My wife is Indian-American, born into a Hindu family of the highest Brahmin caste.
When I met her in college, she was growing in devotion to her religion, abstaining from meat and learning the significance of the subtler nuances of Hinduism. While as a high school student, I had classmates of Hindu or Sikh background, I’d never gone to dinner with them or been invited to a bharatanatyam recital or read any of their texts. After all, our educational system is entrenched in the Western worldview, and even though “multiculturalism” was the hot buzzword at the time, it really promoted token representation, not real culture.
In any case, the fact that my family’s spiritual and material livelihood was grounded in Christianity and with my Korean heritage being as engrained in me as her South Indian was in her, we were about six months into our relationship when I realized that this was not Romeo and Juliet, this was something more complex. Other than our college selection, we had very little common ground. If we had met on eHarmony, we would have clicked “Next”. So I called it off. In the spirit of Korean melodrama, I sent her off with explicit instructions to fall in love with the possible. “No one loves for heartache” was the prevailing thought in my 19-year-old brain, and I tried never to look back.
Years later, we met again under different circumstances. I had failed in many aspects that I had shown so much promise in years before while she had excelled. If anyone was keeping track of the reasons why this brilliant Hindu brahmin girl and I didn’t belong in the same room, I had added a list of reasons in our years apart.
She was fascinating to me on so many levels and I found myself wanting to know her, and to know her people and her faith, especially since I had lost such a grip on my own.
By God’s grace, in my stumbling faith, I managed to break many stereotypes of Christians that she had been turned off by and even instructed to hate. Despite the pluralism that Hinduism encourages, there is a severe distaste for Christians and their “brainwashing” techniques. Thankfully, TBN was not a channel she was exposed to, and as our friendship grew, and my return to faith was beginning to shape, I didn’t witness to her in the methods taught by most Sunday Schools. After all, most Sunday Schools don’t teach this type of thing where you date a Hindu girl who shares a townhome with a Mormon and a Baha’i, perhaps that’s more of an advanced class, but I never saw it in the bulletin.
We had trouble talking about faith or religion as we knew we had irreconciliable differences. And we couldn’t bear to put flies in our ointment, as every other aspect of our relationship seemed so perfect. But because our relationship started in the spirit of inquiry, it seemed proper that we leave something up for discussion. I had read the Bhagavad Gita and she had asked about a Bible, which I gave her simply saying, “Let me know if you want to talk about it sometime.” In her attempt to reconcile our religious divide, she bought a book entitled “Meditations and Reflections” by C.S. Lewis to give to me — turns out it was akin to C.S. Lewis’ Greatest Hits. She had intended to give it to me, but she decided to give it a read herself. That book is on a special shelf in our home today, because Lewis challenged her to think that Jesus was different, not mythological, and the Christian life was not some simple “get out of sin for this week” card, but was so radical, so revolutionary, that we could scarcely live it, and yet to be formed in the image of Christ was so desirable, we would consider it all joy to live in all our brokenness and pain.
I’ve rarely seen someone blossom so much as she did when she met Jesus.
And then, she looked back at her Hindu past and would weep and pray for Indians just like she once was. While as a Hindu brahmin, she had once considered herself privileged and deserving of that caste; as a Christian, she sees herself utterly in grace – an adopted child, incapable and once reluctant. What kind of God would choose to wait for the stiff-necked to bend?
We have since found that Christ indeed has a deep love for India and we cannot tell you how many tears of joy we have wept in Indian church and over stories of revival and personal transformation. We long and work for the day when South Asians will be awakened like back in the day in 1908. We love the stories of William Carey, Pandita Ramabai and Sadhu Sundar Singh, as well as Mahesh Chavda, Rabi Maharaj, and the eloquent apologist, Ravi Zacharias.
While we know that Indian-American churches face many of the same challenges that Korean or Chinese churches face, but our prayer is that they would know how much we’ve learned through what God has taught us through our own relationship: for me to know and love her was to know and love her people. Isn’t it the same way with God? To love the people he loves?
“We love because he first loved us” — 1 John 4:19.
also featured on our wedding program.