishing ways: It transforms the heart and sanctifies our entire being; it washes our conscience clean and gives us the privileges of divine sonship; it delivers us from the bondage of the flesh under the law of sin, and sets us free to live through faith under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Every endeavor becomes an opportunity to magnify our King, and every trial becomes an instrument to sharpen our faith. When we consider the purposes of our Master, we realize that His providence is not only for His rightful glory, but also for our privileged good.
Moreover, I discovered that the same grace which saves us through the gospel also sanctifies us through His Word. The fact of the matter is that Allah ministers to our souls through the Word of His revelation. He not only speaks from above, but He also speaks through His messengers, with the help of His Spirit. That is why a faithful message will touch the hearts of the redeemed. And that is exactly what I felt on that first Sunday morning, when we gathered together to worship our great Lord and Savior. My soul was nourished through the sermon that was preached, as I devoured each word and meditated on each thought. My inmost being was refreshed by the streams of living water, and my mind was renewed by the grace offered to me in the Messiah. Even the songs that we sang ministered to my soul, those powerful truths bringing fresh tears to my eyes. I was particularly touched by a song entitled "Glorious Day", translated out of English by a member of the Church. Those words resonated deeply within me:
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified, freely, forever
One day He's coming; oh glorious day!
They perfectly captured the cry of my heart: Jesus, the Lover of my soul, had lived a perfect life of obedience… out of love for me; He had died on the cross… to save me from the condemnation that I justly deserved; He was buried… to cast my sins away from Allah's sight; He rose from the dead… so that He could transfer the vindication of His righteousness to me, once and for all, as a gift; and He promised that He would come back on the Last Day… to gather His people into Allah's Kingdom.
I could have stayed there all day since I was warmly welcomed into Allah's family by the congregation, but I knew that I had to go back to the shelter. I had to find Richard, before it was too late. After all, he was only visiting. Perhaps he would leave soon and I would lose my opportunity to find out my true identity. I just couldn't risk that, no matter how much I appreciated the love of my new family. So, after many warm embraces and tears of joy, Haroun and I left the church. Once more, we made our way through the streets of Al-Hasakah, turning one corner after another. This time, I had no pain in my legs. Quite the contrary! I was energized by the excitement of day. My mind was filled with words of wisdom and pleasant thoughts. My heart was satisfied, having found rest in the arms of my Savior. Thanksgiving and praise to Allah flowed liberally from my lips, as we chatted along the way.
Then, we finally arrived at Pastor Tallat's place. I recognized the entrance… and the stairs that I had skipped on my way out. Maybe I could even find the exact location on the ground where I had lost a bit of my dignity… I must admit that I was a bit embarrassed by the events of the previous day. However, I was comforted by the thought of Allah's grace towards those who humble themselves. Besides, there was nothing else to do. I would certainly apologize and recognize my fault, but I had confidence that I would also find mercy from above. Thankfully, Haroun's presence would ensure my entry into the house; if anything, they would be kind to me for his sake. This time, we didn't just walk in without knocking. Instead, Haroun knocked several times on the door. But, there was something unusual about the way that he knocked: he did so in a very calculated manner, as if he was trying to communicate through Morse code. Knock, knock… Knock, knock, knock… Knock; Knock, knock… Knock, knock, knock… Knock. He motioned for me to wait. So, we waited in an awkward moment of silence. I wondered if there was anyone behind the door. I thought I heard something… Then, he repeated his coded message. Knock, knock… Knock, knock, knock… Knock; Knock, knock… Knock, knock, knock… Knock. Right when I was about to ask him what kind of signal he was trying to communicate, someone unlocked the door. As soon as it opened, I recognized the woman standing in front of us: it was Mariam.
Haroun – Hi, Mariam. We came back.
Mariam – Oh, it's you… I thought that it was Jehu.
Haroun – Mariam, I can assure you that this is not Jehu. I brought my friend with me again… the one who introduced himself as Mohammed.
Moe – Who is Jehu?
Haroun – Don't worry about it.
Mariam – Welcome back. Is everything okay?
Haroun – Yes, we just need to talk to Richard.
Mariam – He's not here. He left last night.
Moe – He left! Where did he go?
Mariam – Do you know him?
Moe – It's a long story…
Mariam – Well, do you mind sharing it with me?
Moe – Sure… but, I need to find Richard first. Do you know how I can get in touch with him?
Mariam – I don't know his personal information. Maybe Pastor Tallat can help you. Why do you want to talk to Richard before you share your story with me?
Moe – It's because he knows more than I do…
Mariam – About what?
Moe – About me.
Mariam – What are you talking about?
Haroun – Mariam, just trust me; he's legitimate. He lost his memory and can't remember who he is. Now, apparently Richard knows him, which is why we need to talk to him.
Mariam – Do you think that I'm gullible because I'm a woman?
Haroun – I'm not making this up. You know what happened yesterday…
Mariam – Haroun, all I know is that the man standing beside you claimed that his name was Mohammed, and it turns out that he lied about that. What makes you think that he's telling you the truth now? What does he claim that his name is?
Moe – I don't know my name… Richard called me two different names…
Mariam – Two different names?
Moe – Yes…
Mariam – Do you mind sharing those names, or do you need to talk to Richard first?
Moe – Please, I'm not trying to cause any trouble.
Mariam – Well, you're not on a good start, if that's your goal!
Moe – Okay, he called me Wasef and Adam!
As soon as I said those names, Mariam suddenly became quiet. Her eyes opened wide and her jaw slightly dropped. But, she didn't say a single word. She just stared at me in shock, as if she was looking at a ghost. I must admit that her reaction made me a little nervous. A multitude of thoughts crowded my mind: Did she recognize those names? She must have… However, why couldn't she recognize my face? Had I been disfigured by the explosion? Did I look different than I did in the past? But, that wouldn't explain how Richard could recognize me. Maybe she had heard the names before, but had never met the person… maybe she had never met me.
Moe – Do you know those names?
Mariam – It can't be…
Moe – Why? What do you know about those names? Mariam, what is it?
Unfortunately, she was speechless. She seemed to be in a state of shock, gazing in front of her at no particular object. I realized that it was pointless to put pressure on her. Already, I could tell that she would not be able to talk about it. Her facial expression seemed to waver between sadness and confusion. Her eyebrows were furrowed and her breathing seemed to accelerate. I was just hoping that she wouldn't faint or slam the door shut. I tried to approach her slowly, but when I accidentally kicked a flower pot with my right foot, she got scared and quickly took a step back. So, I decided to stand still… not sure what to do.
Haroun – Mariam, it's okay. We're here to find answers. If Richard isn't here, then maybe Pastor Tallat can help us. He knows how to get in touch with him.
Mariam – Okay…
Haroun – Is Pastor Tallat inside?
Mariam – Yes…
Haroun – Can we come in and talk to him?
Mariam – Sure…
Haroun – Thank you.
Moe – Yes… Thank you, Mariam.
Mariam led us inside the home. She immediately started walking towards the living room, forgetting to close the door. So, I made sure to shut it before we followed her, putting some distance between us. She seemed disoriented, as if she struggled to navigate between the rooms. She was holding out her hands and touching the walls, as though she was trying to make sure that she wouldn't hit them. I was quite puzzled by her behavior, but I decided to simply keep following her. Once we reached the living room, she told us to wait there until she would get Pastor Tallat. She then disappeared in a different hallway. Thus, we stayed there for a while. At first, we simply stood up. However, when we realized that it might take a while, we decided to sit down. I don't know how long we waited, but it seemed like an eternity! Every minute felt like an hour. I guess that I was a bit anxious to get answers.
Moe – I hope that she's okay…
Haroun – Mariam? Don't worry about her. She can handle it.
Moe – Do you think that she knows who I am? She reacted kind of strangely when she heard the names that Richard called me.
Haroun – Maybe someone mentioned your name to her before.
Moe – That's possible. I can't wait to find out…
At that moment, Pastor Tallat walked into the living room, holding Mariam's hand. His eyes glanced in our direction as they carefully turned the corner. He helped her to sit in the sofa chair, as though he was afraid that she would faint. He took a box of tissues and gently laid it on her lap. Then, he pulled out a chair and sat down in front of us. Somehow, he remained calm; but, I could tell that he was disturbed by what Mariam had just told him. He looked at me, as if he wanted to speak, but he paused for a moment. He was obviously trying to find the right words to say. It was hard to believe that this was the same man who had so eloquently answered the tirade of questions the other day. That, too, made me a little nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that something was coming, but there was no way that I could prepare for the blow.
Tallat – So… you don't remember who you are?
Moe – Yes. I mean no… I mean, that's correct. I don't remember who I am.
Tallat – Do you want to talk about those things? Do you feel safe right now?
Moe – Yes, of course.
Tallat – Good. Do you remember me?
Moe – No. I don't.
Tallat – I see… Do you remember Richard?
Moe – I don't remember him either.
Tallat – What is your name?
Moe – I don't know. I was hoping that you could tell me.
Tallat – Why do you think that I know your name?
Moe – Well, Richard seemed to know me… Do you not know my name?
Tallat – Does the name Adam mean anything to you?
Moe – Yes. That's what Richard called me. He also called me Wasef.
Tallat – And, those names aren't familiar to you?
Moe – Not at all. I mean, I've heard those names before, but not in reference to me. Why do I have two names?
Tallat – Let me give you something. I'd like you to read it. We can talk when you're done.
Moe – Right now?
Tallat – Yes. You can do that while I prepare some tea. It won't take very long.
Pastor Tallat handed me an envelope and then walked out of the room. I looked at Mariam, waiting for a reaction; but, she didn't move. I realized that she was going to stay. There was a name on the top left corner of the envelope: "HeartCry Missionary Society". Inside the envelope was a letter, neatly folded in three. When I took it out, I realized that it was only one page long. The title immediately caught my attention: "Adam Haddad's Missionary Update, December 2011". There was also a picture of a Muslim man on the right side of the letter, dressed in the traditional robe, wearing a white taqiyah. But, something wasn't quite right about that picture. There was something unusual about the man… Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a picture of me! I couldn't believe my eyes. I examined it carefully to make sure that it wasn't just someone who resembled me. I looked younger on the photo: I was a bit thinner and I had a much shorter beard. However, there was no question about it… I was looking at a picture of myself!
Haroun – What is it? What does it say?
Moe – It's an update written for the HeartCry Missionary Society. It's over three years old, and there's a picture of me on the letter…
Haroun – Really? Can I see?
Before I even had time to answer, Haroun quickly snatched the letter out of my hands, in his usual brash manner. I wanted to take it back, but I decided to wait instead. After all, he was just as curious as I was… He looked intently at the photo for some time, while a huge grin was forming on his face. Apparently, he was amused by it. He then looked up and held the letter towards me, as if he was comparing the man in front of him with the one on the picture. He seemed happy with his findings.
Haroun – I know the man in this picture! That's you alright! Adam Haddad…
Adam – Do you mind if I read it?
Haroun – Can I read it out loud? That way, Mariam can learn who you are as well.
Adam – She probably read it before…
Haroun – Adam, Mariam is blind… She can't read.
Adam – What? She's blind?
Haroun – Haha! You didn't realize that?
Adam – No…
Haroun – Haha! Oh, Adam… Don't let the appearances fool you. I know that she doesn't fit your typical stereotype of a blind person. That's because her sense of esthetic is as strong as her character… Maybe she fooled you because she's such a smart woman. But, trust me, she's completely blind; she's been that way from her birth.
As the embarrassment settled in, I felt blood rush to my face. How did I miss that? Now, I understood her strange behavior! She wasn't disoriented, neither was Pastor Tallat afraid that she was going to faint. She just couldn't see anything. That's why, on Saturday, when she brought me to the living room, she didn't notice that I wanted to grab something from the table. That's why she was startled by the flower pot that I kicked earlier. So, I simply laughed and looked over to Mariam. She was wiping her tears with a tissue; but she was smiling, keeping her emotions under control. She certainly didn't look like a blind person. I was struck by the fact that her eyes looked normal. Even her pupils were as black as anyone else's.
Adam – I'm sorry, Mariam. I didn't realize…
Mariam – That's fine. I'll take it as a compliment.
Adam – That sounds good.
Mariam – Just so you know, Pastor Tallat has already read the letter to me… a long time ago. They always include me in their family devotions.
Adam – Family devotions?
Mariam – Yes, Pastor Tallat has a family. I'm not their daughter, but, ever since Jesus saved me, they have taken care of me as though I belonged to their family. The boys are out. They left after the service to help out one of the members of the congregation who had trouble with his car. They should be back soon. Their mother is resting.
Adam – I see…
Haroun – Adam, I hate to ruin the moment, but I'd like to read this letter. Do you mind if I read it aloud?
Adam – Of course. Go ahead… Let's find out together.
Haroun – Okay, here it goes: "Dear brothers and sisters, it is with great pleasure that I write this update. How could I express the joy that I have to be working for the gospel in Syria? How could I thank you enough for your prayers? Even though we are separated physically, I still feel the bond of love that unites us in Christ, and I am with you in my spirit. Some of you may be expecting great stories of revival and conviction of the Holy Spirit, but I don't have any to report. Nevertheless, I am of good cheer. The work may be difficult, but it is the greatest endeavor that a man could undertake. Through my service at the orphanage in Qamishli, I have had the opportunity to speak about Jesus and encourage a few Muslims to read the Injil. The orphans certainly appreciate the time that I spend with them, and I try to show them that it is the love of Jesus that compels me to do so. I have been able to bond with a young girl named Aisha. She calls me "uncle Wasef" (that is my legal name), and always smiles whenever she sees me. As a sign of our friendship, she gave me her bracelet from the orphanage, which I always wear on my right wrist, as the orphans do. She is only 9 years old, but she is very intelligent. She seems to understand what I am teaching her about the condemnation of the law, and the grace of the gospel. Pray that she might come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that God would protect her from men who try to take advantage of little girls in her situation (even Muslims have their sexual predators; a veil wouldn't change that). Also, I feel that the Lord is calling me to reach out to those who live in areas that are more dangerous, such as Kobani. Although there are a few Christians over there, I will try to blend in with Muslims as though I was one of them. You will notice that, in the picture, I am dressed in the traditional robe. Hopefully, this will help me to reach out to them, if my beard could only grow out more! Pray for a fruitful endeavor. Our Savior is worthy! May God bless you richly! With much brotherly love, Adam."
Haroun – That's it.
Adam – So, I was already a Christian…?
Haroun – Wow… I guess so! But, you pretended that you were a seeker…
Adam – I was already a Christian.
Haroun – Well, I guess that in some ways, we're all seekers… But, I still don't think that you should lie.
Adam – I don't intend to anymore.
Haroun – Instead, you should be bold, like me!
Adam – Maybe there's a balance, Haroun. There's a difference between boldness and arrogance.
Haroun – Are you saying that I'm arrogant? Is it that noticeable?
Adam – Well, unlike Mariam, you can't fool people. Your condition is just plain obvious.
Mariam – Maybe we can learn to be humble and bold at the same time…
Haroun – Haha! Okay, you got me… point well taken! Here you go… As a sign of my repentance, I hand over your letter. And, I also promise that I will never again make fun of Mariam behind her back…
All at once, we started laughing. It wasn't the greatest joke, but it helped us to appease the tension, a way to let go of the pressure that had built up within. Our laughter quickly turned into tears. Suddenly, we all needed tissues, even Haroun. So, we passed the box around. But, that was just the beginning… I placed my hands over my face and cried… There were tears of joy, and there were tears of relief. I couldn't do anything but cry… I was plainly emotionally exhausted. We had gone through so much turbulence in a matter of a few days! I had gone from excitement to fear, from fear to comfort, from comfort to conviction, from conviction to joy, and from joy to relief! But, thankfully, I wasn't alone. I now had others with whom I could share those emotions. They could rejoice with me, and they could cry with me. We could walk together through the valleys and through the storms. These were my newfound brothers and sisters. I was not an orphan; in fact, I had a very large family… a spiritual family. This made me realize something else: I wasn't an orphan at all!
Adam – I'm not an orphan…
Haroun – What?
Adam – I'm not an orphan.
Haroun – What do you mean? You thought that you were an orphan?
Adam – Now I am a part of Allah's family. You and Pastor Tallat and Mariam are my family!
Haroun – It just keeps getting better!
Adam – Mariam, did you keep other letters?
Mariam – I think so. You'll have to ask Pastor Tallat.
Adam – I must read those letters… all of them. I need to find out who I was and how I came here.
Haroun – That's right! Each one of them is like a piece of the puzzle of your life!
Adam – Hopefully Pastor Tallat will come back soon. Why is he taking so long?
Mariam – Maybe he had the same thoughts. Maybe he's getting more letters.
Haroun – Perhaps…
Mariam – We'll just have to be patient.
Adam – Of course… Mariam, do you have any Christian songs that we can listen to?
Mariam – We do. But, if you're trying to stop the tears, that's not going to help you.
Adam – No, that's not what I'm trying to do. I want to set my heart on the grace that Allah has given to us in His Son. I want to find rest in Him and express my gratitude through worship.
Haroun – That's a good idea.
Adam – What do you think?
Mariam – That sounds good. There are so many good songs, but let's start with these two… They're entitled, "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" and "Jesus, Thank You".
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