23. Giving My Heart to God
In June 2018, I joined rehearsals for the Kingdom Anthem choral performance. Thinking I’d get up on stage and sing the hymn to praise and bear witness to God, I was so honored and proud. I also prayed to God, saying that I’d do my best to practice and do my duty well. When I first started practicing my facial expressions and dance moves, I was really diligent and put effort into it, but since I didn’t know anything about singing and dancing and my expressions were kind of stiff, there was a clear gap in ability between me and the others. Our instructor was always pointing out my issues. After a while, I started getting discouraged, feeling like no matter how hard I worked, I’d never get any better, and when positions were assigned, the brothers and sisters who were good singers and dancers would definitely be in front, and I’d just be filler in the back row. I gradually became less proactive in rehearsals and I started showing up late whenever I could. For our first filming, I was put in the very back row, off to one side. I was kind of upset, thinking, “I’m not that good at any of this and there’s no way for me to compare with the brothers and sisters who can sing and dance. No matter how hard I practice, I’ll never be up to front-row standard and there’s no way the camera will see me. Why should I put so much into rehearsals? Good enough will be fine.” From then on, I was less and less able to muster up any motivation. I knew I wasn’t doing the moves right but I didn’t put effort into correcting them. Sometimes the instructor told us we had to put more into it, and that if a single person’s expressions and presentation were off, it would compromise the whole program and delay filming. Hearing that did have an impact on me and I felt I should keep the overall outcome in mind, but then I would just try hard for a bit, and then sink back into being unmotivated. I just tepidly rehearsed the song and the moves every day without feeling any guidance from God. There were some moves I practiced for a long time, but just couldn’t get right. When everyone fellowshiped on their understanding of the lyrics, I just couldn’t fellowship with any light. I didn’t feel moved at all when I was singing, either, and on film my eyes were lifeless and my expressions were flat. No one could enjoy watching me. I felt more and more that rehearsals were tedious and I just couldn’t wait for that program to be finished so I could go do another duty.
When the chart of stage positions came out, I saw I wasn’t going to be on camera in some of them, and I felt even more dejected. I thought, “I’m not great at any of this, but I’m not that bad, either. Even if I can’t be in the front row, can’t I at least be on camera in these shots? Why am I excluded? Haven’t I been rehearsing all this time for nothing? If I’d known this before, I wouldn’t have bothered practicing all these moves.” After that, whenever I was in view of the camera I’d go along happily, but otherwise, my heart wasn’t in it and I just went through the motions in rehearsals. Once all the filming was done, I felt unsettled when I heard everyone talking in a gathering about what they’d gained. I’d done the same duty, and they’d all gained something, so why did my heart feel empty, like I’d gotten nothing out of it? I felt a little afraid, wondering if I’d disgusted God in some way. After that I started seeking and praying to God, asking Him to guide me to know myself. One day, I read these words from God: “People always say that God looks deeply into one’s heart and observes everything. However, people never know why some never gain enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, why they can never obtain grace, why they never have joy, why they are always negative and depressed, and why they are incapable of being positive. Take a look at their states. It is certain that not one of these people has a functioning conscience or an honest heart” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth). “Conscience and reason should both be components of a person’s humanity. These are both most fundamental and most important. What kind of person is one who lacks conscience and does not have the reason of normal humanity? Generally speaking, he is a person who lacks humanity, a person of bad humanity. Let’s analyze this closely. How does this person manifest corrupt humanity such that people say he has no humanity? What characteristics do such people possess? What specific manifestations do they present? Such people are perfunctory in their actions and stand aloof from anything that does not concern them personally. They do not consider the interests of God’s house, nor do they show consideration for God’s will. They take on no burden of testifying for God or performing their duties, and they have no sense of responsibility. What is it that they think about whenever they do something? Their first consideration is, ‘Will God know if I do this? Is it visible to other people? If other people don’t see that I expend all this effort and behave truly, and if God doesn’t see it either, then there is no use for my expending such effort or suffering for this.’ Is this not selfishness? At the same time, it is also a very base sort of intent. When they think and act in this way, is conscience playing any role? Is there any part of conscience in this? There are even people who, upon seeing a problem in the performance of their duty, remain silent. They see that others are causing interruptions and disturbances, yet do nothing to stop them. They do not consider the interests of God’s house in the least, nor do they at all think about their own duties or responsibilities. They speak, act, stand out, put forth effort, and expend energy only for their own vanity, prestige, position, interests, and honor. The actions and intents of someone like that are clear to everyone: They pop out whenever there is an opportunity for honor or to enjoy some blessing. But, when there is not an opportunity for honor, or as soon as there is a time of suffering, they vanish from sight like a tortoise retracting its head. Does this kind of person have conscience and reason? Does a person without conscience and reason who behaves in this way feel self-reproach? The conscience of this kind of person serves no purpose, and they have never felt self-reproach. So, can they feel the reproach or discipline of the Holy Spirit? No, they cannot” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth). Reading this in God’s words moved me. I realized that I’d been negative and passive in my duty, and I couldn’t obtain the work of the Holy Spirit mainly because I wasn’t honest within my heart. I just considered my prestige and status in my duty instead of the interests of God’s house and my own responsibilities. God loathes that kind of attitude in one’s duty. Thinking back on rehearsals, when I saw I had less ability than the others, and when I was put in the very back where I couldn’t show off, I became negative and passive and didn’t want to exert myself to practice my expressions and moves. I was happy with “good enough,” and I wasn’t thinking at all about how to improve. When I saw I wasn’t in some shots, I felt like complaining and arguing, thinking that all my struggling had been in vain, and I didn’t want to practice anymore. In filming after that, when I was on screen I did my part, but when I wasn’t, I would slack off and muddle through. I did feel guilty when I thought about that. God’s house films choral works to bear witness to God, so my chance to participate in one was God elevating me. I should have put my best effort in and worked alongside the others to do my duty well. Instead, when my desire for prestige and status wasn’t satisfied, I became slapdash, negative, and lazy. I really didn’t have any conscience or reason. I was a selfish, cunning, despicable, and petty person. God scrutinizes the depths of people’s hearts, so how could God not be disgusted by my attitude toward His commission for me? Realizing this left me full of regret and guilt, and I said this prayer to God: “Oh God! I was wrong. I have regrets from my part in this program and now I don’t have any way to make up for it. From now on, I’ll really pursue the truth and stop thinking about my own prestige and status. I want to steadfastly do my duty well.”
At the time, I thought all I could do was wait for the program to be uploaded, filled with regrets, but to my surprise, we needed to do some extra filming for a number of reasons. All sorts of feelings came up for me when I heard that. I felt it was my chance to repent. I resolved that this time around, I’d definitely do my duty well to satisfy God. I started throwing my all into rehearsals, and after a little while, I saw some progress in my expressions and moves. I thought we were just about to start filming, but then it had to be postponed because of some unforeseen circumstances. The director told us not to worry and keep practicing. At first, I was able to keep working hard on it every day, but after a while I started thinking, “We don’t know when we’ll be filming or how long we’ll be in rehearsals. Last time I wasn’t on camera in some shots, so that’ll probably be the case this time, too. Besides, I’ve already gotten a basic grasp on the song and the moves, so as long as I keep practicing every day, that should be enough.” The instructor warned us many times that we couldn’t ease up on practice before filming and that the stage arrangements could change at any time. But I didn’t pay that any mind, thinking, “There’s almost no chance I’ll be put up front, so even if I keep working hard in rehearsals I won’t necessarily be on film. Why bother?” When the instructor pointed out my problems in rehearsals, I wasn’t willing to really work on them, but just made excuses: “The brothers and sisters in front will all be seen on film, so it’s fine to have them rehearse a lot. But I’ll be in the back, and I won’t even be recognizable. There’s no need to be so finicky about it.” After that, I always felt tired in rehearsals, and like they were really taxing. Plenty of times I didn’t even want to go. I realized that my old problem was cropping up again and I didn’t feel good about it. I had to ask myself, “Why am I always so perfunctory in my duty? Why can’t I just purely strive to satisfy God?” I prayed to God about my true state, asking for Him to guide me to know myself.
I read this in God’s words: “For many years, the thoughts that people have relied upon for their survival have been corroding their hearts to the point that they have become treacherous, cowardly, and despicable. Not only do they lack willpower and resolve, but they have also become greedy, arrogant, and willful. They are utterly lacking any resolve that transcends the self, and even more, they don’t have a bit of courage to shake off the strictures of these dark influences. People’s thoughts and lives are so rotten that their perspectives on believing in God are still unbearably hideous, and even when people speak of their perspectives on belief in God it is simply unbearable to hear. People are all cowardly, incompetent, despicable, and fragile. They do not feel disgust for the forces of darkness, and they do not feel love for the light and the truth; instead, they do their utmost to expel them. … You are now followers, and you have gained some understanding of this stage of work. However, you have still not put aside your desire for status. When your status is high you seek well, but when your status is low you no longer seek. The blessings of status are always on your mind. Why is it that the majority of people cannot remove themselves from negativity? Is the answer not invariably because of bleak prospects?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?). “Pay no attention to what such a person says; you must see what he lives out, what he reveals, and what his attitude is when he performs his duties, as well as what his internal state is and what he loves. If his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds his loyalty to God, if his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds God’s interests, or if his love of his own fame and fortune exceeds the consideration he shows for God, then he is not a person with humanity. His behavior can be seen by others and by God; therefore, it is very difficult for such a person to gain the truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth). God’s words incisively revealed my deep-seated, despicable motives, and showed me why, if I couldn’t show off in my duty, I couldn’t help but do it in a slapdash way, and even when I knew it was my duty and responsibility, I still wasn’t motivated. It was because my desire for name and status was too great. Even though it wasn’t obvious that I was pursuing a chance to show off, that was just because I wasn’t that talented in the first place. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. When I saw I couldn’t surpass the others no matter how hard I worked, that I wouldn’t make it into the front row, I took a negative approach to the whole thing and put very little effort into my duty. I just went through the motions without trying to do a good job. I thought that since I couldn’t show off, I may as well not suffer so much, so that way at least I wouldn’t lose out. Satan’s poisons like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost” and “Stand out above the rest” were already deeply entrenched in me. They’d become my principles controlling my every action so that I only thought of my own gain in everything I did. For name and gain, I’d do it, but otherwise, I wouldn’t. That was even true for my duty. I worked hard when I could show off, but when my own desires weren’t fulfilled, I just went through the motions, not considering God’s will or the interests of God’s house at all. I was living by my crafty nature, always scheming for my own name and position. I was slack and deceptive in my duty, without an iota of responsibility or any conscience, reason, or dignity. I was totally unreliable. I thought about how so many brothers and sisters I knew were so pure and honest, that whether they were in the front or the back, they’d strive to be up to what God required. Their singing and dancing improved over time and they could see God’s blessings and guidance. Plus there were those behind the scenes, who quietly did their own part even though they’d never be seen. They said all their work was worth it just to see the program go online. But when I wasn’t able to show off, I didn’t even do the little duty I should have. I totally lacked humanity. God’s disposition is holy and righteous, so He could only despise and hate the humanity and pursuits like mine. I couldn’t gain the Holy Spirit’s work in my duty, and I couldn’t progress in life. I knew that if I didn’t repent, I’d never gain any truth even if I believed until the very end. I’d just be eliminated by God! I felt a little afraid at this point in my reflection and I prayed to God. “Oh God, only now have I seen how shameful I’ve been, living by my corrupt disposition, without any humanity. God, I want to repent and change. Please guide me to cast off the bonds of my satanic disposition and focus on my duty.”
I later read these words from God: “If you wish to be devoted in everything you do to meet God’s will, you cannot merely perform one duty; you must accept any commission God bestows upon you. Whether or not it corresponds to your tastes and falls within your interests, or is something you do not enjoy or have never done before, or is something difficult, you still should accept it and submit. Not only must you accept it, but you must proactively cooperate, and learn about it and attain entry. Even if you suffer and have not been able to stand out and shine, you must still commit your devotion. You must regard it as your duty to fulfill; not as personal business, but as your duty. How should people understand their duties? It is when the Creator—God—gives someone a task to do, and at that point, that person’s duty arises. The tasks God gives to you, the commissions God gives to you—these are your duties. When you pursue them as your goals, and you truly have a God-loving heart, can you still make a refusal? You should not refuse them. You should accept them. This is the path of practice” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. People Can Only Truly Be Happy by Being Honest). God’s words showed me that my duty was God’s commission for me, and whether I was good at it or could show off or not, I should let go of my personal motives and goals, take it as my responsibility, and put my all into doing what God requires. Actually, in any configuration, some people are in front and some are in back, and no matter where they are, they’re doing their duty. God looks at our motive and attitudes toward our duty, whether we put our heart into it and take responsibility, and whether we practice the truth to satisfy God. I thought about how I wasn’t gifted like the other performers, but God still gave me that chance to train so I could progress in both my skills and my entry into life. That was God’s love for me! I knew I couldn’t be as selfish, despicable, and heartless as before, breaking God’s heart and letting Him down. If I was in the front or the back, if I could be seen on camera or not, I had to take my place as a created being to purely and honestly do my duty and repay God’s love.
After that, I made sure to pray to God and rely on Him and I worked hard to do my part no matter what we rehearsed. When we read God’s words in our gatherings before rehearsals, I thought hard about God’s requirements, and put His words into practice in rehearsals. When the instructor brought up my issues, I listened carefully and incorporated her advice into my practice. I would then tally up my deficiencies and use my free time for more practice. I stopped just shooting for the bare minimum. When I set my motives right for rehearsals, every day felt really fulfilling. My relationship with God normalized, I could really feel His guidance in my duty and I wasn’t as exhausted as before. After some time, my moves and expressions all improved, and the sisters said that my singing and expressions had improved a lot. I deeply felt how important it is to approach my duty with an honest heart.
Over most of the filming I was still put in the back, and sometimes I didn’t want to do my best because I wasn’t in the shot. So I made sure to pray to God and think about how to be considerate of His will, how to invest myself right away. It took some time, but my mindset improved a lot. When I was in the back, I prayed for my brothers and sisters in the front. When I didn’t need to be on camera, I offered to help my sisters with their costumes and hair, doing whatever I could for my duty. When I saw some sisters become negative and weak because they were too far back, I offered my fellowship on God’s will to help them. Doing my duty that way really put me at ease and my state just kept improving. Being able to set aside my prestige and status and practice a bit of truth all came from the guidance of God’s words, and I thank God for saving me.