31. Sticking to My Duty
I used to feel so envious when I saw brothers and sisters performing, singing and dancing in praise of God. I dreamed of the day I could go on stage to sing and bear witness to God. I thought it would be such an honor! That day came sooner than I thought.
In May 2018, I joined rehearsals for Kingdom Anthem, a choral show. I’d never taken singing or dancing lessons, so practices were really hard for me at first. I was really nervous when I sang and I had a stiff look on my face, and I was always out of sync while dancing. I still didn’t lose heart, though. I’d think about The Kingdom Anthem being testimony for all of humanity about God’s coming and immediately feel so inspired that I’d just keep praying. I was determined to put my all into singing and dancing well. God guided me bit by bit, and after a few months I started to feel more comfortable with it all. I was also leading brothers and sisters in practicing their expressions. I started to feel quite pleased with myself, thinking, “My expressions and movements are really something now. I’ll certainly be put in the very front when we film, and when the brothers and sisters from home see me in it they’re going to be so excited, so happy. I bet they’ll be envious, too, and look up to me.” I felt so great every time I thought of that and I had boundless energy for my duty. Even when we rehearsed until I was soaked with sweat and sore, I still didn’t relax. I was afraid that if I slacked, I wouldn’t be put in front and then I’d have less of a chance to show myself. I knew I had to do my best no matter how difficult and exhausting it was. The director mapped out our positions on stage as filming approached. Excited, I opened up the list of performers and looked for my name, then saw I was in row seven. I couldn’t believe my eyes for a moment. Why was I put so far back? Had the director made a mistake? My expressions and movements were on point, and I’d even been helping brothers and sisters practice. I thought I really should be in the first few rows. How could I be in the back? If I didn’t make it on screen, if there weren’t any shots of me, the others wouldn’t even see me. That thought left me really disgruntled. In rehearsals after that, I couldn’t muster up any joy in my singing or energy in my dancing. I was always sullen, especially when I saw some of the sisters’ expressions and movements were nothing special, but they were in the first three rows. I really didn’t get it. How were they any better than me? Why had they been put in front, while I was stuck in the back? I was filled with jealousy and couldn’t accept it. I did see that some brothers and sisters who were generally better in practice than I was were put even farther back, but they looked totally at ease during rehearsals as if that hadn’t affected them at all. I was puzzled: Even in the back, they were obedient and actively did their duty, so why was it so hard for me, and why couldn’t I submit? Was I being really unreasonable? I did feel some self-reproach at that point, but I still didn’t seek the truth or reflect on myself. I still couldn’t get over where I’d been placed in the lineup.
A few days later the director made some changes to the lineup. I felt a surge of secret delight and wondered whether I would be moved toward the front. But when I saw it, I really wanted to cry. I was put in the very last row and at the very edge where the camera could hardly see me. What I found even more unbelievable was that some sisters who hadn’t been rehearsing for long were placed in front of me. I was in utter turmoil and felt knocked off-balance. I’d worked so hard practicing my expressions and movements so I could be in the film, so why had I been relegated to an obscure corner without the slightest chance to show my face? I’d just be a prop! What was the point in even being in the show? If I’d known before, I wouldn’t have worked so hard in rehearsals. I felt like I was falling apart and just couldn’t accept this fact. Over the next few days of practice, I ended up spraining my ankle. I thought, “I can rest now that my ankle is sprained, and there’s no need to run myself ragged every day. I’m in the back where no one can see me anyway. Why work so hard?” I started coming late and leaving early, and when rehearsals got intense, I’d rest in the wings. Seeing this, a few sisters reminded me, “We’re about to film. If you don’t spend these days practicing, you’ll be out of sync with everyone else. We can’t drag our feet.” Hearing this was a bit upsetting and I did feel kind of bad. I knew that we’d be filming in just 20 days, so if I didn’t get busy rehearsing, the whole project would be delayed. I would be causing a disturbance. I had this sudden sense of fear. How could I be so depraved? Only through reflection did I realize that I’d been making excuses and resisting, and I’d lost my drive for my duty ever since I’d been put toward the back and wouldn’t have a chance to show off. I was just doing the bare minimum, going through the motions. I was resisting God and being antagonistic. My sprain was also getting worse and worse, which could have been God disciplining me. If I kept being so resistant, never mind whether I could show off or not, I might not be able to get up on stage, and then I’d even lose my duty. In my pain and self-reproach, I kneeled down in prayer to God that night. “Oh God, I’ve been really upset since I saw I was put in the back and I haven’t been able to submit, full of complaints, and have been doing my duty poorly, lying down on the job. I see how rebellious I am, how I’ve disappointed You. God, please lead me out from this state.”
I then read these words of God: “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. If a person has cast off these corrupt dispositions, is he not then free and liberated? Consider this: What sorts of changes must a person make if he wants to refrain from becoming ensnared in these conditions, be able to extricate himself from them, and become liberated from the vexations and bondage of these things? What must a person obtain before he is truly able to be free and liberated? On the one hand, he must see through things: Fame and fortune and positions are but tools and methods that Satan uses to corrupt people, to entrap them, to harm them, and to cause their depravity. In theory, you must first gain a clear understanding of this. Furthermore, you must learn to let go of these things and set them aside. … Otherwise, 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). This awakened me a bit. God’s words revealed my own state precisely. After I joined the choir group and saw I was becoming more familiar with the routines, and I was leading others to practice their expressions, I started to feel like I was performing better than them and that I’d be in the front for filming. I was bursting with energy for my duty when I thought I’d be filmed, that I could show off. I was happy to work hard and exhaust myself, and I just focused on practicing my expressions and movements. But when my position ended up farther and farther back, my hopes of showing off were dashed. I was resistant to the director’s arrangements and I refused to accept those in front. I was jealous of them. I misunderstood and complained, I felt it wasn’t fair, I tried to reason and butt heads with God, and became negative and slacked in my duty. I even regretted the effort I’d put into practicing. As I reflected on my motives and behavior, I saw that I wasn’t doing my duty out of consideration for God’s will or to bear witness to Him. Instead, I wanted that opportunity to stand out, to have others look up to me. Wasn’t I just fighting for my own reputation and status? I was so selfish and despicable! That chance to join the choir group was God elevating me, but, devoid of conscience and reason, I didn’t think of how to do my duty well and satisfy God. Instead I just fought to show off. I got upset and complained when I couldn’t show off. I fell into a darker and darker state. I ended up doing my duty poorly, and this disgusted God. Hadn’t I fallen into Satan’s web? I thought of all those brothers and sisters who did their duty behind the scenes, who didn’t get to go on stage, but they worked hard without complaint, sticking to their duties with their feet on the ground. I was nothing compared to them. I felt I was ungrateful, and that I was so indebted to God. I didn’t want to keep being so rebellious. I wanted to repent to God.
After that, I read these words from God: “You must learn to let go and set aside these things, to recommend others, and to allow them to stand out. Do not struggle or rush to take advantage the moment you encounter an opportunity to stand out or obtain glory. You must learn to back off, but must not delay the performing of your duty. Be a person who works in quiet obscurity, and who does not show off to others while you loyally perform your duty. The more you let go of your prestige and status, and the more you let go of your own interests, the more peaceful you will become, and the more space will open up within your heart and the more your state will improve. The more you struggle and compete, the darker your state will be. If you do not believe it, try it and see! If you want to turn this sort of state around, and not be controlled by these things, then you must first set them aside and give them up” (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 gave me a path of practice. Whenever I wanted to show off again, I had to pray to God and forsake myself, let go of my own desires and think more of how I could do my duty in line with God’s requirements, and get my movements right and sing my song well. This was what I needed to do. I realized that my chance to have a part in The Kingdom Anthem was me doing the duty of a created being, whether I was in the front or in the back. God doesn’t decide whether people are devoted in their duty based on where they stand in a lineup, but on their sincerity, and whether they practice the truth and submit to God. I felt so much more at ease after understanding God’s will, and I said this prayer: “God, I don’t want to rebel against You anymore. No matter where my place is, even if it’s the very back where no one can see me, I want to do my duty well to satisfy You!”
In rehearsals after that, I was always in the back two rows. Sometimes it did occur to me that I’d never get into a shot that way, that no one would ever admire me, and I’d feel a bit disappointed. But at those times I hurriedly prayed to God and asked Him to quiet my heart, and I pondered how to express what God required with every single line I sang, and how to dance energetically, according to the choreography. When I started to put my heart into these things, I felt so close to God and I didn’t care where I was placed. Incredibly, as we got closer to filming, I kept getting shifted toward the front and I was given some small scenes to shoot, too. I thanked God for giving me that opportunity to practice. Over those several days of shooting the scenes, I held on to my sense of gratitude. With every take, I focused on putting my heart into it so that I wouldn’t have any regrets in my duty. For the last scene, I was put in the first row with the camera very close to me. I simply couldn’t believe it. I felt it was such an honor. I thanked God over and over and was determined to do a good job. Just as I was happily walking up to the first row, all those lights were shining on me and the cameras were pointed at me. A sister rushed over to straighten my clothing, touch up my makeup, and fix my hair. I suddenly had this feeling like I was the focus of attention, that everyone was looking at me, and I couldn’t suppress my excitement. Even in my dreams I never imagined being in the first row. If the shot turned out well, lots of people would see me and I’d really make a name for myself. The idea was really growing on me. The feeling was indescribable. At that thought I suddenly realized that I wasn’t in the right state, and that I was wanting to show off again. I lost no time in praying to God and forsaking myself, but I still couldn’t tamp down my incorrect thinking and I couldn’t calm down. We did two or three takes one after another, but I couldn’t get into it. The director then reminded us to get into the right frame of mind. I started to worry that the director had seen my expressions were off and would put me in the back again. I worried that I would lose that opportunity to show myself off. But I realized I couldn’t always think of my own interests, and I had to focus on how to adjust my state so I could do my duty well. There was this internal battle raging between wanting to do my duty well and worrying about losing my chance to show off. It left me feeling incredibly nervous. We did five takes in a row, but I still couldn’t get into it, and I looked really stiff. I saw the other sisters all talking excitedly about what they’d learned after the shoot, and some were so moved they were crying, but I couldn’t get my spirits up. I felt so dejected and made a quick exit.
Walking back, I felt so guilty about having done poorly in the filming. All the others had given God their honest hearts and innocent smiles, but I was obsessed with showing off. My performance wasn’t good enough to bear witness to God at all, and God couldn’t approve of my duty. At that point I really wanted to have a good cry. I said to God, “God, I regret this last scene. I really don’t want to show off anymore, and would like to be at the back of the stage, in a corner where no one, not even the camera, can see me. As long as I have a simple, honest heart to genuinely sing for You, I’ll feel happy and at peace, and I’ll never feel so accused again. But it’s too late, and I can’t make up for what I owed.” The more I thought about it the more upset I got, feeling such regret in how I’d performed my duty.
Later, I quieted my heart and started to think it over. Why was my desire to show off and to stand out so strong that forsaking the flesh and practicing the truth became so difficult? I read this in God’s words: “What you like, what you focus on, what you worship, what you envy, and what you think about in your heart every day are all representative of your nature. It is enough to prove that your nature is fond of unrighteousness, and in serious situations, your nature is evil and incurable. You should analyze your nature in this way; that is, examine what you are fond of and what you forsake in your life. You might be good to someone for a time, but this does not prove that you are fond of them. What you are truly fond of is precisely what is in your nature; even if your bones were broken, you would still enjoy it and could never forsake it. This is not easy to change” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Should Be Known About Transforming One’s Disposition). “In addition to unearthing the things people are fond of in their natures, other aspects pertaining to their natures also need to be unearthed. For example, people’s viewpoints on things, people’s methods and goals in life, people’s life values and views on life, as well as views on all things relating to truth. These are all things deep within people’s souls and they have a direct relationship with the transformation of disposition” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Should Be Known About Transforming One’s Disposition). God’s words helped me understand that human thinking, preferences, and pursuits all come from our nature, and they’re controlled by our nature, too. Then I asked myself what I had really been focused on and seeking that whole time in my duty. When my place on stage kept getting pushed up toward the front and I was in more and more shots, what I thought about most was the chance to finally be in front, to show myself, and to be the focus of others’ envy and esteem. Especially for the last scene when I was put in front, I felt like I was some kind of star. It felt like such an accomplishment that I couldn’t control my desire to show off, to show my best face for the camera, to give the brothers and sisters who knew me a pleasant surprise, and give myself a wonderful memory that would last forever. I saw how much I treasured reputation and status, and that it had burrowed so deeply into my heart.
Afterward, I read this in God’s words: “A corrupt satanic disposition is very deeply rooted in people; it becomes their life. What exactly do people seek and wish to gain? Under the driving force of a corrupt satanic disposition, what are people’s ideals, hopes, ambitions, and life goals and directions? Do they not run contrary to positive things? Firstly, people always want to have renown or be celebrities; they wish to gain great fame and prestige, and to bring honor to their ancestors. Are these positive things? These are not at all in line with positive things; moreover, they run counter to the law of God’s having dominion over the fate of mankind. Why would I say that? What kind of person does God want? Does He want a person of greatness, a celebrity, a noble person, or a world-shaking person? (No.) So, then, what kind of person does God want? He wants a person with their feet firmly on the ground who seeks to be a qualified creature of God, who can fulfill the duty of a creature, and who can keep to a human’s place” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Corrupt Dispositions Can Only Be Resolved by Seeking the Truth and Relying on God). “You are always seeking greatness, nobility, and dignity; you always seek exaltation. How does God feel when He sees this? He loathes it, and does not want to look upon it. The more you pursue things like greatness; nobility; and being superior to others, distinguished, outstanding, and noteworthy, the more disgusting God finds you. Do not be someone whom God finds disgusting! So, how can this be achieved? By doing things in a down-to-earth way while standing in man’s position. Do not entertain idle dreams, do not seek fame or to stand out from your peers, and moreover, do not try to be a person of greatness who surpasses all others, who is superior among men and makes others worship them. That is the path Satan walks; God does not want such created beings. If, in the end, once all of God’s work is done, there are still people who pursue these things, then there is only one outcome for them: to be eliminated” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Proper Fulfillment of Duty Requires Harmonious Cooperation). God’s words were a real wake-up call for me. I reflected on why I loved to show off so much, why I was so vain. It was all from being educated and corrupted by Satan. Its poisons like “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors” and “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards” had really seeped into me, giving me the wrong outlook on life. I looked at seeking reputation and status and living better than others as positive things. I took them as life goals. No matter what I was doing, I wanted to show off, to have others look up to me and envy me. I felt that would be living better than others, that it would be honorable. So I had a great love for reputation and status. I thought about how I’d always wanted to excel before in school and in interactions with others. I wanted to be ahead of others, to be in the limelight. Whenever someone started to take notice of me, I’d feel incredibly pleased. When I was unnoticed or of no consequence in any group of people, I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to fight for a place, and failing in that was upsetting. I was always living by these satanic poisons, always wanting others to look up to me. These things were like shackles binding me, controlling my thoughts, making me see being in a film to bear witness to God as my own personal stage to display myself. I was treating my duty like a springboard to satisfying my own desires. There was nothing in my heart but how to stick out, how to shine. I gave no thought to how to do my duty well or satisfy God. I saw that with my satanic toxins and dispositions unresolved, not only was it impossible for me to do my duty well and satisfy God, but ultimately I’d be eliminated by God because I rebelled against Him and resisted Him.
I later read this in God’s words: “What God requires of people is not the ability to complete a certain number of tasks or accomplish any great undertakings, nor does He need them to pioneer any great undertakings. What God wants is for people to be able to do all they can in a down-to-earth way, and live in accordance with His words. God does not need you to be great or honorable, nor does He need you to bring about any miracles, nor does He want to see any pleasant surprises in you. He does not need such things. All God needs is for you to listen to His words and, once you have heard them, to take them to heart and heed them as you practice in a down-to-earth manner, so that God’s words may become what you live out, and become your life. Thus, God will be satisfied” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Proper Fulfillment of Duty Requires Harmonious Cooperation). I saw that God’s will is for us to pursue the truth and be totally honest people, to submit to His rule and arrangements, and put our all into our duties. Working toward these goals will satisfy Him. I never understood God’s will before, but just wholeheartedly pursued reputation and status. As a result, I couldn’t do my duty well, which disappointed God. I was so corrupt, but He still didn’t give up on me. Time after time, He revealed my incorrect perspectives on pursuit by adjusting my placement on stage so that I could see my corrupt satanic disposition, turn from my course, and change. God’s love really moved me. I said this prayer to Him: “God, I don’t want to seek to stand out or be looked up to anymore. Those pursuits just bring me pain and make me unable to satisfy You in my duty, leaving me so guilty. From now on I only wish to practice according to Your words. No matter what position I have, whether I can show myself off or not, all I want is to sing in praise of You with a genuine heart of submission to You, to do my duty to satisfy You.” In our retakes after that, sometimes I was moved back, sometimes I was moved forward, and sometimes I was needed in rehearsal but not for filming. It did affect me a little emotionally, but I was able to let go of my own desires by praying to God and reading His words to manage my mindset. Sometimes I saw some sisters impacted by having their place changed and they weren’t doing well in their duty. I was able to find some relevant words of God in time and link that to my own experience to help them. Doing my duty that way really put me at ease and it was so meaningful! The director later had me go up to the front row again, but I wasn’t trying to show off like before. I felt I should fulfill my duty and bear witness in every single scene. I focused on singing well and on doing my duty as I should. I remember in one scene when I was in the very back, we sang this from God’s words: “Raise your triumphant banner to celebrate God! Sing your triumphant song of victory to spread God’s holy name!” I thought about how deeply I’d been corrupted by Satan, seeking reputation and status, that I’d failed to do my duty well to satisfy God, how I’d really hurt Him. That day, I felt I had to praise God from my heart, offer up my best song to Him so that Satan would be shamed and defeated! When I was singing in praise of God on stage with that kind of attitude, I felt a peace and enjoyment I’d never experienced before. I also felt such a sense of pride!
The Kingdom Anthem, large-scale choral work, was online before long. All of us, brothers and sisters, watched the video excitedly. Seeing so many of God’s chosen standing before the Mount of Olives proudly singing “The multitudes cheer God, the multitudes praise God” really shook me, and I was so moved I couldn’t help but shed tears of gratitude. Thinking back over everything that happened, I saw that from being so affected by my position at first that I couldn’t put my heart into my duty, to ultimately being unaffected by reputation and status whether my place was in the front or in the back, but just taking the place of a created being, freely singing and bearing witness to God, that was all the fruit of God’s work in me. Thanks be to God!