When we started Our Church Too, we dreamed of creating a safe space where people felt free to tell their stories, grow, and explore their faith. Although it's often unintentional, the church can easily become a place where it feels like we need to give the right answer or share the right story. We feel ashamed of ourselves, we keep things secret, and we let those things fester, and sometimes ruin us. Jesus calls us to lay everything out on the table. Avi's story is an honest and authentic exploration of his journey with God. He shares his heart with no pretence of perfection or finality, and we hope that his vulnerability inspires you to tell your story.
Hi everyone, hope everyone is doing well and being safe during this pandemic.
I want to talk about having faith in God. The story which I am talking about is a personal experience I had during my school days.
Let me give you a little insight on Indian education: 10th standard helps you decide which college you will attend because in 11th and 12th standard you will decide whether you are taking pure science, math and science, or pure math. After completing your 12th, you will choose your college based on the course you chose. This is just a small insight on the education system.
Now getting back to my personal experience with God, when I got into 10th standard my aunt who runs a school suggested to my parents that they home school me, since she did not want her school pass percentage to go down. The state government said people who are homeschooled can’t take French as their second language, they need to learn Tamil. I can speak my native language but not that good, so for me learning Tamil was not that easy, and was like learning a new language from start but in 10th standard.
My parents and aunt decided that I will repeat 10th standard twice because that gave me 2 years to learn Tamil and clear it in my main exam. During my first year of 10th standard, I cleared 3 exams out of 5. During my second year, I was able to clear one more exam, but I failed in my Tamil language. I still got another chance to clear the main exam a couple of months later, but still did not clear it. This is the time my depression started to sink in.
The reason the depression never hit me so hard before this point was because, at that young age, I never realized that my friends were moving up in life and I was stuck there, even if they were 1 year Senior or 2 years senior, they were in school with me. After failing my 3rd year, depression just came into my heart and mind like the family member or friend who walks into your home and never leaves you.
The reason depression hit me so bad was because I realized my friends were going to college and I was stuck with a big question mark not knowing where my life was going and what I would do. My depression went to new heights for me during the 4th year of trying to clear my exam. During that year I lost faith in God. I came to a decision that God does not exist, and is fake. I ripped the Bible in half and one time when I saw my mom singing a Christian song, I held a knife at her throat and told her to stop singing. She prayed for me and prayed that I would clear the exam during my last attempt.
Depression had taken over me, all I could see was darkness and sadness in my life because my brother was smarter than me and my friends were in college. I felt all of them were enjoying life and mine was just stuck there. I still studied for the exam even if I knew it was no use, the only reason I did it was my parents promised me it was the last attempt. A few days before the exam, my mom and my aunt told me that they understood I had lost faith in God and did not think he existed, the only thing they requested was that I keep faith for one last time. Even faith smaller than a mustard seed is fine, they said. They took me to a very small chapel and asked me to just talk about what I was feeling, whilst keeping the very small faith which they requested I had in God.
These are my exact words to God:
“See I do not believe in you, because you put people through these hardships. You allow Satan to give us all this trouble to prove to him that we will never lose faith. Ok, doing it for a year or two is fine, but to keep on allowing Satan to test us is not even good. How do you think I will pray and have faith? The only reason I kept a very small faith, smaller than a mustard seed, and am talking to you like this is because my mom and aunt requested it, otherwise you and me are done.” This what 17 year old me told God.
I had 0.5% faith and the rest was of me was like “suck it God and Satan. If I die I am killing you both in the afterlife.”
When I entered the final exam, my teacher who was a Hindu prayed to her God and waited outside for both the Tamil papers. When I came out I felt I did well, I did not think God helped me because I did not pray before writing the exam. My parents, friends, family, and my teacher were praying, the only thing I kept during the exams was 0.5% faith since my mom and aunt had requested me to. After a couple of days, I wrote the second exam. I did not feel that I had done a good job. I came to the conclusion that I failed this time, it was no use, my life was over and I was stuck. I did not pray or do anything, only kept 0.5% faith until the result came since it was requested.
On the day of the result everyone was at home, including my aunt and cousin, waiting for my phone call. My parents sat next to me, but the internet was too slow. My cousin, who is the son of my aunt who requested me to have 0.5% faith, suggested that we go to the centre and check there. He waited in line and checked, and when I saw the results, tears started to run down my face and I fell on my knees and cried.
I just would not believe my eyes, I had cleared my Tamil exams after 4 years and multiple attempts. After a couple of days, I went out sat down by myself and thought I only had 0.5% faith in God. God still believed in the faith I had in Him and made this miracle happen. That was when I realized even having faith which is smaller than a mustard seed still goes a long way in the eyes of God.
There are two kinds of people who will say they have faith in God. One says it because they trust our Lord, knowing what God does is best of us. The other one says it because they believe, but they do not trust God. The 0.5% faith which my mom and aunt requested me to have changed my faith into trust. Try trusting God even that much and you will see what happens. I might not go to church that much, and even when I don’t listen to any pastor or read the Bible, my trust in God never changes.
Thank you Our Church Too for letting me share my story.
Part 2 of Can We Gather? In this article, Genevieve addresses shame.
Genevieve take's a pilgrimage of churches and tackles the question, can we gather without harming one another?