Growing up in Southern China, I loved reading illustrated fairytale books—-stories from China, the Middle East, India, Japan, and Europe. I often preferred a sun-toasted quiet corner to a busy playground. My favorite stories were from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, possibly including your favorites, Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and Beast, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Thumbelina, etc.
In many of the stories, a general storyline often goes like this: the heroine found herself in an unwanted situation. Then, there comes someone to her rescue. They will end up getting married and live happily ever after.
It may be old-fashioned from an adult’s perspective, but I never got tired of those similar storylines as a child. I would return to them over and over again, especially when sad things happened in my life. Those stories brought comfort and hope to my little heart and taught me to wonder:
“What if there was a fairy godmother for me just like what Cinderella had? What if a Prince is to come to my rescue and give me a new life?“
I didn’t believe what the hostess said about Jesus Christ at the first Christmas party I went to when I was a university freshman. To be precise, it was the first time I learned that Christmas originally had nothing to do with Santa Claus, who I believed for many years as I believed in the fairytales, but everything to do with the birth of Jesus.
I wasn’t willing to believe in Jesus right away, maybe because he felt a bit too uncomfortable and too real to believe, ironically, from watching the Jesus movie at the end of the party.
However, I kept in touch with the new friends I met at the party, the kind of friends I considered to be “good happy people.” I was influenced by their optimistic approach to life, willingness to help others, and warm smiles on their faces. They called themselves Christians.
The starting point of me believing in God was on a walk with a girlfriend.
It was a sunny spring afternoon. We just had lunch together and decided to walk around the campus where cherry-blossoms were blooming. My friend was one of the “good happy people” I met not long ago, and I knew she would talk some Jesus stuff with me. However, I didn’t mind taking an accompanied walk in this beautiful weather. The conversation had somehow turned a bit personal. I talked about my dad’s passing about a year ago and how much I missed him, which I’d hardly brought up with anyone from the university. Then, she looked straight into my eyes and said: “Do you know you have a Heavenly Father, and He loves you?”
I’d heard about this before but thought it was just cheesy. But this time, when she said it, something softened in me. I shook my head. She repeated it: “You have a Heavenly Father; He loves you.“
Suddenly, I burst into tears, sobbing. Her soft, sweet voice made the simple sentence sound excellent and real, even though it was what I’d considered being cheesy.
Why did I cry? My reasoning didn’t catch up with my emotions. All I knew was that if what she said were true, I’d be dying to know this new Father and to call Him mine.
I prayed a simple prayer with her afterward to invite this Father God into my life and help me know and believe in Him. Then, I felt a strange sense of peace, a small voice in my heart saying: “Welcome home.”
My friend took out a Bible the size of my palm from her backpack and said: “This is my Bible. You can have it! They are God’s words.”
It took me years to understand the Gospel is more than “getting saved,” but the beginning of a new narrative. And that warm Spring afternoon was the beginning of my journey to finding access to the new story through Christ, the cornerstone, where my sins were forgiven, and my brokenness had the means to heal.
Heavenly Father eventually became personal to me and fathered me through His words, the Holy Spirit, and many godly people He brought into my life. There have been many moments where I found though it was not as simple as those children’s fairytales, some of my favorite narratives that I could recite by heart were, after all, not that far from the truth—- troubled heroine being rescued and loved into a new existence.
I realized we all were made to believe in something. That something we believe would serve as a lighthouse when we navigate the ocean of life or as a framework for us to build our stories.
Before I began my Christian walk in Christ, I simply believed what my friend said to me that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me. This belief led me to learn more. The more I learned about God either by studying the Bible or experiencing His faithfulness, the more I believed, which led to another level of learning, knowing, and believing added the byproduct of transforming my life and thinking. It has been a remarkable journey.
I’m writing this on the Thanksgiving week of 2020 as a kind reminder to you and myself that we shall never stop believing no matter what. My friend, through all the ups and downs, our desires and dreams are still alive in us, and they are there for a reason. They are part of the many gifts God gave to you and me to extend his kingdom on earth.
I’ve come to realize that even though an unfulfilled desire can feel challenging, even painful to hold still, it’s where I learned the quiet, deep trust in God, and for that, I give thanks.
Nevertheless, I will not let the tension of hoping what’s “not yet” stop me from believing the best, the most beautiful unfolding narrative of my life, where my unique desires, gifting, and personality come to the fullness through which the life of Christ comes out.
My friend, will you join me by echoing this simple prayer from Macrina Wiederkehr:
“O God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.”
** This post is inspired by The Next Right Thing Podcast: Remember Who You Are.