where it all began

“Please make it stop. When will this be over?” I kept murmuring to myself as I sat on the bathroom floor, wondering how quickly I could end this. A sharp blade and one swift slash. That’s all it’ll take, right?

I was fourteen years old and at my limit. My uncle’s oppressive words and actions drove me to the edge of my cliff and the only thing I wanted to do was close my eyes and jump off into a sea of nothingness. However, while these voices and options haunted my thoughts, another voice intervened. A soothing voice. This voice told me not to give up. That I was stronger than this. That if I give up, he wins. For a girl who never learned anything but to rely on herself, I simply thought this voice was my own inner strength and pride. I came to realize that this was the first beckoning my heart ever heard from God. But who was God? I didn’t know. I didn’t really want to. But accepting the call from this Stranger led to the most amazing transformation ever.

Superstitions, talismans, a house that smelled constantly of incense. These were a few of the things that plagued my house and existence as a child. Of course, there were also the evil spirits and the plastic and ceramic idols that made home in my house and the nearby temple. If you haven’t guessed it already, I grew up Buddhist. This was the only way I knew. I went to the temple and offered fruits and paper money for the dead during festivals and celebrations. If anyone asked me what it was that I believed, I probably would’ve made something up on the spot because I really didn’t know. But yet, I followed it and took the oaths and was initiated into this religion. And it wouldn’t be until my youth pastor in high school explained it to me that I actually realized what I had committed so much of my life to. Buddhists believe that all life is suffering, and after death is just more suffering. And all the good we do in this life can only lessen the suffering in the life to come.

When I was fourteen years old, my uncle and his son and nephew came to live with us. He was verbally and emotionally oppressive. One day, over a simple thing as the phone bill, I was struck across the face by him. This man, whom I regarded as the closest thing to a father that I had, hit me. I still can’t remember exactly how the fight went. It’s one of my mental roadblocks I set up as a defense mechanism, I guess. It was at this time that my friend introduced me to church. My mother could not speak fluent English, and I was too young to figure all of this out by myself, so we turned to a Chinese church that could possibly aid us in our trial. In court, I saw the first glimpse of God’s mercy acted out by my Buddhist mother. Had she gone through and continued to press charges, my uncle would have faced losing his visa and would be deported back to China. As angry as she was at his behavior, she did not wish to carry out this sentence. We simply cut our ties and moved on.

And after this matter was resolved, I still attended church socially out of gratitude for the people who walked beside us. I didn’t always want to, but I felt obligated. I didn’t belong there, why should I go? All of these people were bright, shiny, happy people. That was my initial perception. And me? I was dark, gloomy, and Buddhist. A dark cloud followed me everywhere. Nevertheless, I continued attending and even graduated to youth group status as I continued to get involved. Somewhere down the line, the Gospel began to make sense to me, but what was I to do? I’d been raised Buddhist, and I would disgrace my family if I should turn from it. What if my mother disowns me? What if she accuses me of being ungrateful to the teaching and the lifestyle of my grandmother, whom she greatly respected? And on top of that, I had already taken the oaths five years prior. What right did I have to change anything? What right did I have to walk my own path away from my family? In Chinese culture, tradition and family elders ruled one’s life. Did I have the courage to show this kind of defiance in the face of my family, who already judged me for standing up against my uncle?

Despite all that, when I was fifteen, I responded to an altar call four days removed from Christmas. It was the first choice I ever made for myself. My mother didn’t disown me and actually thought that I was old enough to make my own decisions. I can’t exactly say life’s been shiny and happy like I’d always assumed. I think I’m beginning to realize now that I had signed up for something much, much bigger than I had first perceived. I’ve hit the hardest time of my life, and it’s very difficult to suddenly be accountable to someone other than myself. And it’s only now that I’m slowly starting to understand what faith is. Let go and let God, and hope to fly.

Don’t give up. If you give up, you will lose. I understand what those words mean now. If I had given up that night and the many nights prior, I would’ve lost out on eternity with Christ. I would’ve signed myself up for the first handbasket that would ferry me off to an eternity of separation from everything that I wanted to have. The soft voice of a father calling out to his daughter—that is what I’ve wanted to experience for years. This freedom is an amazing feeling. To be released from the years of bondage in the teaching and beliefs of Buddhism is a relief that I can’t even begin to describe. To not be held solely and strictly to ceremonies, offerings, chanting, funny robes, and scheduled vegetarian days (which, I admit, was probably the hardest of all of them!) is strange. But most of all to be released from that fear of an eternity of suffering as I was always taught, that is one thing I am most grateful for.


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