Religion: an unexpected means of motivation

By Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

vasamsetti-saketh_cutoutAll of my life I have been distant from religion. I was brought up in a religious home but whenever we brought out that aspect of our family, I was immediately uninterested. I didn’t hate it, I simply didn’t understand it and therefore felt that it was unnecessary.

I developed the idea that I didn’t need religion because of how obscure of a role it played  in my life. I saw it as more of a task that I couldn’t wait to get over with rather than a set of guidelines I should follow in my life.

This preconception of mine was challenged at the end of my senior year of high school. I was part of a very close knit friend group where everyone was actively practicing a religion. I was the odd one out and never really cared to talk about it.

However, I decided to try something new, when a few of my friends started a book club where they read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. For those who do not know, “Mere Christianity” is based off of radio broadcasts that featured C.S. Lewis. The book is Lewis’s attempt at bridging the gap between believers and non-believers of religion.

As we finished the book,  I ended up in between two very basic understandings that I had begun to develop as I was reading.  One was that religion was, again, unnecessary because I felt that it was ridiculously restricting and that it didn’t allow you to live a normal life.

Second was that religion was a release of some sort that allowed one to see the world and all of humanity in a different way. I felt that it was necessary for me to choose one, and I personally felt a large amount of pressure from it. I decided to yet again ignore it, hoping that something would spark eventually.

Then I was suddenly thrown into the life of a college student. Midterms, career fairs, making friends, fear of missing out — everything piled on at once. I completely lost whatever confidence I had in myself following up to the start of the school year. I felt lonely and most importantly, I felt hopeless.

A lot of people found peace through religion. Many of my friends spent time going to church on Sundays and then spent even more time with small/large groups over the week. It provided them with a way out in their lives filled with whatever troubles they had to deal with. But the most important thing I realized is that it reminded them of who they are.

I thought of religion many times, but I didn’t have time for it. I managed to make my way through a majority of obstacles like the rigorous coursework and making friends, but I still had a deep-seated sadness inside of me.

It was a combination of being annoyed from not satisfying the expectations I had set for myself, and feeling pressured from whatever stress I was dealing with from school or outside of school. I didn’t know how to approach it, so I kind of just let it sit, and it gradually got worse for me.

I just recently visited Austin, Texas for a music festival and it was there that I talked about my problem for the first time with someone. It wasn’t fun, and I realized just how lost I was. I slept it off and woke up in the morning back to “normal.” My friend asked me if I wanted to go to church that day and I decided at that point I had nothing to lose. So we went.

Never have I had a more impactful time doing anything religiously affiliated. The sermon that day was about why we study Exodus and every word he spoke connected to me in some sort of way.

“We sometimes think, why would anyone want to accept a sinner like me?” said Jeff Magnum, the pastor. “Why would anyone want to invest their time in such a failure? That’s the wrong way to think about it … it doesn’t matter where you came from or how you got here. You will be taken in both arms no matter what.”

After hearing those words, I felt something pull deeply inside of me. I was given words of encouragement I hadn’t heard in a long time and I was reassured of myself.

I had hope. That’s when I finally chose a side in my interpretation of religion. Religion to me, in its most basic function, is to give one hope. Hope that no matter how bad of a situation someone is in, there is something for them to turn to.

I think as college students we often put off religion and other forms of faith in order to keep up with things like school, being social and whatever we have to deal with. But it’s important to understand that we need certain constants in our life.

Whether it’s our families, our religions or our friends, these constants are extremely important when you try to balance your life.

Students must take advantage of these resources to stay hopeful and on track toward succeeding in any aspect of life.

Saketh is a freshman in DGS.

[email protected]