32. My Spirit Liberated
By Mibu, Spain
“In his life, if man wishes to be cleansed and achieve changes in his disposition, if he wishes to live out a life of meaning and fulfill his duty as a creature, then he must accept God’s chastisement and judgment, and must not allow God’s discipline and God’s smiting to depart from him, in order that he may free himself from the manipulation and influence of Satan, and live in the light of God. Know that God’s chastisement and judgment is the light, and the light of man’s salvation, and that there is no better blessing, grace or protection for man” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, God’s Chastisement and Judgment Is the Light of Man’s Salvation). Singing this hymn of God’s words reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago.
In October 2016, a music video with singing and dancing that I’d helped choreograph was put online. The brothers and sisters really liked it, and they recommended that I manage the church’s dance team. I was really excited and said a silent prayer to God that I’d definitely do this duty well and produce more videos to bear witness to Him. Before long, the dance team’s work started picking up. Brothers and sisters really looked up to me, and they came to me for help with any dancing difficulties they had. This really fed my vanity, and I felt like I was an indispensable talent in the church. Before long, the church leader arranged for Sister Ye to come work with me. I was really happy about it, thinking, “Sister Ye has professional dance experience, too, and she excels at different dance styles than I do. We can make up for what the other lacks. We’ll definitely do well in our duty.” After some time, we were getting ready to film a music video, and Sister Ye’s ideas for the choreography were more developed, more insightful than mine. The brothers and sisters all liked them. I was not too pleased about this, and wondered, “What will the others think of me? Will they think I don’t match up to Sister Ye? If she surpasses me, will I still be able to play a major role in the team?” It particularly bothered me when I saw others going to talk to Sister Ye whenever they had a problem. I was the one in charge, but they sought her out whenever they had problems. Didn’t that mean she was better than me? I felt I couldn’t be outdone by her, that in our next program I had to make a really good show so that everyone saw I was just as good as her.
Sister Ye and I later split up our tasks to accommodate work needs. I was in charge of a music video, while she was in charge of a stage production. I was secretly pleased. When we’d worked together before, I felt overshadowed, so I felt I had to seize that chance to make everyone see I was more capable than her. I put in extra hours on research and choreography so I could do a great job on the music video, but when I saw that Sister Ye was nearly done with her dance production while I hadn’t even finished my choreography, I was as anxious as could be. Trying to pick up the pace and improve the quality, I started getting really demanding of brothers and sisters in our rehearsals. I once chided a brother with a scolding tone when I saw him do a few dance moves wrong, afraid that if he didn’t dance well, it would impact the program and then I wouldn’t get ahead of Sister Ye. Before filming, a brother pointed out that there wasn’t enough dancing in the intro. I thought he was right, but at that moment I couldn’t think of what to add, so he suggested that I go discuss it with Sister Ye. I really wasn’t happy to hear this. Wouldn’t going talk to her at such a critical juncture make me look less capable than her? If Sister Ye got involved, then who would take final credit? I’d spent so much time and energy on it, and I was about to finish the final product. There was no way I was going to ask her. So I said, “Let’s not get tripped up on these little details now. Once it’s on film we can take a look at how it turns out overall.” The leader later watched our music video and said it didn’t reach the standard of bearing witness for God, and it had to be redone. I was so upset to hear this—it was like a knife had been put through my heart. I thought, “Now I’ve really been humiliated. The others will all see me for what I am. They’ll definitely think I’m not as good as Sister Ye and that I’m not capable in my work. How will I keep a foothold in the team from now on?” Over those few days, I couldn’t think about anything except my face and status. I couldn’t sleep at night, I dozed off in gatherings, and I didn’t put my heart into my duty.
One day, my leader came to fellowship with me. Seeing that I totally lacked understanding of myself, she exposed and dealt with me, saying I’d become jealous of someone else’s talent to protect my own name and position, that I hadn’t considered the church’s work at all, and I was selfish and despicable. She told me to really reflect on myself, and she read this passage of God’s words to me: “As soon as it touches upon position, face, or reputation, everyone’s heart leaps in anticipation, and each of you always wants to stand out, be famous, and be recognized. Everyone is unwilling to yield, always instead wishing to contend—even though contending is embarrassing and not allowed in God’s house. However, without contention, you still are not content. When you see someone stand out, you feel jealous, hatred, and that it is unfair. ‘Why can’t I stand out? Why is it always that person who gets to stand out, and it’s never my turn?’ You then feel some resentment. You try to repress it, but you cannot. You pray to God and feel better for a while, but then as soon as you encounter this sort of situation again, you cannot overcome it. Does this not display an immature stature? Is not a person’s falling into such states a trap? These are the shackles of Satan’s corrupt nature that bind humans. … the more you struggle, the more darkness will surround you, and the more jealousy and hatred you will feel, and your desire to obtain will only grow stronger. The stronger your desire to obtain, the less capable you will be to do so, and as you obtain less, your hatred will increase. As your hatred increases, you will grow darker inside. The darker you are inside, the more poorly you will perform your duty; the more poorly you perform your duty, the less useful you will be. This is an interlinked, vicious cycle. If you can never perform your duty well, then, gradually, you will be eliminated” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth). These words of God were a real blow for me. What God revealed was precisely my own state. I’d been constantly jealous of Sister Ye’s abilities, just struggling for name and gain. It was so disgusting to God. I thought back on how I’d been jealous ever since Sister Ye joined the team and I saw how skilled she was. I’d been afraid the others would look up to her and look down on me, and my position would be threatened. So I started covertly pitting myself against her, trying to think of ways to prove myself. When I saw that the choreography of her dance program was progressing more quickly than mine, I became overly demanding of brothers and sisters so I wouldn’t fall behind her. It was very clear that there were some things Sister Ye and I should have discussed, but I found excuses to keep her out of it, afraid that she’d steal all the credit. As a result, some issues weren’t dealt with in time, and even after brothers and sisters had put in all that time and energy, it turned out to not be good enough to serve as a testimony for God. When the church leader arranged for Sister Ye to work with me in my duty, it was so we could bring different strengths to the table and choreograph dances well to bear witness to God, but I wasn’t considerate of God’s will at all. I constantly vied for name and gain and disrupted the church’s work. I had done nothing but evil and opposed God. This thought frightened me a bit and I was full of regret. I prayed to God, and no longer wanted to be jealous of others’ success, or vie for name and gain. I wanted to repent to God, work well with Sister Ye, and do our duty with one accord.
In the choreographies we worked on together after that, my attitude improved somewhat. There were times I still felt jealous of her, but I knew that I should uphold the church’s work, not my own personal interests. I consciously forsook the flesh and set myself aside, thinking of how to work with my sister to improve the program. When we ran into problems or difficulties, we often fellowshiped together, and we opened up about any corruption we showed, jointly seeking the truth to resolve it. After that, I saw God’s guidance and blessings—the dance was choreographed really quickly. I also experienced the sense of ease and release that comes from practicing the truth.
A few months later Sister Ye and I were working together again to plan a stage performance. Things went really quickly at first, and brothers and sisters liked the way we choreographed the dances. I was feeling really pleased with myself. One day, the leader asked how things were going with the choreography, and I happily responded, “We’re making great progress.” Then a sister chimed in, “Sister Ye has great ideas, and the general framework is pretty good, too.” Feeling annoyed, I thought, “Why would you say that? Now everyone knows the ideas for the dance came from Sister Ye, and they’ll think I’m not as good as her. I have to think of a way to achieve something myself, otherwise what will the leader and the brothers and sisters think of me?” Once, during choreography, I thought of a novel, acrobatic move. Excited, I thought, “I excel at acrobatics. As long as we rehearse this well, not only will it add a bright spot to the dance, but everyone will see my strengths. Then everyone will look up to me.” But the next day when I was teaching that move to the brothers and sisters, they gave feedback that the pace was too fast, that it was too hard. A sister warned me that evening, “It’s easy for people to injure themselves with that move. I don’t think we should practice it.” I was really concerned that they might replace it with another move, and then how could I compare with Sister Ye when the time came? So I encouraged everyone to practice it a few more times, and I only gave up when several sisters had hurt themselves from falling. I was upset and felt bad, so I apologized to the team and modified the move, but I still didn’t reflect on myself in light of it. In no time at all, filming was about to start. Sister Ye and I both participated in the performance. During filming, I felt that I hadn’t danced well while I was in the shot, so I asked the director for several retakes. I later saw that nearly all of the shots Sister Ye was in were head-on, but my only close-up was from the side. I was crestfallen. In the following filming sessions, I just couldn’t muster up a smile and my dancing was lifeless. I was just obsessed with how I could dance better than Sister Ye. I didn’t have the heart to watch the dance scenes I was supposed to be checking, and I didn’t care if the performance bore witness for God or not. And so, when the video came out, everyone said that the dancing was too stiff, too inhibited, and not only was it not good enough to testify to God, but it was shameful to God. Later, the leader said I’d been stuck in a state of vying for name and gain and had achieved nothing in my duty, so she dismissed me from my position of responsibility. I was so upset. At first, I’d just wanted to do my duty well and satisfy God, but since I was working for my own selfish ends, the programs I put together not only couldn’t testify to God, but they shamed Him. This was a transgression. I had lost my chance to do my duty through dance. I had a really long cry.
Afterward, I kept thinking over and over, “I know very well that fighting for name and gain isn’t right, so why can’t I stop myself from going after those things, time after time? What’s the real reason?” I read these words from God once when I was doing devotionals: “Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain. Looking now at Satan’s actions, are its sinister motives not utterly detestable? Maybe today you still cannot see through Satan’s sinister motives because you think one cannot live without fame and gain. You think that if people leave fame and gain behind, they will no longer be able to see the way ahead, no longer be able to see their goals, that their futures will become dark, dim and gloomy. But, slowly, you will all one day recognize that fame and gain are monstrous shackles that Satan uses to bind man. When that day comes, you will thoroughly resist Satan’s control and thoroughly resist the shackles Satan uses to bind you. When the time comes that you wish to throw off all the things Satan has instilled in you, you will then make a clean break with Satan and you will truly loathe all that Satan has brought to you. Only then will mankind have a real love and yearning for God” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique VI). God’s words revealed Satan’s tactics and evil intentions in corrupting mankind. It uses fame and gain to corrupt and control people so that they become more and more depraved and corrupt, even doing evil and opposing God. I’d been educated and influenced by Satan ever since I was little. “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors,” and “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies.” These satanic philosophies were deeply rooted within me. No matter what group I was in, I wanted to be exceptional, to be admired and praised. Seeing someone who excelled made me jealous and I tried to think of everything to get ahead, always struggling for name and gain, made miserable by Satan’s trickery. My disposition also became more and more arrogant and vicious. Thinking back on the choreography, I’d wanted to outdo Sister Ye with my technical skills, but I didn’t care if the performers could physically handle it, which ended up with several sisters getting injured during the rehearsals. While we were filming, I wanted to use my only close-up to show that I was better than Sister Ye, so when my dance moves in the shot didn’t look perfect enough to me, I had the director do lots of retakes, holding up the work. And finally, when I saw that only the side of my face had ended up on film while nearly all of Sister Ye’s shots were from the front, I was filled with resentment and lived in a state of negativity and resistance, and didn’t have the heart to dance well to bear witness to God. As a result, my dancing shamed God. My choreography wasn’t to bear witness to God, but to personally show off. My fight for name and gain seriously hindered the church’s work and hurt my brothers and sisters. My behavior was so disgusting, so odious to God! These words from God then came to mind: “This ‘evil way’ does not refer to a handful of evil acts, but to the evil source from which people’s behavior springs” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II). God’s words helped me realize that I hadn’t been removed from my duty because I’d done a few bad things. It had happened because the root, the starting point of my actions, and the path I was on, were all evil. Ever since Sister Ye had started working with me, I’d been jealous of her, fighting for my interests. I’d been carrying out my own personal enterprise. I’d simply been doing evil and opposing God. At this thought, I became filled with dread. I saw that pursuing name and status was a path in opposition to God, and if I didn’t repent, I’d ultimately be eliminated and punished. I felt such terrible regret. I wept bitterly and prayed to God: “Oh God! I’ve been dismissed from my duty. This is Your righteous disposition being revealed to me and it’s Your protection for me. Thank You for arranging this situation to stop me in my evil tracks in time. I want to repent to You.”
In the days that followed, I preached the gospel in the church while also doing devotionals and self-reflection. Every time I thought about my antics in my duty just for name and gain, I felt nothing but remorse. I hated myself for not treasuring the opportunity God had given me in the dance team. When I watched those music videos, I wanted so badly to go back and start from scratch, but I knew that was impossible. All I could do was perform my gospel duty diligently to make up for my past transgressions. To my surprise, the church leader had me join the dance team again just a month later. I was so moved at this news that I just couldn’t stop my tears, and I resolved to really treasure this chance, to stop going after name and gain, to get on well working with brothers and sisters, and do my duty well to repay God’s love.
After rejoining the team, in one of our rehearsals, Sister Ye mentioned that a dance move that I’d taught brothers and sisters wasn’t standard. I felt really ashamed in that moment, thinking, “How could you criticize me in front of the others that way? Now they’re definitely going to think I’m not up to your level. I can’t have them looking down on me. I’m professional too, you know, and I’ve noticed your dance moves are not perfect, either.” I wanted to scrap the moves that she had choreographed. Then, I realized that I was thinking of my own name and gain again, so I prayed to God in my heart. I thought of these words of God after my prayer: “If the more crucial a moment it is, the more able people are to submit and let go of their self-interests, vanity, and pride, and perform their duties properly, only then will they be remembered by God. Those are all good deeds! Regardless of what people do, which is more important—their vanity and pride, or God’s glory? (God’s glory.) Which are more important—your responsibilities, or your own interests? Fulfilling your responsibilities is what is most important, and you are duty-bound to them. … you give first priority to your own duty, to the will of God, to bearing testimony for Him, and to your own responsibilities. This is such a great way of bearing testimony, and it brings shame upon Satan!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Gaining God and the Truth Is the Happiest of Things). A light went on within me. Wasn’t God testing me with this situation? Whenever there’s a conflict between my personal interests and the interests of God’s house, I should focus on meeting God’s will and practicing the truth to humiliate Satan. Once I calmed down and thought about it, I saw I really hadn’t taught brothers and sisters the move correctly. Sister Ye had been a little direct and that was embarrassing for me, but she was right, and I knew I should accept her suggestion. After putting myself aside and correcting my motives, Sister Ye and I very quickly finished the choreography together. I also felt a sense of ease and peace by doing my duty that way.
That experience truly showed me that God’s judgment and chastisement are His love and salvation for me. God’s judgment and chastisement woke me up and made me see the essence and the dangerous consequences of going after name and gain. That righted my wrong perspectives, and I started pursuing the truth and doing my duty with my feet firmly planted on the ground, living out a human likeness. Thanks be to God!