My First "Standing up for Christ" Experience
Messy Christian today posted up more of her rants about what I call the dichotomy of "East Vs West" thinking even among "eastern" Christians. The entire post could have been my own. For the longest time, I have been struggling with my own identity - national, racial, spiritual and personal. Ever since I became a Christian from the time I was 12 years old, I have had trouble reconciling my racial heritage with my faith, among other things. My mom had been terrified that I would be un-filial and not look after her soul after she die (a critical concept in Chinese cosmology, but more about this in some other future post). Even after I made my commitment to Christ, I had continued to accompany her to the Chinese temples, and been the filial son at home "feeding" the "gods" and also the "ancestral rites (or as most people refer to, incorrectly, in my opinion, ancestral worship") with joss-sticks incense daily. Then the day came when the teachings of the church encouraged me to "make a stand for Christ".
It was heartbreaking for me. I remember it well. I was about 15, and at the time it was my duty (actually it should have been my brother's, but then again, he was an acting-out rebellious teenager and I was the filial son--will blog about that another time) to "feed" the "god of the earth" with incense each morning. I loved doing it, as I had grown up with stories of the Chinese gods and goddesses and really loved to take care of these spiritual beings who looked after the welfare of the family. Anyway, when I was convicted that I could only worship the One True God and that I had to give up my wayward serving God and "Mammon" ("Mammon" because the Chinese believed that these gods are responsible for bringing good luck - ie help you be successful in your vocation and bring good luck and windfall across your path), I decided to make a stand. This is what happened.
Each morning, just before I went out the door to school, I would tell Mom, "Mom I am going to school now, bye!" and dash out the door before she could stop me. After a couple of mornings, she caught on, and asked me if I had done my joss-stick duty to the god of the earth. I said, "Yes!" then breathed a prayer of confession for my lie and asked God for forgiveness. (When I first became a Christian a few years prior to that, I did not know that you only need to receive Christ as Savior once, and I used to pray the sinners prayer and asked Christ to come into my heart all over again several times a day when convicted of my sins). But by that time, I had learned that I did not need to use the Rev. 3:20 type of prayer, but the 1 John 1:9 type of prayer. Nevertheless, I was still conflicted and troubled that here I was lying to my own mother when I was supposed to be bearing good testimony to my God!
I was traumatized. I knew mom would find out. In fact, that day, I stayed behind after school because I dare not face my mom after school. I went to the school library and did not return home till quite late. Mom did not say anything throughout dinner. Then, after dinner she confronted me. She wanted to know why I lied. "Take the joss sticks and light them up and kneel before the altar of the god of the earth". I did not budge. I had never been so openly defiant to my mom before. She went out of my room and returned with a belt. When I was younger, mom used to keep a "cane" that she will take out to punish me when I was naughty. It seemed that she had misplaced the cane because she hadn't used it for over several years. A belt would do, she figured, I guess!
She forced me to kneel down before the god's altar. Still I refused to light the joss sticks and "baibai" - pay homage to the god. Instead, I was asking God for a miracle. I was asking for His intervention. Why won't He hear my prayers! She started belting me. As the belt struck me and stung my hands, arms, feet and back, I remained motionless, asking God to rescue me and asking God to stop Mom, asking God to make me invisible, asking for the rapture to happen, anything! Actually, I was very conflicted as I probably did not really want the rapture to occur at that point, as I wanted God to save my mom too. In any case, I was distraught but I decided that I must stand up for my God. Whoever loves mother and father more than me is not worthy of Me. Then, Mom started crying. She was crying out something about offending the ancestors and about how she has been a bad mom and had brought up an unfilial son.
My heart hurt. I broke down. I asked God for forgiveness. I couldn't bear to watch mom suffer anymore. Damn me to hell. I will commit the unpardonable sin and go to hell instead of watching my mom agonize any more. I lighted the joss sticks, tears streaking down my cheeks, and "baibai" the god of the earth, and placed the joss sticks on the urn. I slowly returned to my room. Mom returned to hers, still sobbing. Only I couldn't hear her anymore, as I stifled my own cries. I had sinned against my mom, and now I had sinned against my God. I offended my ancestors and now I offended my God. My ancestors were angry with me, but then so was God. I cried myself to sleep that night.
Epilogue: Read what happened the next day.