I grew up hating Christianity. I couldn’t stand the thought of people believing in some man who claimed to have died for others. It seemed like such an obvious lie.
When I was in high school, my teachers asked me to narrate the birth of Jesus Christ for Christmas, and my response was to do it in an extremely angry tone, because I hated it. To me, it meant talking about someone I despised.
My teachers would protest, saying I needed to make it sound loving, and I would respond by telling them how much I disliked this man, Jesus.
I remember another incident where the movie – The Passion of the Christ – was playing on a street near my house and people were watching it. I saw people crying as the movie showed Jesus being crucified, and I shouted saying, “this is so fake. Do not believe in it.”
When they showed nails being driven into Jesus’ hands, I remarked how bad the CGI was, and how I could make better movies than this.
I was deeply engrossed in the religion of my own house, and I participated actively in all its festivals.
I live in a joint family, and back then, we had a spare room on the second floor that we would rent out. Whenever someone came as a tenant, my grandmother would ask them if they were Christians, and if they said yes, they would be told to leave.
But there was one Christian woman, who was going to move into the house next to ours, but at the last minute, very strangely, changed her mind and moved into our house without revealing to anyone that she followed Jesus. She was a convert, so it was easy for her to get away with it.
Very soon, every time I passed the second floor, she would call me and say, “I want to talk to you.”
I’d respond by saying, “you don’t talk about Jesus. Instead, you send your kids to me to learn about my religion.”
But this woman, she was persistent – and she was patient – and humble – and compassionate.
She was atleast 20 years older than me, but I took joy in mocking and disrespecting her. Yet, she did not budge. She would cry in front of me and talk about the love of Christ.
I didn’t understand her at all. Her children would get mad at me for the way I treated her and I would respond by saying, “not my problem. I didn’t ask her to cry.”
Finally, I decided to challenge her. I told her, “do not talk to me about Jesus until September 9th. We can talk about your God after September 9th 2013 and I will prove that your religion is a lie.”
The reason I said September 9th was because it was the day of a festival, and I knew I’d be busy with the festivities.
She accepted the challenge, but refused the date I had suggested.
“No Srikanth,” she said, “God can touch you even before September 9th.”
Little did I know how right she was.
On September 8th, I was helping my family with the festival arrangements. We were exhausted, and after spending all day getting the idols and items for the rituals ready, I decided to take a short nap at 8:30pm.
I stepped into my room, closed the door, and lay down on my bed.
Just as I was drifting off, I heard a voice. It was crystal clear, and it continuously repeated just three words –
Jesus loves you.
The words echoed in my ears over and over again.
It was like a song stuck in my head and I just couldn’t push it out.
And then suddenly, the very picture I had mocked, of Jesus being crucified, flashed before my eyes.
I was speechless. I sunk to the ground, and I began to weep.
I had no choice; and all of a sudden, I found myself praying – “God, if you are real, I want to give my life to you.”
I had no idea what was happening.
But that night, something shifted within me.
At 8:30pm, on September 8th 2013, I became a Christian.
The next morning, I got up, looked at all the festival celebrations around me – the same festival that I loved as a child – and I realized I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.
I began to feel a deep love for Jesus. I told my family I was sick and went back into my room. I decided that I’d rather be alone with God. I suddenly realized that I was a sinner, and that I needed forgiveness.
And as I prayed, His love on the cross became so real for me.
After a few days, the woman, our tenant, who was out of town, came back. When I saw her, I exclaimed, “Aunty, praise the Lord!”
She was offended. She thought I was mocking her. But I explained my encounter to her and hugged her. I thanked her for being so patient with me, and being so persistent in sharing the truth.
From that night, the love of Jesus has consumed me. The more I look at the Cross, the more I fall in love with Him.
It’s been 7 years of experiencing His love, and being a part of a church where I’ve grown in faith.
Most people in my family don’t know yet. They think I go for tuitions when I go to church.
They’re still very aggressive when it comes to fighting Christianity. There have been instances when some of them have seen me exiting a church, and I’ve been slapped and insulted for it. But I believe that one day, they are going to receive the Good News, and that they’re going to be even better witnesses than I am.
I believe God is still at work in our lives, in bringing His children back to Him. His love is real. He died for me. And there is no greater joy than knowing Him.