Prompt: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
I opened my mind on others' beliefs
"So what about you, Wenbo? Are you a true Christian?" The Bible teacher throws it at me right after a passionate lecture on the essence of Christianity. Thus, the most dreaded question comes assailing me head-on. The sudden silence in the classroom stretches my every second to an eternity, and the stagnant air exerts on me a nauseous pressure. Even the intense gaze of a preying mantis pales in comparison to those ruthlessly shot at me from the scrutinizing eyes of my Christian classmates.
There you go: my second day in a Christian private school, with me, holding a Bible for the first time, stuck just like that.
Born in a non-religious family and having been an atheist for my whole life, I was surprised at my parents' decision to send me to a religious school for my secondary education. Though initially uneasy, I thought I would be okay as long as I didn't touch on religious topics in school.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
Things similar to what happened on my second day in school regularly occurred and only got worse as time went by. I can still vividly recall how my stupefied self clapped soullessly in my first chapel; how I struggled to keep up with the fervent overnight praising in the school retreats; and how I fought back my urge to correct people's stereotypical understanding of evolution as monkeys (not even apes) turning into humans. More than anything, I cringed at the school's effort to insulate its students from notions incompatible with the Christian worldview it cherishes.
I spent my entire middle-school career preoccupied with an antagonistic mindset toward Christianity, a seemingly rigid, close-minded religion. However, as my thoughts matured in high school, I realized my own narrow outlook. I looked down at the cowardice of my classmates who didn't dare step out of their comfort zone, but had I ever gone beyond my own? I sneered at their lack of understanding of the outside world, but what did I know about their belief and community? If Christians ideals seemed counter-intuitive to me, an atheist who had just begun to learn the Bible, then theories such as evolution must sound ridiculous to my Christian classmates, who have zero knowledge of them.
For the first time, I found that my classmates, who seemingly lived in an alien world, were fundamentally the same as me, an unyielding conservative shut in his own box. We all lacked a little open-mindedness.
My realization prompted me to take a course of action I would never have taken otherwise. My newborn curiosity about my classmates' belief pushed me to not only voluntarily examine the Bible, originally avoided by me as a book of heresy, but also set off on an adventure to the church right next to my house. As my knowledge of Christianity grew, I overcame the prejudice that had been troubling me ever since I became a middle-schooler. My experiences in church, though at first greatly discomforting, taught me the essence of Christian communities and unshackled me from my obstinacy.
Finally, I found myself at ease about school. I started having meaningful conversations with my friends on topics my former self would detest; the Bible class became engaged in fair academic discourses as I encouraged my peers to ponder on perspectives they tended to oversimplify; I actively participated in the annual Christmas concert to blend in with the close-knit community of Christians. Eventually, my relationship with my schoolmates culminated in me being elected the MC of this year's Christmas concert and the student body president.
In retrospect, I'm glad that I was sent to a Christian school, where I learned how to embrace and collaborate with people whose worldviews conflict with mine. In college and society, places where I will inevitably encounter new beliefs, I hope my receptiveness can guide me to inspire a sense of open-mindedness in everyone I meet.
Should I explain any part more in depth? Is there any unnecessary parts? Are my intro and conclusions good enough?
Thanks a lot in advance!