My Cup Overflows
The thirst for spirituality is a gift from our Father, propelling us at some point in our life to respond to His love and calling. In my search for spirituality, I sought Buddhism, learned yoga and meditation, and read on the topics of spiritual growth and the mystery of life and death. However, what I learned stayed mainly on the intellectual level.
A Series of Tragedies
Starting in October 2014, a series of hard blows and sorrows relentlessly hit me. Prior to this, I was living a seemingly smooth and successful life. We were a happy family of four—my husband, myself, and our two furry kids (cats) which we had raised since graduate school. My husband and I had both gotten our PhD degrees and had successful careers. We were financially stable, healthy, good-looking, and always sweet and loving to each other. Life had been pretty good.
In September 2014, one of our cats sadly passed away (18 years old) after a long drawn-out process with his declining health. In less than three weeks, I was rushed to the emergency room twice within several days. All of a sudden, I found myself lying in a hospital bed, relying on morphine to control the acute pain. The oncologist did not offer a good prognosis. My husband became mentally unstable as soon as I became ill, and started seeing a counselor himself. I took a three-month medical leave before returning to work in January 2015. In February, our other cat (16 years old) got ill unexpectedly. At the same time, my husband's company underwent a major reorganization. His boss (and mentor/sponsor) was fired, and his work group dissipated with everybody either laid off or sent to another group.
Our cat tragically dropped dead while I was on a business trip overseas, and my husband was home alone when this happened. When I returned home, my husband became a different person. There was a wall erected between us, and he became distant. Under mounting stress, I came down with a viral inner ear infection resulting in Bell's palsy that paralyzed the right side of my face and caused significant dizziness. Then one morning my husband walked up to me while I was bedridden and said, “Let's separate and divorce.” He soon moved out, even refusing to tell me where he moved. My life all of sudden was shattered into pieces, and I was left alone in the house, ill and heartbroken.
A Budding Faith and Transformation
I had heard of the gospel through my Christian friends in the past, but was never interested. I thought that many people convert to Christianity because they are weak, or they are seeking friendship and comfort through church life. My husband's leaving was the last blow, smashing my pride and self-reliance. I was totally weary, as I had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and was now lying alone at the bottom of the pit of despair. At the same time, many Christian friends, including my boss, co-workers, and personal friends, stepped up to become my support, caring for me, praying for me, and helping me stand up again. The love from Christ was manifest in them. Then it dawned on me that what I really needed was not (self motivated) enlightenment. Instead, I needed salvation.
On March 27, 2015, I made the decision to accept Jesus Christ. My decision followed a speech given by Dr. Chuck Kwok, a distinguished professor from the University of South Carolina, originally from Hong Kong. Dr. Kwok is devoted to gospel work among Chinese Americans. He spoke about “The Vine and the Branches” from John 15, and during his speech, I said to myself, “I want to find the rock in my life.” As soon as I admitted my weakness and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, my life started being transformed amazingly. It was like the dark cloth covering my eyes had suddenly been removed—I walked out of the darkness into the light. I strongly sensed the emanating light from the Holy Spirit, and I repented of the sins in my past—sins I had not thought of for years. I became aware of my sinful nature—covetousness, jealousy, anger, and selfishness. Streams of tears flowed as I came to realize how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and how precious is His grace through redemption.
I became hungry for His words and truth. I began spending one hour each day studying the scriptures and praying. Moreover, I felt connected to an everlasting and inexhaustible battery, and love like living water filled my bosom, because God is love. Although my marriage seemed to become increasingly hopeless, at the same time, my new faith has guarded my heart against bitterness. During the process, I learned to depend on His grace, and gradually let go of my pride, self-conceit, fear, anxiety, and attachments, in order to make space for my new life to grow. “Faith” and “perseverance” have been particularly tested and developed. Because God reigns and holds the future in His hands, and because of His promises, there is assurance in the uncertainty of tomorrow. Therefore, I feel peace in my mind.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 16:33 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
My pen pal and mentor, Sister JC, said to me: “I am amazed at your gratitude and serenity in all of these trials. Harsh trials may cause two reactions in people. Some become very bitter if they do not encounter the redemption of the Lord—or if they do, they still have a lot of suspicions and resist accepting His mercy— while others are humble and submit their struggles to the Lord and follow His way. Indeed you are blessed in this way, because the transforming power from above changes your nature, and you are like a dry branch connected to the vital Tree and become one of the ‘new creatures’”(2 Corinthians 5:17).
Road to Baptism
As soon as I accepted Jesus Christ and started living under His grace, I wanted to be baptized. However, it would be several months until the next baptism was held, so I had to wait. I was counting the days! During the waiting period, I was growing steadily as a Christian with a thirst to be closer to God. Besides my personal daily devotions and regular attendance of Sunday worship, I also participated in fellowship gatherings with a Bible study at my church weekly, as well as a prayer/Bible study group at my company. I began living in God's family, filled with love, laughter, joy, and hope.
Moreover, I started taking my first Sunday school course, “Life Influencing-Life Discipleship,” in the form of a small group (3 students + 2 instructors) which was full of solid biblical teaching and intimate sharing. In the beginning, on the night before the Sunday school class on key topics, such as salvation, how to pray, and understanding God's will, I would suddenly be struck by unexplained pain, feeling ill and thus having to drag myself to class. But I refused to miss those essential biblical teachings, especially since I had spent extensive time beforehand preparing for the class. After I had made it to class on Sunday morning, the pain would completely disappear.
Finally, my baptism date was established for Sunday, September 20, 2015—the same day for graduation from the Sunday school course on discipleship. I was ecstatic! But the Friday night before my baptism, at approximately 10:30 pm, I was walking toward the parking lot after a fellowship gathering, and I suddenly took a hard fall. Without stumbling or missing a step, my whole front body abruptly hit the ground with great impact. Totally shocked, I was groaning in pain and was not even able to get up. One sister happened to drive by, stopped her car and helped me. My ribs really hurt and I was bleeding, with bruises and wounds on both knees, on the right elbow and shoulder.
On top of that, I was attacked by the same pain as before, but even more intense. I was tossing in bed moaning, not able to sleep at all or even to sit or stand up straight. From Friday night through all day Saturday, I was in enormous pain and felt pretty ill. I chose to be in fasting and prayer. Two sisters stopped by my house to pray with me, and I spoke to more friends over the phone, praying for my upcoming baptism. I was reminded that God's grace is always sufficient. Despite being sick and in pain, I was determined not to miss the last Sunday school class, worship, and most importantly—my baptism! Miraculously, just like before, on Sunday morning—the day when we gather as the body of Christ to celebrate the Lord's Day, the day of Christ's resurrection, when the sun came out—the unbearable pain totally vanished. These events taught me to keep my faith in all situations and practice endurance.
Baptism–Beginning of an Uphill Journey toward Sanctification
September 20, 2015, the day of my baptism, was truly a special day in my life, of my re-birth. Beside friends at the church, six of my coworkers with their spouses also attended my baptism. I was showered with lots of love, hugs and kisses, blessings, bouquets, and gifts. I was so elated.
The scriptures recited in the final Sunday school class described perfectly how I felt:
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…
I am still amazed at how this faith was placed in my heart—in the heart of all of us who are believers—and how it took root and grew. All I can say is simply: it is Amazing Grace!
The message shared during the Sunday worship on my baptism day also echoed loudly:
Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
The best decision I ever made in my life was to answer the door when He knocked. Since then, we have been dining at a feast together—a feast of abundance, love, peace, joy, and beyond! Trials in my life have indeed been mercies in disguise from God, propelling me to turn to Him. I am so blessed to receive a new life and to enter His kingdom, being part of His great plan.
After the baptism, joy has continued to overflow, and my vision is being elevated while my heart and spirit are being renewed continuously. I have been feeling so enlarged and uplifted, raised to a status of being able and willing to give, with a strong desire to let the grace I have received flow through me to others. I have started feeling the burden to spread the gospel and save lost souls as my life’s mission. My personal problems (illness and marriage crisis) seem to be so negligible, as I have been restored. Several months ago, heartbroken and weary, I came to kneel before of God, praying in tears for Him to heal my illness and to save my marriage. Since then, I have understood God's will, and He surely knows the priority which was best—I have been restored first, and now I am set free!
How sweet it is to rely on Jesus Christ. I am thrilled for the journey unfolding in front of me, in order that I might “press on toward the goal.” I have testified to His faithfulness and greatness. All glory to God forever and ever. Hallelujah!
My mentor, Sister JC, said to me: “I can sense the growth of the new life in you so vitally. The baptisms of water and Holy Spirit confirm that reality. The freedom you experience now is indeed a precious gift from God, which no one under the power of sin can have. When we are away from God, we would rely on others to meet our needs. All the relationships in our lives can become the ‘means’ for the purpose of our own satisfaction. However, when we are reconciled with God the Father through Jesus Christ, we know that every need in our lives will be provided for, and we want to serve others through every relationship.”