I was born in California, into a new-agey kinda family. My dad was Buddhist when I was born, and my mom was searching. I was baptized into the Buddhist religion, though my mother insisted on keeping me "pure," as in, keeping me away from any sort of religious influence so that I could more freely choose for myself which belief system I preferred. I've been to a few Buddhist meetings (enough that the sound of the bells and chants and the smell of the incense and the sight of the gohonzan brings back memories), but I really couldn't tell you the Buddhist doctrine. Like most children raised by Christian parents who don't go to church very often, I saw evidence of Buddhism in our house and in the way we did things, but I wasn't educated about the actual religion.
When my dad walked out on my family (a very sudden decision, and very final, like death), my mom (who'd since converted), kept up with the religion for a while, but as time wore on she gave up much of the practical aspects of the religion (going to meetings, chanting daily, and eventually she even gave up the gohonzan).
As for me, it seemed that I was born on a pursuit of truth. Although I was naturally inclined to believe that Buddhism was a good, or even the best, religion, my mom's insistence that I not "settle down" before exploring all reasonable ideas kept me from doing what was most natural. I'm sure that even without my mom's encouragement, I would have sought truth, but my mom's encouragement kept me from getting too far down the Buddhist path in my search. Unfortunately, my mom also hated Christianity, and her influence kept me from even exploring Christianity as a possible source of truth.
It wasn't until we packed up and moved to Missouri to be closer to family that my mom softened up a bit on her attacks on Christianity. My gramma, who we lived with for two years after moving here, was a Christian. Although she never pushed her beliefs, she did offer to take me to church on occasion. My aunt Marie's tiny church in the basement of a used-goods store was the first church I'd ever set foot in. I found everything about it uncomfortable, from the off-key singing to the unfamiliarity of the preaching. Not to mention simply being asked to interact with people; I grew up very isolated from society, school being the only time I was forced to interact with anybody that wasn't family.
I spent four years in the Bible belt in stubborn disbelief. I simply could not believe that Heaven and Hell were real places, that the God of the Bible (the God these hate-filled people claimed to love and serve!) was the One True God, that Truth could be found in something as abhorrent as blood.
But the I met a boy. And this young man was excited about this God of his, and he didn't hesitate to invite me to church. So I went (after a year of invites), more to get his attention than to find truth. I'd already decided that truth could not be found in a church. (It can't, by the way; I still believe that.) But I went, and I actually didn't mind it so much, so I then accepted his invitation to go to his youth group meeting on Wednesday night. Although I was dead-set against accepting Christianity, I liked the guy and I had to admit, he'd definitely gotten me thinking about Christianity.
That night I spoke with the youth pastor, a Chris Reiser, and asked him point-blank about this whole heaven and hell thing. I'd asked others in the youth group, and they were shocked that I even questioned it. "Heaven and hell exist...they just do," was the reaction I got. What I wanted to know, however, was why anyone would want to believe in such an atrocity as people living in eternal pain and suffering. Surprise of surprises, Chris had my answer. People don't want to believe that hell exists, but they accept it because they know that God is holy. A holy God cannot allow sin in His sight. It's not that He chooses to hate sin or that He is has something against sinners. It's that it is against His nature and character as a holy God to allow sin in His presence. If He allowed sin in His presence, He wouldn't be God!
At that moment, it clicked. At once, my arguments against the faith were silenced (not that I couldn't have thought of more if I wanted to, just that my desire to lash out at Christianity was gone). I remember saying, "My mom's going to hell," as the shock of realization hit. Chris handed me a Bible and told me that if I wanted to I could start reading the gospel of John.
I read it, and as I read I grew more and more certain that this was Truth, the truth I'd been searching for ever since I could remember! Lingering doubts remained as I read, up until about the fifteenth or sixteenth chapter. Somewhere in there I laid it all down and accepted what I knew to accept. I knew nothing of 'accepting Jesus into my heart,' but on February 2, 2001, I surrendered to God, not knowing yet that I needed to ask for forgiveness and not knowing what grace was and knowing very little about what Jesus did on the cross. That was the day I made up my mind that whatever God told me in His Word I was going to accept as true, and by my reckoning, I was saved that day. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I accepted the Word of God into my heart.
It's been a wild ride since then. My mom got saved shortly after I did, and we've been going to church nearly every Sunday together. I still consider myself a baby Christian, though I often find myself speaking God's Word with authority and being an example to those who've been Christians longer than me.
One thing is for sure: Christ is now living in me. I am alive in Christ, and I feel it as I feel the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe. It's beautiful. I am awed at God's grace, His mercy, His goodness, His unfathomable love.
Ah, yes, and as for where truth can be found? The Bible. No church on this earth can possibly mirror it perfectly, though as the Bride we are to try. =)