'God loved the real me, not the narrative I had created'
Jacob’s story | A love that leads to truth-telling
“I grew up in an orthodox Christian household. It meant that I always believed that God was there, and I learnt to pray from a very young age. But the liturgy was conducted in Arabic, and I never learnt Arabic, so I wasn’t really hearing the message.
Then my family went through struggles at home, and I saw the ugly side of some people in my extended family – and in the church. I became quite disillusioned by hypocrisy and lies. I became a very angry kid. I guess I wasn’t open to the Spirit of God.
Then at high school, there was a lot of bullying. As well as being angry with everyone, I felt hurt and empty. In my emptiness, I turned to everything I could find, including underage drinking and drugs at the age of 16. It became an addiction. My life went pretty much downhill from there.
A couple of years later, I met a female colleague at work. It wasn’t a romantic interest. But I knew she was a Christian. I can’t remember how I found out, but I knew, so I watched her. I was waiting for the hypocrisy or the double standards. But it never came. She was a genuinely nice, calm person. And I was really taken aback. There was no other side to her. She was filled with grace (and with the Holy Spirit, although I didn’t know that then). It was just inspirational. If anyone tried to gossip around her, she just shut them down. She didn’t engage in any of that.
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“I was waiting for the hypocrisy or the double standards. But it never came.” – Jacob
I found it incredible. I don’t know why, but because of her, I started to read my Bible. Perhaps it was osmosis from my colleague. I read all four Gospels, and I was so inspired. I was finally reading the Bible and understanding who Jesus was: the Son of God. And Jesus was a rebel; he was against the religious authorities of the day. He called them hypocrites, which was kind of funny. He was calling out the supposedly religious people, and I found that amazing!
That was the beginning of my journey. I didn’t change overnight. I still struggled with addiction, and I knew I had to slowly address my sins, one by one – all the things I was holding on to. It was easy to find justifications and excuses. But I’m on the journey. I’m in a new church now, and I’ve moved to the country, NSW. I am final submitting to God. It’s a really freeing feeling! I have found a wonderful peacefulness.
“When I accepted that God, in all his greatness, made me and loved me, it was amazing.”
I’ve also become a radical truth-teller. As a child and teenager, I was a compulsive liar. It was a habit. I used to lie about who I was or what I’d done. I think that anyone who hates themselves is drawn to lies. I felt a lot of shame, so I put on a show, and I created narratives and backstories. I tried to become other people, to fit in. Then, at one point, it all came crashing down.
After that, it wasn’t instantaneous, but when I accepted that God, in all his greatness, made me and loved me, it was amazing. God actually loved the real me, not the narrative that I had created. And realising that God knew me and loved me was amazing. It meant that I could grow in loving myself and being authentic. It meant that I could become a truth-teller.
Ephesians 2:4-5 is the verse I always come back to:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
I really love that verse, because for a long time I felt dead inside – unforgiveable and unredeemable. But then I saw that God’s mercy and grace had redeemed me. It was a game-changer for me. I’ve slowly been able to let go of the anger and all the lies. I have understood God’s forgiveness! It has been the most beautiful gift I could ever receive. God’s mercy is so great!”
Jacob’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, complied by Naomi Reed. Click to read more Faith Stories.