*Disclaimer: I was given the honor and opportunity to speak at an outdoor celebration to conclude a 10 week discipleship I just completed at my church. I edited my story to tone down the candid insanity. This is one continuous thought and it might be weird reflecting on thoughts about God, so I apologize in advance if I might seem crazy because I probably am. This was written for my church, but I am sharing my story because it might help someone somewhere heal and to grow stronger in their faith. I am so thankful to have grown so much by God's grace so, here it goes.
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story tonight. I have had to confront a lot of old and wild thoughts to honestly reflect on how I got here. I didn’t just drive here after work, like how did I really arrive at this moment? We just completed a ten week discipleship together and it feels like this is only the beginning all over again. I’m new here. I got baptized when we entered this program and I put a lot into perspective this season as a brand new Christian, and I’m going to have to go backwards a little before I can go forward with my flow of thought.
I am the only Christian in my family, but growing up, that wasn’t part of my identity. When you’re Asian, the most common question that people will ask you is what are you? What kind of Asian are you? Where are you from? I’d always reply that I’m Thai, and if you should know anything about the culture (besides the food) is that Buddhism is rooted in the culture and traditions. Although being Buddhist wasn’t my primary identity—like I wouldn’t say, “Hi my name is Alyssa and I’m a Buddhist,”—it’s just part of the family I come from and how I was raised.
I grew up as the closest grandchild to my ying (which means my mom’s mom), and my ying was a woman dressed in white who shaved her hair like a monk and she lived a simple life of prayer and meditation so, I think of her as a great example of a good woman with a strong spirit. I didn’t understand what Buddhism was as a kid, like I didn’t know any Zen principles or anything like that, especially when this religion was chanted in the mother language, and I guess that I didn’t only have a language barrier with my grandma—I also had a language barrier with my understanding of faith.
I got to live a fairly normal American life, but if there is anything that I have realized in hindsight, is that I did not know Jesus when I was a kid. God has always known me, God knows each and every one of our souls, but I did not always know God. I didn’t have the spiritual awareness to know about how He works in my life and I did not know that I could pray to Him when I experienced something traumatic in my past. I have tried so many different medications over the years— antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics, lithium—and I don’t like medication. I don’t like seeing the psychiatrist or being told that there’s a chemical imbalance in my brain.
I coped with the battle inside my head by returning to the roots I knew—reading, drawing, painting—and then connecting that to my worldview, which was limited but began from within. I took myself off my medication and really recovered by building a foundation with meditation, and reiki, and yoga—but when someone told me that Jesus is the truth and that those practices actually led me away from God—I struggled with myself all over again because that was my truth at the time. I found that mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and holistic healing through yoga—so it took me a while to let go of what I knew.
I was also let go from my job around the time Covid started affecting us and then my studio also closed, so I felt sad again. I took a break from yoga to give Jesus a place in my heart and mind, and what I realized is that God does so much more for us. I started with reading books of the Bible and searching for videos online, churches near me, and after a painful break up I really started praying to God to lead me to find a church family so that I can grow in my faith as a Christian.
So, I feel very blessed to be here tonight because I found this wonderful church. You guys do it all—the online sermons, baptism, discipleship—and when I saw that was coming up soon, I knew that God was nudging me in the right direction to reach out already. If I stayed at home on the internet alone, I would have missed out on the opportunity to really grow in my faith and heal my brokenness if I wasn’t brave enough to change. I went from being a yoga instructor to becoming a follower of Christ. I am the only person in my family to take the leap of faith to embrace Jesus as my Lord and Savior because He is the truth to clarify any confusion, He is the light to shine away the darkness, and He is the only thing that makes any sense in the current times we live in.
When I think about the state of the world or the weight in my heart, Christ helps me hold myself together. This is why I am so grateful for this church and my group to really guide me this season. We’ve taken the time to read the same book and to reflect on these lessons with our groups, and I am so thankful to my group for listening to me process my candid insanity. We learned who our almighty God is, how He speaks to us, and the power of prayer. I used to meditate before I started my day and before I would go to bed, but now that quiet space is my time alone with God to let Him know what’s on my heart and mind and to ask Him for His guidance in my life. People think meditation and prayer are the same, but the key difference is that meditation is to quiet the mind while prayer is to really connect with God and He doesn’t mind if you pour your heart out to Him.
God loves each and everyone of us, and I stand before you today because I took the leap of faith and I hope that you can also grow stronger in your faith by hearing my story because I see God working in my life now. He has inspired me to paint again, He led me to a better job where I can grow in my abilities, and He has led me to this church to grow in my faith with five other good people who I keep in my thoughts and prayers. We have prayed for each other over the weeks and one of the first things we prayed about was to hear God speak to us. One of His messages to me recently is to trust Him—like I’m driving and thinking why certain things have happened to me and I hear Him tell me, trust me—Yes I trust you, but what’s going on?--trust me, He says. He doesn’t want you to be confused by your emotions or discouraged by who you are or the mistakes you’ve made or whatever suffering you have gone through in the past. Put your faith in Jesus and trust Him.
If you have the heart to change, you can let go of what you think you know about yourself but also get a better grasp of who you really are through Christ, and maybe I have a Zen approach to Christianity which all that really means is that it starts with a beginner’s mind. My group helped me realize that I had an internal rather than an external approach to my relationship with Christ, where I didn’t grow up with the Bible or going to church or knowing any better. I didn’t have this external knowledge to understand how God works in my life, like I experienced the definition or meaning of a word before knowing the perfect word to describe that feeling.
I don’t have a whole lot figured out yet, but I know that God has guided me in the right direction to really grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Granted, there is so much more that I still need to learn and work on personally, but I am aware of that and I acknowledge that. Wherever you are on your journey of faith, I would like to encourage you to also reflect on your roots and to grow in His grace—and to be nice to yourself as you do. Don’t get too carried away by what everyone else is doing. Remember what really matters at the end of the day or at the end of life, and your peace with God is so important.
I hope that I didn’t offend anyone’s beliefs as I shared my voice and candid thoughts about changing faith. As I wrap up this thought, I’d like to emphasize that this is what I think today. This is how I feel at this moment. I still haven’t made up my mind on my final thoughts about Buddhism and yoga, but it’s on my heart because I acknowledge that it has helped me in my faith journey to understand myself as the woman God created me to be. I used to end my yoga classes with this lesson here—that I hope you felt what you needed to feel and found what you needed to find. I experienced that through prayer because of the guidance I've had this season and my life has changed for the better knowing that God is with me, and I hope that you know that He is here for you too. “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18). Thank you.