-This is the Great Wall of China.
-No duh Michelle.
-No I mean, I am at the Great Wall of China. I am here. In China. By myself this time.
Well not really a lone individual, but a lone representative of my family. Of course I am all about independency and living by myself but in a foreign country plated as the motherland? All of a sudden I’m not so greedy. Being in a different country for study purposes with a planned schedule and set structure is great for toning down the fears and apprehensiveness, but deep down inside my gut tightens when I see activities planned on Sunday from early mornings to late evenings, treating it like the other regular weekend days, my forehead wrinkles ever so slightly when God is brushed off so easily in this self-dependent, self-developing, self-accrediting country, my stomach hollows when the waiter brings out all the food on the table and the cue to eat is no longer after a unison “Amen” but just a simple, “Dig in guys!”
But no one knows I react this way, because you can’t see it. Because I’m being cautious not to show disapproval. Because for some passive reason I would rather slit my own thoughts silent than speak up and risk causing drama. I had repressed the longing voice of my soul so far down it had stopped becoming a part of my story; instead it was crammed into the footnotes of my heart, collecting dust at the bottom, quietly hiding away, small and faded, and only used for rare reference situations.
But yesterday I peeled open my thoughts and basked in the raw reality of my spiritual state of being. I was a mess. I admit it.
I never usually miss Sunday services, in fact I could probably count the number of times I’ve missed a Sunday service on my 10 fingers. I grew up in a Christian family under a very warm setting in a lovely environment. Of course, this left very little room to test my faith beyond the typical life routine of friends, academics, and discovery of identity. In fact, one huge reason why I chose to continue my higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was because I was told about the great spiritual surroundings it had. I liked the idea of having a strong community support me, and despite being a believer for 18 years, I still didn’t think I could handle somewhere else more liberal and God-free.
Unfortunately, turns out I was right. China is for the most part a very anti-God place. Christian values are not upheld by your average person, and this is where I find myself struggling. Immersed in a sea of people who thought differently from me I was bound to be affected if not tainted at least. For example, the driving in China shows the impatience, selfishness, and demands of people’s hearts. Not too long after I become irritable, short-tempered, and annoyed in my interactions with people, my family, and my roommate.
Furthermore, not taking any classes and having a more flexible schedule increased my laziness and desire for distractions while decreasing my motivation and productivity. Normally during the school year I like to keep busy because I know my time is precious and valuable. When break comes, it throws the whole cycle off. My evenings are usually always pretty free but I did not find myself reading the Bible nor having any desire to. The more uninterested I was the more apathetic I became and I could feel the changes in my loss of self-control, joy, and urgency in life.
It is a scary place to be when you don’t have God, but it is even scarier when you willingly keep it that way.
Luckily, my fear of God brought me to make a change to that. Yesterday I went to an English service on Sunday at 3:30pm at Chong Yi Christian Church, which is the largest Christian church in Hangzhou. There were so many barriers that could’ve stopped me: I had gone to Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) the previous day and my legs were the sorest they’ve ever been in my life and I needed/wanted rest, I had caught a slight cold from the rain at Yellow Mountain and wasn’t feeling well, my friends were supposed to go with me but they decided on relaxing, it was a 40 min drive and I had no mode of transportation. I ended up trying to use a taxi calling app, Didi, but relented and decided to walk 15 mins out of campus onto a busy street and call for a tax with just my arm, eye contact, and debatably decent Chinese. By the grace of God, a taxi driver responded to my confused face and lost hand signals and safely brought me to my destination: a huge beautiful church with a giant cross structure on top.
When I walked into service they were singing “Above All” by Michael W. Smith, which is one of my dad and grandma’s favorites. The familiarity brought back memories while the lyrics and melody brought down tears. I loved it all. The speaker preached a truth message. Not one of those feel good, shallow messages, but a deep sermon that wasn’t afraid of calling people out. Those are the sermons I love. He talked about how we are a distracted generation that is not focused on God. If you think that’s me right now, getting distracted from the Great Wall and getting onto this topic, let me tie this together for you. The speaker used a war analogy to display our mindset today and looking at the Great Wall reminded me of how it represented protection from invaders: soldiers and guards would stand for lookout. You see, in a war when you are up front you are focused on two things and two things only: how can I destroy my enemy and how can I save myself. But when you are in the back, not fighting upfront and dangerous, maybe watching from the sidelines you are distracted. Your head is not fully in the battle so therefore you start to think about other things since the battle for your life is not that urgent, it seems. Distracted from the greater and main purpose of the war, squandering precious time to entertain foolish thoughts, and caught off guard when a bullet hits you in the face.
Life is a journey, but life is a battlefield. Life should be enjoyed, but life should be urgent.
What this speaker said really resonates with me and speaks to me. Through this Great Wall I am reminded of life’s urgency and God’s will, through nature and his creation I am reminded of his omni-present being that surrounds me when I feel alone, through his words and messengers I am reminded of his faithful heart and his blessing promises.
I want to know God more. I want to give God control over my entire life story, not just let him write my heart's mere footnotes.
This is my story,
Michelle Yin | June 12, 2016 | 1:09pm
I have a story. You have a story. And while these stories need to be heard, in the end..we are all more than a story but still simple wayfarers of life.
A blog cannot contain the entire person I am, it is just a colorful collection of my stories.
P.S. Please ignore all preview blog posts due to it being written by my high school self for an English class project requiring the creation of this blog. I only keep it for amusement purposes.
Thanks for bearing