I stumbled into the Religion major by pure chance during my freshman year in college. Anxiously searching for a final class, I sat in on a seminar titled “Judaism and Story” with one of my friends and proceeded to fall head over heels. My love and passion for the major burgeoned with every class; I had dozens of questions after completing my readings, and so much to think about after class discussions that I would go to office hours with bullet points of all the things I wanted to further discuss. For the first time, it was no longer about having the “right” answer or earning the perfect grade. What became more important was engaging in genuine conversation about what “religion” was and why it mattered.Studying religion did not exactly encourage me to think about my own faith. I didn’t identify with the Christian community at Wesleyan, yet I still found myself involved in campus ministry, particularly through interfaith work. I found great meaning in facilitating dialogue about various religious and non-religious traditions and planning events on campus, but I remained an impartial observer, rarely talking about my own background. When people asked me why I was so involved with the interfaith group without being grounded in any tradition, I had no answer. To be honest, I didn’t know what compelled me to build relationships with students from different backgrounds, and why I developed such a strong bond with Marwa, the Muslim chaplain, out of all people.While I thrived academically as a senior, I struggled personally to determine the next step in my post-college life. I figured I would take a year off before launching into my next endeavor – law school – so in the meantime, I accepted a year-long fellowship with the Life Together program. This came as a surprise to most of my friends and family, given the relative dormancy of my own religious identity in the last four years, but as I explained to them, it was committing to a year of service, rather than the spiritual and Christian parts, that drew me to the program.
When I finally moved to Boston in August, I had no idea what to expect. I had just decided a few weeks earlier that I no longer wanted to go to law school, and I felt completely unsure of what the year, and the years to come, would bring. The two-week Life Together orientation was intense and emotionally draining, as we shared our personal stories and spiritual journeys with each other. Hearing the other fellows talk so candidly about their own struggles and successes moved me in a way that I had not felt before. I began to think and feel in a new language, and the best way to describe those two weeks is a spiritual renaissance – a rebirth of sorts, as though God was moving my soul, opening my heart, and imploring me to really listen.
The past eight months have been a powerful time of self-reflection, prayer, and transformation. My understandings of God, the church, and ministry have expanded in ways that I never imagined, and I am looking forward to pursuing both academic and spiritual growth in the years to come. While I’m not a person who enjoys delving into the unknown, I am so glad that I said yes to this fellowship, this experience, and this year. Sometimes, all we need to do is say yes, even if it’s a whisper. The rest seems to naturally fall into place.
By Rhee-Soo Lee, 2011-12 Micah fellow at Dorchester Bay Youth Force