I believe that WHO I am defines the world.
I believe that who I am defines the world. I believe that my every action, every thought, every word can have a profound impact on the people around me. I believe that by breaking my own concepts, I can indirectly break the concepts of those around me. I would say that the most dangerous thing is fear—to limit and inhibit who I am for the sake of protecting myself from the unknown.
I believe that when I make a decision within myself that decision will affect every relationship, every thought, and every action that I impart towards the thousands of people I will eventually come across in my life. I believe it is NOT society that shapes us, or even the events in our life, but rather the way that we decide to perceive them. I believe, that we as human beings, have the power to CHOOSE who we are, and therefore choose how we treat others, and in an indirect, yet powerful way, choose to shape the environment of our world.
We human beings are inevitably linked; our concepts and premises are transferred effortlessly from subconscious to subconscious, as we loosely talk and joke between ourselves. This gives me reason to believe, that whoever I innately am will transfer to the people I meet. Just as the people I meet have contributed so much to who I am.
Many would argue that “I” can only do so much. But I would like to flip that around and say, “YES, ‘I’ can ONLY do SO much. “I” can do so much. I believe I am a constituent of a whole, rather than a homogenous piece defined by the whole. Who I am defines the whole and therefore who I am can change the world I live in.
Whether it is praying with my head turned to the stars, or talking about a book I read, or talking to a miserable person with an open heart, or writing this essay, every action I do, defines the people who read, experience, or see it. Whether it is arguing with my pastor, or voting for the un-heards, or liking Pink on Facebook, or just laughing in a strange way, who I am defines the world around me.
I don’t think I can change willfully people, or that I should. I don’t think it is my place or my right. I do believe though that this world is made up of many, inter-connected people. Much like myself. And by being me, even if it is just one person, or ten, or a thousand, in 7 billion, I WILL have defined the face of this world. Even if it is just one iota, that is worth something.
I believe that I can empower others to be who they are, by just being ME. Because ME is innately amazing. This I Believe. I believe, that it is I who defines my generation. I believe Who I am defines the world. This I Believe.
Thank you everyone who sent in essays describing your own personal journey towards creating and maintaing a healthy spiritual life. Reading through them was so inspiring and exciting, we didn’t want to just keep them to ourselves. Here are the winning essays, and we will continue to post all submissions so we, as a community, can share best practices, experiences and learn from each other to be better representatives of ourselves.
Kimisei Miyake: Pace University
Preparing for college, I reminded myself of a quote In Jin Nim once shared, “A life of faith is not easy. It takes constant discipline, constant dedication, but most of all, constant evaluation and constant desire for betterment. Without that, you will spiritually die.” After three years of STF (now GPA), I believed I could overcome anything. However, I underestimated the struggles beyond the structure of STF.
There came a point where I couldn’t find God, I couldn’t find purpose; and I couldn’t understand my value as a son of God. For many nights I would question the purpose of going to school. Why is school necessary? Why do I have to study economics? Who cares about business ethics? All of these doubts were overwhelming. I soon lost touch of the purpose of attending college. I spent many nights outside, praying, asking God for a sign, a plea of sympathy, or even just a friend to listen to me. I was struggling with my lack of faith.
Finally, after a sermon given by Aunt Heather Thalheimer, everything became clear. On the Sunday of October 31st, Mrs. Thalheimer explained the reasons for change in church, “But we need to flow with the times because although the message is eternal and unchanging, the medium is contemporary.” Although she was referring to the church’s changes, I applied her words to my experiences studying. Thus, I started to reflect about my experiences on GPA.
I realized that GPA became preparation for life after GPA. I began recalling the first experiences of fundraising, where I questioned the purpose of fundraising every day. Why do I have to fundraise? Are we just out here to make money? Why is fundraising so valuable? I lacked a lot of faith, unable to trust God in the most difficult circumstances. Through Aunt Heather’s sermon however, I understood that my purpose was always present. I am here to develop a personal relationship with God and True Parents (by becoming a true object of God). However, although the medium was different, the purpose was the same. I wasn’t fundraising anymore, but attending school. Yet through attending school, I can become closer to God and True Parents.
After much reflection, I understood the value of internal and external goals set daily when fundraising. The more I challenged myself externally, the more I had to challenge myself internally. The more I wanted to maintain a 4.0 GPA, the harder I had to work and overcome myself. Yet, I knew that I had to overcome myself with the right heart. That through every hour I studied, every grade I received, and every paper I wrote, my heart would remain consistent toward God and True Parents. I didn’t want to complain nor be complacent with my current situation. Experiences in life, whether it is school or fundraising, then became purposeful because they no longer were reasons for coming short, but opportunities to grow stronger for God and True Parents. It all became about having faith in the growing process.
In Jin Nim definitely understands the challenges behind a life a faith. As she shares with us every Sunday, we have to always remember that we are in the growing process. A life of faith does require constant discipline, constant dedication, and constant desire to improve. Most importantly, we desire to build our life of faith simply because we love God and True Parents. In the case of a university student, our chance to build our lives of faith is through school. I always refer back to a story Jin Sung Nim shared with GPA. He shared a story of how he was preparing for his BAR exam, studying for 16 hours a day. Later on, he mentioned to True Father the hours he has spent studying. In response, Father affirmed his hard work and told Jin Sung Nim that He prayed 16 hours a day, so that we, second generation, don’t have to. Instead, our responsibility is to dedicate our time and efforts to our studies, so that we become excellent students.
Yet, Father expects more from us as students. According to His autobiography, the excellence in our studies must be contributed to the rest of the world. When we can appreciate the heart of True Parents, we can understand the potential in which God has placed in each and every one of us. That potential can be translated through our efforts in school. Our studies have deeper meaning than we actually know.
Every day, I carry a picture of True Parents along with my Driver’s License and Chase debit card. And every time I look at it, I know that there’s a reason to love my life. When I can reflect about the heart and love True Family has transferred unto my family, I can feel gratitude spreading throughout my body. The way that I can continue to grow closer to God and True Parents is through the small things. At home, I always greet my mom with a hug. At school, whenever I catch myself inattentive and unfocused, I raise my hand and participate in class. After classes, I catch up with my professors in order to gain a sense of progression. And while working out, I put a picture of True Parents next to Shaun T (Insanity workout) to remind myself, life isn’t about me, but about God and True Parents and what they represent. The small things we practice every day are essential to the lifestyle we hope to create. As we continue throughout the school year, I will remember one of Father’s greatest prayers, “Let me sacrifice myself for these people, and let these people sacrifice themselves for the rest of the world.”
I will always know that there will be challenges, whether it is school, family, or life of faith; however, Father has always taught me that we can always grow from any situation. School’s challenging, yet we have every opportunity to grow from it.
Katya Beebe: Seton Hall University
Just a couple weeks into college, I started to surprise myself. Certainly I was stressing out, but for all the wrong reasons. The things I anticipated to send me into an intense state of panic are schedules, papers, finances and basically most responsibilities that come with the title of “university student”. However, what I struggled with the most was the social aspect of college life. After spending a year on STF talking with strangers about anything, from science to culture to spirituality, I expected myself to be just as open and free with a collegiate community. Instead, I found myself slipping into the uncomfortable realm of the double life. I wasn’t ashamed of my faith, in fact, more than anything I wanted to share what I believe so strongly with other people. The difficulty lay in how I would be able to do just that. How do I show people how I live and what I believe?
An opportunity sprung upon me about a month into college. Seton Hall University requires its freshmen to take a course called “Journey of Transformation”. Throughout the course, we are required to write journal entries on the material we read in class, including works such as Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” and “The Apology”, the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and St. Augustine’s “Confessions”. In each of these different texts, I recognized aspects of the Divine Principle — aspects of my faith — which I highlighted within my weekly journal entries. My thoughts from the journals started to shine through my participation in class as I gained more courage to express my viewpoint. The class challenged me to another level as the professor assigned a paper to write about our lives of faith. As I contemplated on what I would write about, I automatically started thinking about my values, which include family, integrity, and chastity among others. However, though the content was all true and significant, I felt like I was hiding the most fundamental aspect of my faith. Never in my life had I described my faith to anyone in its entirety especially not the controversial element that Rev. Sun Myung Moon is the Second Coming of the Messiah. As I was writing my essay, out of habit I avoided writing the controversial facts about our church and about my faith. Then, I remembered In Jin Nim’s very first sermon at the start of Lovin’ Life Ministries in which she recounted the story of True Father’s encounter with Jesus Christ at sixteen years old, ready to inherit Jesus’ mission. I realized that In Jin Nim and the True Children are constantly and openly proclaiming Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon the True Parents of all mankind, the couple meant to fulfill the role of the Messiah. The norm used to be that we would talk about True Parents amongst ourselves as members of the same faith, but with the outside world, we would talk about peace, love, and happiness, all the while avoiding the very essence of our faith. With this new understanding, I decided to start my paper over and explain the concrete points of my belief system — the fulfillment of the three blessings to achieve God’s ideal for us, and the fact that I believe Rev. and Mrs. Moon are the Second Coming of the Messiah in the flesh. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was revealing myself completely and truly through this composition about my life of faith and the elements of my faith. This step would prepare me for the next task at hand — to unleash these thoughts to anyone who may ask.
Shortly after this experience, God granted me more opportunities to express my faith. One day, another university student and I started talking about service and our own personal involvement and experiences while partaking in service projects. Then, she suddenly asked about my religious beliefs. Flashbacks of past attempts at explaining the Unification faith brought me disappointment because I noticed I could never reiterate what I believed with complete confidence or even with complete understanding of what it was I actually believed. This time, I was determined to break that pattern. Among other things, I clearly pronounced that “I am a Unificationist and I believe Rev. and Mrs. Moon are the Messiah!” It felt so natural to declare this statement and I wondered why I never had the courage or even the natural tendency to just say what I believe so powerfully in my heart. The girl’s reaction was somewhat surprising; she didn’t call me crazy or sprint away, but rather she respected what I had to say and even accepted my suggestion that she read True Father’s autobiography so she can get a taste of this man’s incredible life. A few days later, I struck up a conversation with an agnostic student from my Russian class about God and the universe and though we did not see eye to eye on practically everything, the conversation set a foundation in which I could give him True Father’s autobiography as well. Though I have only had a few experiences in which I exercised discussing my faith with others, while also listening to the other party, I am discovering that there are opportunities to be “courageously vulnerable” when it comes to faith even on a college campus. I am becoming more comfortable in my university setting because I am not trying to be someone I am not and I am not trying to live a double life, but rather, I am showing people the true me and when people come asking about my different way of life, I am prepared to give them a clear and complete answer.
Josh Starr: Berkeley City College
When my classmates look at my hands, they always notice a very peculiar ring with an unfamiliar symbol on it. “What’s that ring?” they would ask (probably expecting it to be some kind of class ring) to which I would reply “That’s my wedding ring.” After realizing that I’m barely growing facial hair they become stricken with intrigue and ask, “Wait… how old are you?” Although sometimes I am tempted to mess with them and say 16, I give an honest answer and tell them that I am 21 and have been married for over a year. Since most people outside the Unification faith wouldn’t be ready for marriage until they were 30, this sounds crazy, but it is at this time that I am able to share with them my experience being a member of the Unification Church and my testimony of getting married at such a young age.
I have always figured that honesty is the best way to go about sharing my faith. So when I tell my friends that my wedding ring is actually a church ring and they ask which church I am referring to, I jokingly respond “It’s a cult.” Of course if I stopped the conversation there they might start wondering if I’m another basket case from Berkeley, so I continue by explaining that, “By technical definition, any church is pretty much a cult, and since the founder of our church is still alive, calling it a cult is actually an accurate description.” It’s typical to hear someone describe their religion as Mormon, Christian, Muslim, etc. but for my friends to hear that this fairly normal guy (I hope) is in a cult and that the founder is still alive, they immediately become curious to hear more.
I would then begin to explain our beliefs about creating unity through husband and wife and that, before my wedding day, I had never even kissed a girl in order to stay pure for my one romantic relationship. After my classmates hear such a fairy-tale like story, they become envious that they could not offer the same experience to whomever they would eventually marry. In fact, some would even express desire to live like I do in saying, “That sounds like a church I’d want to join,” Although I still have yet to introduce them to learning about our core beliefs and how to become a member, I am able to feed my faith every day by sharing my beliefs with others and by testifying that my life is so awesome because I have God, True Parents, and my wife.
As I have gained more friends in college, I have realized that being completely transparent with our marriage traditions has been the key to building my personal life of faith. On one occasion, I even showed my history class pictures of the Madison Square Garden mass wedding during a presentation and then showed off my wedding ring to say that I too was married in such a way. I was met with no persecution but rather curiosity about this bizarre yet exciting church with peers asking questions like “Who will take over the church after Rev. Moon passes away?” or “What is the main difference between your faith and Christianity?”
I feel that we Second Generation can grow our faith on campus if we are honest with others about who we are. I only shared with my class about our mass weddings because I felt comfortable to do so, but our transparency does not even have to be that extreme. We can start by just being honest in saying that we are members of the Unification Church. I have yet to be looked down upon by any of my peers for my decision to be a member of our faith. As long as we Unificationists are proud of who we are, we will naturally gain the respect of everyone around us, reinforcing in ourselves a stronger faith in God and True Parents.