For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Briana. I just turned 29 years old and my amazing husband, Akilan, and I have one beautiful daughter together. When I look at the life I lead now, I can’t help but thank God for blessing me and for being with me. Let me rewind a little bit so you can get a better understanding of me.
Over three decades ago, my family left the war torn country of Sri Lanka, and as a result of that, I was born and raised here in Canada. My family consisted of both of my parents, whom I love very dearly, and my older sister Jasmin (who writes for this blog as well). I grew up knowing who Jesus was because I was born into a devout Roman Catholic family.
Although I grew up knowing Jesus, I never experienced a deep, meaningful relationship with Him. I was taught to believe that if I prayed to Jesus, Mary and any of the saints, then my prayers will get answered. The emphasis of Jesus as the one and only Son of God, who died for the sake of all humanity, never really had much significance to me back then. I loved the concept of Jesus, and was kind of intimidated by Him as well. So Jesus, Mary and the saints were all equal in my eyes. I prayed the rosary, attended special services for the saints, read the bible every night and did novenas. I would say I was a pretty solid Catholic girl.
Just as my sister had mentioned in her testimony, my family was very dysfunctional while I was growing up. As a result of that, I started developing self-esteem issues, which led to a perfectionist mentality. I ended up getting addicted to the approval of others. I became a straight A+ student throughout elementary and high school and strived for excellence, so that I can make my parents happy.
We lived downtown and moved to Scarborough when I was 8. When my sister and I started going to elementary school in Scarborough, we experienced a lot of bullying due to racism. We were practically the only “brown kids” and a lot of the other kids teased us often. We were the outcasts of the school for the first two years or so. I also developed a poor self-image at a really young age because I was on the chubbier side and I got teased often about that as well. I became very aware of my body at such a tender age and started to become ashamed of it. I lost a lot of the weight by the time I was 13 but was still very insecure about my appearance.
When my sister started high school, she remembered all the teasing and bullying we endured and decided to tell everyone she was from another nationality so that people would accept her. We both wanted to fit in, so I had kept up with that lie when I entered high school, and for the most part we were quite popular and seemed to have great friends. I was also very much into high school drama and gossiped about others with my friends as well.
Although I had a lot of friends, my previous insecurity became more magnified because of the guys in high school. They all called me the Virgin Mary and made fun of me because I always talked about keeping my purity. When I was a little girl, I made a promise to God that I would save my purity for the man I would marry, no matter what. I started thinking I wasn’t attractive enough, because none of the guys seemed to pursue me after I told them this. I always compared myself to other girls and always felt insignificant, especially when those guys would choose them over me. But I always stayed true to myself and my promise to God, despite my constant battle with poor self-image.
Just as I hit my final year in high school, I decided I wanted to be honest with my friends and tell them about the true identity of my nationality. They were upset that I lied to them, and started distancing themselves from me. I went through my final year like an outcast, feeling alienated and rejected once again and I was no longer part of the “popular” crowd. I scheduled my classes so I can have a spare in place of my last class, so that I could go home early every day. I fell into depression and refused to tell anyone what I was going through, so I suffered in silence and cried often about the point of my existence. My mom was the only person that noticed something was wrong with me, but I would yell and cuss at her whenever she tried to be there for me.
One afternoon, I decided I couldn’t bare the pain anymore. I went into the kitchen and got a knife to slit my wrist, in hopes that I could leave this world. I placed the knife on my skin and slightly cut the surface. Before it went deeper into my skin, I felt like something was telling me not to do it! I can’t explain it, but I felt like it was God. I ran to my room, and I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to take my life. I asked Him why all of this is happening. And then cried myself to sleep without waiting for an answer.
A few months before graduation, I got a job at the local mall. I worked a lot of hours after school to get out of my house and to get my mind off of everything. Sometime in the beginning of the summer that year, we hired a guy named Sajanth. He kept telling me about his church and God’s love.
I would get so angry because, in my eyes, I knew everything about Jesus and I didn’t need some guy telling me. He kept trying and trying but I wouldn’t budge; although, I was actually listening the whole time. I ended up getting my sister a job with me as well that August, and Sajanth started talking to her. However, she was more receptive than I was. She was interested in what he was saying, but I kept telling her not to let someone else influence her decisions in life.
After I started university that September, I noticed such a huge change in my sister‘s character and behavior. She was not the same person I was used to: instead of being angry and distant with me, she became so sweet and caring. I shrugged it off thinking it was all fake and that it would only last for a short while. At university, I decided that I was going to be honest about my nationality, in hopes that I would be accepted for me. I ended up making friends with people right away and became happier. But I continued thinking about my pain and hurts from the past, and carried a lot of baggage that needed to be dealt with. My sister kept asking me to come to a meeting that Sajanth invited us to. It was for a campus Christian club called Faith in Action, at the University of Toronto in Scarborough. I finally said, “okay” to my sister because she really wanted to check it out. But I ended up fighting with her about something and told her that I wasn’t going to the meeting anymore. She then did something totally out of character! She cried and sat on her bed, and started praying. I was so surprised, and ended up feeling so horrible that I decided to go with her.
It was November 3, 2005 when we attended our first meeting at Faith in Action. They were singing a song that completely broke me down: “I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my pain, I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” At that moment, I asked God to give me His joy because that I didn’t want to live with my sorrows anymore. I wanted Him to take control of my life! It became so real to me that He loved me and cared about what was hurting me. The sermon that was preached that day was based on Genesis 4:7 about how “sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you but you must master it.” The perfectionist inside of me really wanted to take on the challenge of trying to master sin. But what got to me is that God loved me even when I was covered in sin!
That was the day that changed my life forever. Jesus entered my heart and transformed it. He picked up the broken pieces and made me whole. He covered my insecurities with His love and acceptance, and I realized my identity and worth is only found in Him. I decided I didn’t need to pray to anyone but Him… not statues of Him, not Mary, not the saints! He is my reason to live, and for as long as I have breath, I will praise His name and lift it on high. The way I see it, our life is our gift from God; and the way we live our life is our gift to God. I have endured many challenges and trials since then, but because Jesus has been with me, I will always know that I am not alone. He is the defender of my heart and my life. In Christ alone, my hope is found!
– Briana Uthayacumaran