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My Spiritual Independence Day

In a recent issue of CT magazine, Fady Ghobrial tells his powerful story of immigrating to America from the Middle East, falling into the bondage of sex and drugs, and how he came to faith in Christ.

I was born to religious parents in Cairo. At 40 days old, I was baptized like every good Coptic Orthodox Christian. Growing up in this kind of religious atmosphere leaves its mark on your soul forever. I can still recall the much-dreaded confession times with the priest.

I remember finishing confession, being instructed to do some penance and then inevitably returning to my same old sins. My attitude toward God was that he was mean, like my teachers from Jesuit school who would physically punish me for falling short of their academic or behavioral standards.

In 2002, my family moved to America but my heart quickly soured on the church of my youth. By the time I reached high school, I was so disillusioned with the faith that I swung from being a “good religious kid” to the opposite extreme. High school afforded opportunities to hang out with new friends, experiment with dating and drugs. Before long, I had given myself over to a lifestyle of partying, fornication, and drug addiction.

I still recall arriving at home one night at around two in the morning. My mom was awake, crying to God and praying for Jesus to save me. Then my best friend, George with his brother Mark, started going to Arabic Baptist Church, so naturally I was apprehensive about a sudden invitation to visit the youth group. But Mark was relentless. Every Friday night, without fail, he would pick me up for the hourlong drive to the church. There I found a very different breed of Christian. The people there sincerely loved God. They were kind and not hypocritical. They actually loved and welcomed me. Wow, I thought, these Christians are having fun and enjoying their relationship with God.

Before my sophomore year in college, my dad forced me to attend the church’s annual Fourth of July conference. Dragging my feet, I went along. But I discovered that weekend that even the fiercest resistance or the coldest indifference is irrelevant once God decides to act in your life. I heard the gospel with new ears. I heard that God loves me so much that he sent Jesus to die for my sins. And I understood that by trusting in Jesus, all of my sins would be forgiven, and that I would be accepted by God and made right with him.

My life today is a testimony to God’s goodness and grace. This past July, I celebrated another year of walking with and serving Jesus Christ. I have been celebrating my spiritual birthday every Independence Day for the past 11 years, and the symbolic overlap isn’t lost on me.

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