I was raised in a Christian home by dedicated Christian parents. We prayed before we went out, whenever we got in the car, before we cooked, before we started our homework, and of course, before going to sleep. The bookshelves were full of children’s devotional books and Bibles, and we watched Bible cartoons in the evenings.
One of my favorite movies is the 1967 classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The movie was released at a very sensitive period in American history when race relations were highly volatile. It went on to become a major hit and acted as a great agent for social change.
Have you ever felt like life took you down the wrong road, or that things just weren’t meant to work out for you? There was a time when my life didn’t seem to make any sense, like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry.
A serious case of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, left me depressed as a child and then heightened the usual teenage worries about the future. By the time I was 15, I was on drugs. It was a wonder that I managed to make it through those troubled years when I couldn’t have felt more lost and helpless. God was the furthest thing from my mind.
I still remember that day. It was the early 80s and I was a teenager sitting in the back seat of our car. Somebody at a stop light handed my parents some beautiful color posters to read, and they quickly handed them to me in the back seat. Then they stopped at a place where they had some business and left me alone in the car for a while. As I had nothing else to do, I picked up the posters and glanced at them. They had a picture in the front and a message at the back about salvation and the gift of eternal life through Jesus.
I grew up in a Christian family, but when I was a teenager, feeling overwhelmed over the world’s problems caused me to start doubting my faith. When I was 18, though, my boyfriend was a firm believer. We had some discussions on faith, and he was so sincere that I started doubting my doubts.
“This humanitarian work you do—is there some religious motivation? If it’s religious, I’m an atheist.” The old bum tugging at my arm looked more like a beast than a man. His shriveled body bore all the marks of extreme alcoholism, but his eyes were alert and pled with mine.
“I was once an atheist, too,” I told him.
I dreamed that I was invited to a luxurious banquet. Everything around me shone with glory and splendor. Crystal goblets were filled with the best wines and all my favorite dishes were present. Then there was the command, “Eat and be happy.”
So I ate and was happy. By the time the desserts were served, I could hardly take another bite, and then …
We had just finished a program for 300 teenage inmates at a correctional center in northern India, and many of the boys gathered around us. The theme of our program that day had been the importance of faith in the face of difficulty. That had been something they all could relate to, especially the difficulty part.