It's hard to do things that go against the wishes of your family, friends, society and country. Some things might be small like getting a tattoo, taking a break from school or getting involved with a girl that all your friends hate and others might be much much bigger. I have managed to stay somewhere around the realm of acceptability for most of my life, although I'd be lying to claim that I haven't pushed against the defined walls of familial, societal and cultural norms.
I know that my friends and family think that I've been in Asia about four years too long --a belief that I simultaneously agree and disagree with. I understand their concern, but I also must do what I know to be right for myself and my wife. I would venture to guess that marrying a "foreigner" for both my wife and I also isn't the most acceptable thing to do in our respective nations. Yet, I made the best decision for myself without being constrained by the norm. Bucking the trend isn't something I've really made a habit of. I have neither been a trend setter nor have I been bent on rejecting it. Maybe I've just kind of sat out on the whole thing.
So, yesterday some Friends were talking about having a religious change of heart and how difficult such a transformation has been for them. They lost friends and many people openly ostracized them in front of other people. For some reason, religious folks see a change of heart as a betrayal rather than an awakening. Ask Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens). He knows all about the pain and suffering one must go through when converting. And while the people around you might have some anger towards you for changing your religion, the real challenge seems to be inside. It's a personal battle within your own mind.
Changing religions every thirty days is downright confusing for my mind, soul and body. I have had some very real moments so far that many people would call an awakening or an epiphany, yet I must be careful not to let myself put everything down and move to the holy land. It's a challenge, but the real challenge is this: what happens if when I finish this whole thing and have decided to choose a religion that bucks the American Protestant/Catholic trend? Is my upbringing and Christian guilt going to allow me to pursue my heart? Is my nation going to let me follow through on one of its founding principles and practice any religion I choose?
A change of heart isn't as simple when it comes to religion. George Fox knew that in the 1600s and my Friends here know that now.