To Know Her Is to Love Them

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.

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Comments

  1. John says:

    “…perhaps that’s more of an advanced class, but I never saw it in the bulletin.” – LOL

    “…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?” – this is why I do my Hispanic-focused web site… maybe others will get to know the people I love and love them as well…

  2. djchuang says:

    Boy, David, you sure married up! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this story with the world, and may the Asian American dialogue that’s mostly East Asian be broadened appropriately include Southeast and South Asians as well.

  3. John Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, it was a real blessing.

  4. David Park says:

    Thanks DJ, John, and John. I did indeed “marry up”. We are still in the thick of what being married outside race means, but God has been so good and has taught us so much about living a life of faith within these new boundaries. While I have not much to boast of in my resume or my skills, I boast in my marriage and the story that God is working out in the two of us.

  5. peterong says:

    amazing grace…how sweet the sound…great story bro…loved it much…you are a great story teller…testify!

  6. otseng says:

    Thanks for sharing David. It’s good to know more about other (better?) half.

  7. RC says:

    Is it possible that a humble Christ would not seek such conversions of Hindus, but rather acknowledge the shared beauty of Hinduism? Indian Americans and Korean Americans have so much in common that it saddens me when one considers the grace of Christ to be superior to the grace of Krishna.

  8. David Park says:

    RC, my wife was a devout Hindu, and I can say to you with a great deal of humility, I had no intention at that time that she become Christian, no desire to “convert” her — my own faith was wrestling with how God could speak through the many and varied religions. Please don’t misunderstand RC, we believe Hindus are a beautiful people and I do, even now, admire the devotion and steadfastness of their religion and morals. However, my wife prayed for certain emotional and spiritual wounds to be healed for years as a Hindu, but only when she prayed to Jesus was she healed, only when she removed the idols from her room did nightmares go away, only in the grace of Christ has she felt liberated from superstition and fear.

    RC, before my wife’s experiences, I was ready to concede that Jesus and Krishna could possibly be simply different paths up the same mountain of divinity. However, my wife has come through answered prayer after prayer, miracle after miracle, blessing after blessing when she prayed to Jesus Christ, not Ganesha, not Krishna, not Vishnu, but Jesus.

    This is not a Korean American subjugating an Indian American to a western religion. This is not a sophisticated act of brainwashing done by a master evangelist. This not someone who is merely proposing that Christ is “better” than Krishna, but that Jesus has been more real to both of us than Krishna has been. My wife knows with all her heart that she has felt the grace of Christ.

    Thanks for the comment and for reading.

  9. RC says:

    Your family experience seems touching and genuine. Perhaps you would not consider Hinduism as idolatry if you lived in, say, India, where you could truly see it in all its complexity. While we all take anectodes and extrapolate, it’s unfair to take the experience of a few individuals and apply it to a billion people. Certainly, there are Christians out there who converted to Hinduism and found similar miracles as you share. Your comment just happened to fall on Diwali, so I had to reply! I enjoy reading your blog. Regards.

  10. David Park says:

    Happy Diwali, RC!

    You are right and I tell my wife’s story just to describe how far she has come to say that she is Christian now.

    I don’t assume to say this could be applied to the billion+ people of India. But you bring up a very interesting point, because most Hindus believe their faith is synonymous with culture and to leave one is to leave the other and to believe one is to believe the other. That is one of the challenges of secularized, pluralized postmodern life, is that faith and culture can seem disjointed, whereas they reinforce each other as in the case of India and Hinduism.

    But for faith to be authentic, it seems that culture must naturally come out of our faith and not the other way around, less the faith be culturally bound. In that sense, and this is the problem that post-Christian America faces, is that they have all the vestiges of Christian morality, but have left Christ out, which means it creates a nominalism that is inadvertently not Christian at all. What is fascinating to me is to see the Christian faith abound in cultural contexts outside of the west. For instance, my parents are Korean and believe in Christ, I have visited churches in China, I have worshipped in churches with South Indians and I have heard praise to Jesus sung in an orphanage in Mexico.

    While I know that Christians have wielded their faiths poorly in history oppressing people and fighting wars in certain cases, which has repelled others to seeking out other religions as you point out, it is powerfully evident on a personal level that the attraction to this Jewish messiah is not culturally bound, and one of the things that I’m wondering and wrestling with is that certain aspects of the two cultures that I’m most familiar with, American and Korean, have in some ways worked against the realizations of my own faith now founded in Jesus.

    Thanks RC, I appreciate your openness and again for reading this blog! Do you write your thoughts down anywhere?

  11. tj says:

    u know at first glance i never knew that she was a deeply rooted hindu and that your relationship had that dynamic at one point in your lives.
    all i gotta say is
    that’s awesome

    God is good

  12. Jumbobody says:

    This is a really wonderful story, thank you for sharing.

  13. RC says:

    Not having my sense of culture grounded in my faith, I still appreciate the sincerity of your comments. Placing myself in the context of different cultures in diverse societies resonates with me in its own way.

    I don’t really have a blog to share, as most of my writing is about medicine. Will keep reading yours. Regards.

  14. lee says:

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