It wasn’t until I reached my teens that I began to appreciate all the things I inherited from my mother—my big eyes, strong calves, and most of all-- my religion.
Being raised in the Bible Belt South left me completely unexposed to religions other than Christianity. Winter break was definitively known as “Christmas Break,” and we skipped almost every chapter in biology that mentioned evolution. It wasn’t until moving to Oakland, California that I got my first real exposure to other religions.
That exposure came in tenth grade world history class, where we read everything from the Qu’ran to Hindu epics. One day we’d be deciphering the Bhagavad Gita, the next day we’d be studying Sikhism. I was most fascinated with the fact that every religion sought to answer that same big question: why are we here?
Studying world religions did bring me a new sense of spiritual curiosity and cultural sensitivity, but it also brought something else— resentment toward my parents. I felt as if they never let me choose. I felt I was stuck with Baptist Christianity. After years of being forced to sit in Sunday school, recite prayers, and take communion I wondered-- was I missing out on something?
So I started to explore what being Christian really means. I studied Jesus’ mantra, “Give, fast, pray.” I fasted for two weeks, eating nothing but rice and fruit, and drinking only water. I began reading scripture outside of church. I realized it was not about finding the one true religion; it was about faith, and that was something I had to find on my own.
Although I never changed my religion, I now believe I chose Christianity for myself. The resentment I felt towards my parents was replaced by admiration. Though the values of other religions appealed to me, my familiarity with Christianity was comforting. Not only for instilling me with a sense of spirituality, but also the sense of skepticism that allowed me to challenge it. When it came to that big question, why am I here, I realized my parent’s job was not to answer it for me, but instead to give me the courage to ask it for myself.