A Call to Witness: From Buddhist to Christian
By Monica Y Mateo
As I sit and write this blog, I think back to every single moment that led me here. I think back to when I was diagnosed with cancer and taken to a Christian Church. I was confused, scared, and simply not ready. I stopped going when it started to become a chore and not something I felt in my heart. I was only 23 years old and too many things were happening way too fast. I was honestly so scared at the “giving up” part of Christianity at that age. I felt that it was a religion of deprivation and not freedom. I didn’t fully understand Christianity and walked away from it. I wanted a religion that wasn’t so secular in it’s devotion. I wanted an easy religion. I didn’t want to be held accountable for my actions so I dived right into Buddhism. Buddhism gave me an opportunity to do things on my terms. I would meditate, but if I didn’t I wasn’t really bothered by it. I chanted and set up an altar. I convinced myself I wasn’t worshiping an idol even though I would bow to it. I was able to still do all the worldly things and yet, I felt I had a real grasp on my religion.
Slowly my home filled up with buddhas and I wore my mala beads. I was convincing myself or maybe others of how “buddhist” I was. People put labels on so many things so when you hear someone say they are Buddhist — you think of a calm and enlightened individual. I wanted to be perceived as calm and compassionate even though inside I was going through an internal war.
I thought I could meditate my way to health. I would fail again – and again – and again. Fast forward 10 years since I last walked into that Christian church and I was still empty. I still felt as though no matter what I did – I wasn’t changing at all. Have you ever felt like that? After so many attempts, you fall short? I know I did. I would try to stop the profanity and I would end up cursing even more. I would try to be kinder to people and the moment I hit the parkway, I was getting angry at every car that cut me off. I would try to be more compassionate, but nothing changed!
Finally, my call came and it was as abrupt as any call to service. I had a dream and saw myself getting baptized into a Christian church. I woke up and that was it. I was called to action and even though I didn’t know exactly what I needed to do — I knew I had to go to church. I knew that God had made a very subtle, yet bold call for me. I answered. I started looking for churches and with help found my church. I walked in and it was like God himself smiled upon me knowing I was finally home.
I truly smiled my first real genuine smile in years. I loved the music and the diversity of the people. There are people from all walks of life who come from different religious backgrounds. Now, I am waiting to get baptized and I am absolutely devoted to God. In the beginning process, God did immediate work. I knew I had to get rid of all my buddhas, malas beads, books and altar. I donated them to yoga studios and didn’t even blink an eye. Once the idols were moved out and my house was cleansed– I began to cleanse myself. (I still have buddhist tattoos and that is something I will have to live with).
Being a Christian is not glorious immediately in the sense that real work starts to happen. My profanity stopped and I was more aware of the things I said. My gossiping decreased even though my mouth is something I have to be aware of. I started to heal from many past hurts. I read Christian books such as Mere Christianity and Boundaries (I recommend these books to any new Christian). I started listening to Christian podcasts such as, Faithplay app. I also downloaded the Bible app, YouVersion so I can be connected to the word all day.
I am now working on healing – that’s the next phase for me. Truly healing and forgiving. I confessed my sins and now I’m working on forgiving those who may not even know they’ve hurt me. I am also working on allowing people to adjust to who I am now. I’m sure many think this is a phase or perhaps people don’t want me to be “that type of Christian.” They will probably want me to be the cool Christian who kind of still does the same stuff I did before. I will have to be sure that I stay firm in who I am. Truth be told, I pray to God every morning and every night that He gives me the strength to be true to His name.
I see how much my life is changing and it’s amazing how much I was hurting without even realizing it. In the beginning of this blog, I mention how I thought Christianity was a religion on deprivation. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m actually free. I am free from the things that were harming me. It’s like when I went vegan and everyone kept focusing on what I was losing being vegan. But no one was able to see how much I GAINED by being vegan. I’m able to eat a wide variety of real food and even stay healthy. Same concept. I did give things up, but none were healthy for me. I am now spiritually consuming things that are healthy for me.
Now, I’m beginning pastoral counseling and will do more work on myself. See, Christianity isn’t a magic pill. It’s not a few chants that will erase all wrong. It’s not something done in a vacuum. God opens our eyes so we can finally see our true purpose. I will say this, I no longer feel a void within me. I no longer feel this desire to fill the void either.
I will be bold in witness because it’s about conviction. I will not water down my faith because of fear of ridicule. I hope if you’re reading this, you realize your calling as well. Maybe it can be as simple as beginning to pray again. God is waiting but He will never violate your boundaries. God is outside waiting for you to one day let Him in. He gave me a lifetime of opportunities.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14
Monica Y. Mateo is a licensed social worker by day and writer/blogger by night. She is the author of her first memoir, The Cancer Warrior available on Amazon.com and BN.com.
Monica Y. Mateo is a 8 year survivor of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma ALK+, which taught her that people can change unhealthy patterns and behaviors. She is a mom, fiance, and Christian.
Disclaimer: MONICAYMATEO.COM is not providing medical advice and this information is not in place of medical advice.