My Facebook Friend Arri was my first interviewee for my “One Faith, Many Paths” series. You can read her first interview here. She asked for a follow-up interview, so I sent her some new questions. Arri had a troubled past to say the least, and she’s since risen above it. Here’s what she had to say.
- When you decided to become a Christian after being a Buddhist, did anyone help you in your conversion? Yes and no, maybe? It’s hard to say. Thinking back on it I was a kid that was angry, grieving, and depressed. At the time, my grandmother and best friend had passed away close to the same time. My thought was what many others tend to think when losing a loved one: if God was kind then why did He take them away? I turned to Buddhism when my biological father mocked about being one, and so I began to study it and several other religions. Buddhism is a philosophy, and so I gravitated towards that aspect. My path to being a believer in Christ happened one evening when I was home alone; I was hurt and angry and over all of it and grabbed a knife. Before I could go further, I felt a great presence wash over me which I still cannot adequately describe. It felt as if someone was there to tell me I wasn’t alone. I broke down and had my first real talk with God. Since then, I have done my own study of Christianity through the lens of artwork. Mostly, if anything has helped me continue my religious path, it has been the people I have become close to–you, being one. It has given me a new perspective to look at God, which to me has helped immensely. Religion isn’t a fixed thing; it’s also about the journey, not just the destination.
- You told me you wanted this interview because you felt that you were too angry the first time. How have you resolved those issues? Yes, I had forgotten that I had interviewed several years ago, and after rereading it, I was ashamed of my answers. Despite wanting to believe that I was okay with where I was in life, I wasn’t. Even though I had let God into the picture, I hadn’t let Him fully in. More of a “you can hang in the foyer of my soul, God, but don’t come into the rest of this wreck.” I was hoarding a great deal of emotional baggage–and I still have a fair amount. In order to protect myself, it was easy to put down or say passive-aggressive things about “Christians” that fit the bill of going to church on Sunday, but lead the rest of their week putting down others, at most, Christians, because of my own negative experiences in going to church. I now realize that this is not the case; it may exist but not at the numbers that I had believed. Rereading my interview made me realize that I was still that hurt kid lashing out at others before they could lash out at me, and that I was still hiding behind a lot of pain. In the years since, I have matured in my faith as well. Anger has faded, my family is whole with my adoptive parents, and I am in a different chapter in my life. I have had to evaluate relationships and cut out negative people, and have had to look into my own demons to sort out my emotions towards things in my past. If given the opportunity, I wanted to do a second interview to compare and contrast in just how much a person can develop, change, and grow; the process sometimes is far more interesting than the outcome.
- What is your favorite biblical passage and why? The Saul-Paul passage for sure! There is something extraordinary about reading about such a radical transformation of character. Here you have a murderer and fiend, and because of the actions of Christ, he is reborn and given a new name. The murderer is now a campaign man of God. The message to me is about the idea that we are not set in stone and are capable of tremendous change. As a person who has changed their name and is in the process of turning their own life around, I find the passage to be very inspiring.
- Besides Jesus, who is your favorite biblical figure and why? My man Luke! Mostly because of the studies of Christian art regarding him is my reason. Luke appeared in the first four gospel codices of the Bible’s under the rule of Charlemagne. He is regarded to be a great artist among the disciples, and holy reliquaries exist of Luke’s fingers and arm bones. St. Luke is the patron saint of artist, so as a painter, I gravitate towards him.
- Is there anyone in your life who makes you want to be a better person? My mom, Milissa. She inspires me in every sense of the word. She is a survivor, a warrior that has seen the harsh battles of life and circumstances, and is the strongest woman I know. Yet beyond the roughness, she is also the most generous and thoughtful woman I’ve ever met. She found a kid that had no future in her situation, a kid that was broken, and took her out of the life she knew and gave her a new one. She showed me love in her own way, kindness, and a place of love instead of violence. She gave me laughter instead of swearing; she gave me memories of watching movies and going on outings; she included me in vacations and holidays. She gave me a home, and she and her husband became my parents. Millissa is selfless as well as intelligent. She has studied religion, especially Christianity and always gives me something to think about. Seeing the kind of person that she is after what she has overcome inspires me to try my best one day at a time to live my life to the brightest, fullest, and oddest that it can be.
- What evidence can you give for God’s existence? The evidence is all around us! Go outside and take a look! Look at the majestic blue sky, or how the green of the leaves in trees are morphing into hues of golden, amber, and umber. Listen to a song; read the powerful words of someone’s imagination they have shared in their books. My favorite, besides being in nature, is to look at art. To see powerful artwork is to have a unspoken conversation with the Divine. It moves you; it stirs your soul to know that you are part of a grand and complex creation. God is everywhere in our world which can seem dark, but to quote a beloved fictional character, “we must remember to turn on the light.”