THE LORD¡¯S GRACE AND HIS CALLING
Saved by Grace
In the seminary, instead of studying the Bible, I spent hours immersed in fiction. One night during the study hours before the final examination I told a fictitious story to the classmates in the classroom, distracting them from their studies. As said in the Book of Romans: ¡°who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them¡± (Romans 1:32). How pitiful that even after four years in the seminary I could not locate the Bible verses which the lecturers were referring to.
When my mother was gravely ill, I prayed desperately: ¡°Lord, have pity on me; I¡¯m so woeful! If Mom should die what should I do as an orphan? Please heal her, Lord¡¡± I prayed like this day and night, over and over, but Mother did die. From then on I concluded that there was no God; even if there was, I just could not accept such a cruel God. I fell out of faith and even engaged in acts of superstition and wickedness, such as fortune-telling, soothsaying and casting lots. Yet ¡° The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.¡± (Psalm 103:8-10)
Before she passed away, Mother instructed me to care for my younger brother and I willingly consented. I felt so indebted to the Zheng family and was determined to do everything I could for my brother. I stayed home to do the housework so that he could continue with his studies. However, ¡°the way of man is not in himself¡± (Jeremiah10:23). Never had I imagined that my uncle, a heroin addict, would have betrothed me to a local gang leader for his own financial gain. By the Lord¡¯s mercy, a kind neighbor secretly alerted me about it. Right away I disguised myself and fled. I came to the Yuxin Girls Middle School in Gutian. Having learned of my plight, the principal and several teachers who were my mother¡¯s good friends were very sympathetic and granted me a work-study. I had meant to give up my own education for my brother¡¯s sake, but this twist of events had given me the opportunity to pursue my own education. The Enemy¡¯s plot had turned into a blessing! I will forever praise the Lord for His wonderful works.1
*Note 1 However, instead of being grateful to God after returning to school, I even rebelled against Him, often mocking fellow student believers. When they prayed with eyes closed, I would disrupt them by pulling their eyelids, ears and noses. When they were saying grace at mealtimes, I would remove their food, jeering, ¡°You thanked God; let Him feed you.¡± I also mocked those who loved the Lord, saying they were hypocrites like the Pharisees and were trying to appease the Westerners with the purpose of studying abroad.
¡°O Lord, how great are your works! Your thoughts are very deep.¡± (Psalm 92:5)
In 1930 I studied at the Yuxin Girls¡¯ Middle School in Gutian while my brother studied in the Chaogu Middle School. One summer night my brother was kidnapped with 6 other students by gangsters whilst staying late in the school for tutoring. This was too great a blow to me. At wit¡¯s end, I cried out, ¡°Lord, I¡¯ve lost my Dad and Mom and am penniless. If possible, please bring my brother home safely without me having to pay a ransom; then I¡¯ll believe you¡¯re indeed God. In return, I¡¯ll do even the most difficult task for you.¡± (At that time I considered that the most difficult task was to be a preacher because such a vocation had no promising future). Bless the Lord who answered prayers and did great works! Three months later, just as I had wished, ¡°without spending a penny¡±, my brother returned home safely. He had grown taller and was wearing a new suit (it was said that he had brought home 5 or 6 more sets of clothing). In his pocket was a fountain pen (50 years ago a fountain pen was a rarity) and in his hand were coins amounting to 50 silver dollars. Seeing this (and suspecting that he might have struck a deal with gangsters), both my legs turned numb. I did not want to become a gang leader¡¯s wife (there were precedents). I also remembered my vow to the Lord that I would become a preacher. Such an awesome God must not be slighted! Reluctantly, I approached the principal, an American, to request that I be enrolled in a seminary. Staring at me with surprise, she remarked, ¡°Do you look like a seminary student?¡± I was pleased to hear this and immediately said to the Lord, ¡°See, she won¡¯t refer me to the seminary though I wish to attend¡±.
I was active by nature. I climbed up stairways and slid down on the railings. I participated in all types of extracurricular activities such as ball games, running, dancing, drama and speech. I often climbed trees and read up there. In no way did I resemble a seminary student. Yet ¡°God has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given in Christ Jesus before time began. (II Timothy 1:9)¡±
In summer I received a letter from the president of the Fuzhou Women¡¯s Seminary offering me full scholarship with room and board and a half-day job in the library on Saturdays to earn spending money. Secretly I was perplexed: I preferred not to go; but if I did not, I feared God¡¯s punishment. I was like the horse or the mule which God ¡°had to harness with bit and bridle, else she will not come near you¡±(Psalm 32:9).
Reluctantly, I left Gutian for the Fuzhou Women¡¯s Seminary in September. Arriving at the campus, I was delighted to see the magnificent building. I was wearing a red blouse, a short skirt and high-heels. The other students were wearing blue blouses and black long skirts with their hair tied back in a bun; their plain attire and spiritual appearance made me uneasy. I thought, ¡°Terrible! Disastrous! What am I doing in this convent for widows!¡± When a classmate testified, ¡°I¡¯m a sinner, the chief of all sinners,¡± I thought: ¡°I¡¯ve no sin. I¡¯m neither a killer nor an arsonist.¡± When someone stated, ¡°I¡¯m born again,¡± I thought with conceit: ¡°I¡¯m a pastor¡¯s daughter. I¡¯ve believed since childhood and need not be ¡®born-again¡¯. You do because you were converted later in life.¡±
Three years went by futilely ¨C perhaps it was not God¡¯s timing yet. I was assigned as an intern in the Yiyu Village Methodist Church near Fuzhou. How could I lead others to Christ while I myself had yet to be born again?
I had 6 or 7 co-workers in the church. Driven by egoism, I organized various activities of carnal nature such as illiterate remedial classes, Sunday school classes and parent conferences. One day I was commended by a staff member carrying out a surprise inspection and the pastor also added many compliments. At the end of the internship a year later, I was ordered to return to the seminary for the fifth year. There was a struggle within my heart: it seemed such a waste of time unless there would be an abrupt change of plan or of school.
The wonderful Lord did wonderful things. It was at this crucial moment that He brought in a graduate of the Shanghai Chinese Evangelical Seminary, Miss Minyin Ye, to lead morning worship services for a week. As a graduating senior as well as the president of the students union, I felt conceited and thought: ¡°You¡¯re but a new graduate. I, too, will graduate very soon. What you shared is nothing new or admirable.¡± For four days I did not pay attention to what she said.
On the fifth morning she gave a testimony of her salvation. The Spirit of the Lord touched me and I humbly said, ¡°Lord, you¡¯re impartial! Why did you save her but not me? Why did you use her but not me? I beg you, Lord, I want to be saved and to serve you!¡± Praise the Lord who had captured me with His Spirit. All day long my heart was like a tightly closed faucet and I felt more sorrowful than when I lost my mother. I could not stop crying: I cried during lectures; I cried at mealtimes and had no appetite; I could not practice the piano as I could not read the musical notes with tearful eyes. That night I found a piano studio on the third floor and knelt down humbly before the Lord, confessed my sins and asked the Lord to save me. Thank God for giving me a repentant heart and for His forgiving grace 2 . As I rose after praying, I felt as if I had dropped a thousand-pound burden. ¡°You see, how great a love the Father had bestowed on me that I should be called a child of God, and I am truly His child¡± (I John 3:1). That day was October 2, 1935. That night my heart was filled with the joy and peace from above and I could feel the Lord living in my heart. He was so dear and so close. The next day, with a mind renewed, all things became new.
First, I had become a free person without the bondage of sin (John 8:36). I began to grow my hair long so that I could tie it up into a bun. I disposed of those clothes that were red, green and colorful and dropped my mirror from the second floor. I threw all the fiction books into the burner. The kitchen maid saw what I was doing and cried out, ¡°Are you crazy? These books that you are burning are new!¡± ¡°They¡¯re poisonous!¡± I replied.
Secondly, submitting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I reconciled with people either in person or in writing and did what I considered the right things to do. One day, as I was praying, I seemed to see my uncle, a heroin addict, right before me. I said to the Lord, ¡°I can forgive everyone except this man for he is an oppressor of widows and orphans.¡± He had beaten my mother before. Right when my mother passed away in her bed, he had tried to expel my brother and me, stating harshly, ¡°If you don¡¯t get out of here, there will be no funeral for your mother.¡± Fortunately some considerate folks interceded for us and prevented him from getting his way. I said, ¡°Lord, he is no gentleman who does not repay kindness; he who does not avenge lives in vain.¡± The Lord said to me, ¡°If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses¡± (Matthew 6:14-15). Thank God for giving me the strength to remove this boulder from my heart. Later on, not only did I reconcile with my uncle, I truly cared for his soul and shared the Gospel with him.
Thirdly, I had love for the Lord. He had totally taken hold of me. Since the day he lived in my heart, whenever I visualized the Lord on the cross, I would cry as I recalled my previous acts of rejection, unbelief and defiance. I cried when I perceived the procession of people on the streets heading towards hell; I cried when I saw unbelieving schoolmates who were like myself in the past; I cried when they did not love the Lord and had no desire to seek Him; I cried in class when the teachers were imparting fallacy (such as ¡°the spirit has weight and can be measured¡±¡) One day at mealtime when a classmate happily announced, ¡°Today we¡¯re having good food!¡±, I felt so sad that I lost my appetite. I left for the prayer chapel, knelt down and prayed for this person who was so spiritually immature and carnal-minded. Every time I came to the Lord, I could visualize His love on the Cross and the rejection of men, and I could not hold back my tears. Throughout the half-year that I went through ¡°the valley of tears¡±, the Lord¡¯s love was overwhelming and resounded within my heart.
Fourthly, I led a prayerful life. Drawing me close with His love, the Lord took me into His inner chamber. I figured that it was quite a waste of time putting on and off the sleeping gown, and so I often slept without changing. If I happened to wake up at 12 mid-night or 1 a.m., then I got up right then and prayed and read the Bible until dawn, tasting the sweetness of fellowship such as described in the Songs of Solomon. Apart from the Lord, I have no desire or love. He is my all and I am totally His.
That an abandoned child could have become the daughter of a servant of the Lord was no co-incidence; it was in accordance with the will of the Lord. ¡°The Lord hascalled me from the womb(Isaiah 49:1).¡± Praise the Lord for the joy of salvation and for my cup of overflowing blessings!
I was so zealous that, when I kept my mouth shut and failed to preach, my heart felt like it was on fire. I empathized with Paul: ¡°woe is me if I do not preach the gospel (I Corinthians 9:16)¡±. I therefore excused myself after classes daily to go outside the campus alone. As a start, I went to the city squares to distribute gospel tracts. Then one afternoon on Xiado Street in Fuzhou when I saw the procession of unsaved people, I spoke boldly about my loving God. Many stopped to listen, holding up traffic for a while. The Lord then prompted a meat-store owner to invite me into his store to preach on the butcher¡¯s chop-board. He also allowed me to return to his store. This store became my temporary evangelistic outpost.
At that time, I was in the final year of seminary. Seeing the poor spiritual condition of the campus, I became anxious and prayed daily with my roommate, Sister Ruiguang Lin, for all the teachers and students. Later I invited another classmate, Sister Muzhen Wu, to join us. The three of us then each invited one person to join in daily. This way, 3 became 6, 6 became 12, until eventually it amounted to 30 people. The campus became saturated with prayers.
1. ¡°God turned the curse into a blessing.¡± (Nehemiah 13:2)
2. ¡°Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31 ).