A Teacher’s Choice

June 7, 2024

By Mo Wen, China

As the sun set in the west, at the time of dusk, the door of a small farmhouse was open, with a white cloth tied to the doorknob, and one remaining ray of sunlight spilled onto the unpainted red-brick courtyard wall.

A coffin stood in the middle of the hall. In front of the coffin knelt a seven-year-old girl, a nine-year-old boy, and a woman in her thirties, a rural villager.

“Mom, we’ve had an incident in the family. Why haven’t any relatives come to help?” The young girl’s tender voice broke the silence inside the house.

“After your dad’s gone, it’ll just be us, mother and children, relying on each other. Because of your father’s illness, our savings are all gone. Our relatives despise us for being poor, they look down on us. From now on, you two must work hard, don’t let others look down on you. I hope you both can have a promising future, make something of yourselves, and change our destiny!” The mother wiped away her tears, her eyes filled with determination, and looking at the two young children, she spoke earnestly.

This seven-year-old girl was An Ran.

This childhood scene was deeply imprinted on An Ran’s heart. From a young age, An Ran knew she had to be diligent; to strive for excellence and gain others’ admiration was her life goal. An Ran worked especially hard in school, believing that only through diligent study could she have a promising future. During primary school, An Ran was almost always in the top three of her class.

At the age of thirteen, An Ran was in junior high school when a neighbor shared Almighty God’s gospel in the last days with her mother. That day, An Ran accompanied her mother to watch a video about God’s initial creation. From that day on, An Ran knew that humans were created by God, and that there was a Sovereign amid the heavens and earth and all things guiding and caring for all of humanity. An Ran felt warm inside—God was so good!

At fifteen, due to lack of money for school, An Ran was forced to drop out and work. Although An Ran knew it was good to believe in God, she felt she was still young, and her future lay long before her. She didn’t want to live an ordinary life without accomplishments. Who would respect her then? So, she decided to work hard and earn money, to find a decent and respectable job. As long as she could establish herself, she could live gloriously in front of others and no longer be looked down upon. An Ran’s mind was full of thoughts on how to quickly make something of herself. Therefore, she could only occasionally attend gatherings during her spare time.

One evening when An Ran was seventeen, the lingering heat in the air had not yet dissipated. Click. Thud. The series of opening and closing door sounds were brisk and efficient, followed by hurried footsteps. Her cousin had returned.

“What’s wrong? Is there something urgent?” An Ran asked.

“I have good news for you. Our school is urgently recruiting teachers. I’ve introduced you to the school leader. If you can get hired, this job is prestigious and pays well.” Upon hearing this news, An Ran was immediately excited. Since childhood, she had hoped to excel and establish herself someday. Now, there was such a good opportunity for her to become a teacher, which was considered a respectable profession. She knew that those who could work in schools were college graduates, with an associate’s degree at the very least. Without her cousin’s help, how could she have the chance to work at a school? Later, she could take the exam to obtain a teaching qualification and become a formal teacher. Then she could achieve both fame and gain, couldn’t she? When that day came, no one would look down on her again. Thinking of this, An Ran agreed without hesitation.

Walking out of her cousin’s house, An Ran’s insides started churning: In the future, working in a private school meant only having a break every two weeks, and she definitely wouldn’t be able to attend gatherings. The work of God was ending soon. If her job affected her attendance at gatherings, it would be detrimental to her life. But this was the opportunity she had always dreamed of to excel. An Ran didn’t want to miss it. After much thought, An Ran still chose the job. She comforted herself by saying that as long as she read more of God’s words and attended gatherings during her work holidays, it would be fine. It shouldn’t have too much of an impact.

As the summer vacation drew to a close, An Ran successfully got the job and became an elementary school teacher like she had wished. An Ran finally found a platform to realize her dreams, and she was very excited, putting 110% into this job.

In early autumn, the school welcomed a new batch of students, and the campus was filled with playful chatter and laughter. An Ran furrowed her brows, briskly walking toward the instructional building with a stack of workbooks in her arms, thinking to herself, “Competition between classes at this school is particularly fierce. Every teacher’s class test scores become the focus of discussion among the leaders and directors. I have no teaching experience. When I first entered the school, the classes I taught had the worst scores in the grade. If I want to catch them up with the other classes, I’ll have to invest even more time and effort.” An Ran made up her mind: “I must improve their test scores and become an excellent teacher who is praised by students’ parents.” Thinking of this, An Ran couldn’t help but take a deep breath. This was some immense pressure!

After that, An Ran was like a wound-up clock, never daring to relax for a moment. Working overtime and staying up late became routine, correcting assignments and tutoring struggling students in the evenings in order to improve their grades. Several months later, the classes An Ran taught went from last place to first and second place. This was followed by praise from parents and high regard from the leaders, which greatly satisfied An Ran’s vanity. She was elated, walking with her head held high, and feeling proud when she met people from her village. She believed that all her hardship was worth it, no matter how tough and exhausting it was.

However, beneath her polished exterior, only she knew the endless bitterness and suffering she endured.

“I’ve told you so many times, can’t you switch to a less busy job? Look at yourself, you’ve lost more than twelve pounds in just a year and a half, you’re constantly taking medicine and getting shots, and you’re working yourself to exhaustion. Are you trying to kill yourself? How can you believe in God if you can’t even attend gatherings? Can you still understand the truth and be saved like this?” An Ran’s mother sat by the bedside, her eyes full of pity, scolding An Ran.

“Mom, I know this job is too busy and leaves no time for gatherings, but …” Before she could finish, An Ran’s throat started to hurt.

Her mother turned and handed An Ran a glass of water. After her mother left, An Ran looked back on the past year. The open competition and hidden struggles among colleagues, frequent late nights, and work pressure had led An Ran to suffer from insomnia, often plagued by nightmares even when she managed to fall asleep. Her immune system had become particularly weak, and she was taking medication almost every day. The heavy workload each day left An Ran with no time or energy to come before God. She felt like a machine that never stopped running, knowing almost nothing except work. Sometimes, she thought, “Should I change jobs? Continuing like this is really affecting my life entry. But if I resign, won’t my lifelong dream of standing out be completely shattered? Will I ever encounter such a good opportunity again?” The admiring looks from relatives and friends, and the praises from students’ parents and school leaders—all of this was what An Ran had longed for. “As the saying goes,” she thought, “‘People must have the spine to fight for their dignity.’ People live to prove themselves and earn respect, don’t they? What’s the point of living if you’re going to be mediocre all your life?” An Ran got up and returned to her desk, picking up her pen to continue working on her lesson plans. She had made up her mind: She couldn’t forsake this job. As long as she made good use of her work holidays to eat and drink God’s word and attend more gatherings, it would be the same.

During the 2011 Spring Festival, while cleaning the house with her mother, An Ran suddenly found that she couldn’t lift her right arm and dared not lower her head. When she did try to lower her head, she heard a cracking sound. An Ran was frightened and at a loss.

“You have a frozen shoulder and cervical spondylosis. These are both occupational conditions. If you don’t start treatment soon, they could become incurable. Your body is in particularly poor condition; you need to start treatment immediately,” the doctor in the medical room solemnly advised An Ran.

After hearing the doctor’s words, An Ran felt especially afraid: “I’m only nineteen. My life has just begun, and there are still many dreams I need to fulfill. If my frozen shoulder and cervical spondylosis worsen, how will I get through the days ahead? Will I still be able to go to class and work normally?” Just thinking that her dream of success might be shattered, An Ran felt especially unwilling and couldn’t help but complain, “Why is my life so bitter? Why can’t I realize my wishes? Am I destined to be looked down upon all my life?” She couldn’t help crying.

The sky was gray, as if it were about to snow. The cold wind whistled, making people shiver as if they had fallen into an ice cellar.

An Ran curled up on her bed, her face full of frustration. She felt as if she had no future and lacked enthusiasm in everything she did. In her pain, she could only come before God in prayer, “Oh God, I suddenly got such a serious illness, and I’m afraid. I don’t know how to go on from here. This past year, I’ve been working all the time and haven’t attended gatherings much. I know this isn’t in line with Your intention, but I can’t bear to let go of my job. I feel like my life is bitter, and I don’t know why all this has happened to me. May You enlighten me and enable me to emerge from this pain.”

At that time, it was winter break, and An Ran spent her time either attending gatherings or at home reading God’s words. She particularly enjoyed watching gospel movies and videos. When she saw that during the Age of Grace, many missionaries traveled far and wide to China, forsaking their families and marriages, and enduring all kinds of persecution, yet still tirelessly spreading the gospel and willingly expending themselves for the Lord, without regretting their choice, An Ran felt deeply inspired. She thought to herself, “They believed in the Lord Jesus with such fervor, and today I have accepted God’s third-stage work, welcoming the Lord Jesus’ return. I have heard more of God’s words and understood more of the truths and mysteries than they did. I have enjoyed so much watering and provision from God’s words, so I should even more spread the gospel and bear witness to God.” An Ran remembered many brothers and sisters around her who had let go of marriage and work, actively doing their duties in the church and repaying God’s love. She had believed in God for several years now, enjoying God’s grace, but instead of doing her duties, she couldn’t even attend gatherings regularly. She wondered if she was truly a believer in God. Thinking back to the sisters she used to gather with, who were now doing their duties in the church, while she herself had been pursuing wealth, fame, and gain, An Ran asked herself, “Why can’t I stop pursuing wealth, fame, and gain?”

One day, An Ran read a passage of God’s words: “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite man always rushing and busying himself on his own behalf, he remains incapable of controlling himself. If you could know your own prospects, if you could control your own fate, would you still be a created being? In short, regardless of how God works, all His work is for the sake of man. Take, for example, the heavens and earth and all things that God created to serve man: The moon, the sun, and the stars that He made for man, the animals and plants, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and so on—all are made for the sake of man’s existence. And so, regardless of how God chastises and judges man, it is all for the sake of man’s salvation. Even though He strips man of his fleshly hopes, it is for the sake of purifying man, and the purification of man is done so that he may survive. The destination of man is in the hands of the Creator, so how could man control himself?(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination). An Ran understood that man’s fate is in God’s hands and not subject to his own desires. She realized she was just an insignificant created being and couldn’t control what experiences she would go through in life. However, she always wanted to do things her way and didn’t submit to God’s sovereignty and arrangements. She thought that her life was bitter because she fell ill and couldn’t continue her job or stand out. Wasn’t this complaining against God? Reflecting on the past year, An Ran realized that due to her focus on work, her relationship with God had grown distant. If not for her illness, she would have remained single-mindedly focused on work and making money, with no time or energy to come before God. Now, despite her physical suffering, she could quiet down and spend time reading God’s word, which was a good thing. An Ran was willing to submit and seek God’s intention.

As the winter sun emerged, its warmth was particularly inviting. Sunlight filled every corner of the courtyard, bathing her body in warmth.

An Ran sat in the courtyard, leaning back in her chair, quietly reading these words of God: “Now is the time when My Spirit performs great work, and the time when I commence My work among the Gentile nations. More than that, it is the time when I classify all created beings, putting each one into their respective category, so that My work may proceed more swiftly and effectively. And so, what I ask of you is still that you offer up your whole being to all My work, and, furthermore, that you clearly discern and make certain of all the work I have done in you, and put all your strength into My work so it can become more effective. This is what you must understand. Desist from fighting amongst yourselves, looking for a way back, or seeking fleshly comforts, which would delay My work, and delay your wonderful future. Far from protecting you, doing so would bring destruction upon you. Wouldn’t this be foolish of you? That which you greedily enjoy today is the very thing that is ruining your future, whereas the pain you suffer today is the very thing that is protecting you. You must be clearly aware of these things, so as to avoid falling prey to temptations from which you will be hard put to extricate yourself, and to evade blundering into the dense fog and being unable to find the sun. When the dense fog clears, you will find yourself amid the judgment of the great day(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Work of Spreading the Gospel Is Also the Work of Saving Man). Pondering over God’s words, An Ran gradually came to understand that since childhood, she had always pursued excellence, wanting to change her fate with her own hands. She always felt that one had to make a name for oneself in the world and win people’s admiration; otherwise, life would be meaningless. What was the point of living if one remained low-class? In her pursuit of excellence and glory, An Ran worked hard to earn money, and after accepting God’s work in the last days, although she knew that this stage of the work was aimed at cleansing and transforming people, that it was the final stage of God’s work, and that this stage of the work only came once in a lifetime, and if she missed it she would lose the opportunity to be saved, yet she strayed from God in order to pursue wealth, fame, and gain, and took fulfilling her ideals and desires and pursuing excellence as the value of life. For this she worked relentlessly, struggling bitterly in the whirlpool of fame, gain, and wealth, which ultimately led to her total physical suffering and deep pain. Most importantly, she distanced herself from God and betrayed Him in order to stand out and for the sake of these so-called prospects, delaying opportunities to gather with others and gain the truth. Wasn’t this just what God’s words said: “That which you greedily enjoy today is the very thing that is ruining your future”? The pursuit of wealth, fame, and gain does not lead to good prospects; it actually harms and ruins oneself! An Ran realized that although this illness caused her some pain, it also blocked her pursuit of fame and gain. Outwardly, this illness seemed to shatter her dreams, but invisibly, it protected her. Through this sickness, An Ran was able to come before God, reflect on her own path and really contemplate her life—what was more important, pursuing the truth and life, or fame and gain? In that moment, An Ran had a realization, thinking of the words in the Bible: “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?(Matthew 16:26). Wealth, fame, and gain can bring temporary enjoyment and give one prominence and others’ esteem, but if it means losing the opportunity to gain the truth and salvation, it’s like sacrificing one’s life. What meaning is there in that?

An Ran continued to read another passage of God’s words: “The Almighty has mercy on these people who have suffered deeply; at the same time, He feels averse toward these people who lack consciousness, as He has had to wait too long for an answer from humanity. He wishes to seek, to seek your heart and your spirit, to bring you water and food and to awaken you, that you may no longer be thirsty and hungry. When you are weary and when you begin to feel something of the bleak desolation of this world, do not be lost, do not cry. Almighty God, the Watcher, will embrace your arrival at any time. He is keeping watch by your side, waiting for you to turn back around. He is waiting for the day you suddenly recover your memory: when you realize that you came from God, that, at some unknown time you lost your direction, at some unknown time you lost consciousness on the road, and at some unknown time acquired a ‘father’; when you realize, furthermore, that the Almighty has always been keeping watch, waiting there a very, very long time for your return. He has been watching with desperate longing, waiting for a response without an answer. His watching and waiting are beyond any price, and they are for the sake of the human heart and the human spirit. Perhaps this watching and waiting are indefinite, and perhaps they are at an end. But you should know exactly where your heart and your spirit are right now(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Sighing of the Almighty). Seeing God’s words repeatedly calling to humanity, An Ran’s heart was deeply moved, tears blurring her vision. She sighed inwardly, “So God has always been waiting for my return, never giving up on saving me.” An Ran realized that she had heard God’s voice long ago and had read many of God’s words. She knew that God, in the last days, had become flesh to personally save humanity—this was an extremely rare opportunity. Yet she had been too intransigent and numb in her heart, focusing her thoughts, energy, and time on working for money, pursuing the esteem of others, and striving to elevate herself. If she continued down this path, she would only exhaust herself and totally become a sacrificial victim of fame and gain, unable to secure good prospects and ultimately ruining herself. In that moment, An Ran felt deeply touched, her eyes brimming with tears. She recognized that everything God had given her was love and salvation, while she had responded with rejection, evasion, and resistance. She felt indebted to God. Silently, she resolved to earnestly eat and drink God’s words and participate in gatherings, and never again sink into despondency and degradation.

She then listened to a reading of God’s words: “You are a created being—you should of course worship God and pursue a life of meaning. If you do not worship God but live within your filthy flesh, then are you not just a beast in human attire? Since you are a human being, you should expend yourself for God and endure all suffering! You should gladly and assuredly accept the little suffering you are subjected to today and live a meaningful life, like Job and Peter. In this world, man wears the devil’s clothing, eats food from the devil, and works and serves under the devil’s thumb, becoming completely trampled in its filth. If you do not grasp the meaning of life or obtain the true way, then what significance is there in living like this? You are people who pursue the right path, those who seek improvement. You are people who rise up in the nation of the great red dragon, those whom God calls righteous. Is that not the most meaningful life?(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Practice (2)). Listening to God’s words, An Ran found the correct goal in life, feeling particularly released and at ease. She reflected on all the years she had lived for fame and gain, making herself suffer terribly out of a desire to stand out, burdened with stress, pain, and bitterness, ultimately facing destruction alongside Satan. All this was due to living according to a wrong view on life. Now An Ran understood that wealth, status, fame, and gain are all empty things. As a created being, living to devote one’s life to God, pursue the truth, and know God is the most meaningful existence. If she could earnestly pursue the truth during God’s work, casting off her corrupt disposition, she could eventually become someone approved by God. Even if she received no recognition from people in her lifetime, being approved by God would be the highest honor. Thinking of so many brothers and sisters, some university graduates, some running family businesses, who could abandon their own fame and gain to perform their duties, what was there that she, a humble teacher, couldn’t let go of? An Ran closed her book of God’s words, knelt down, and prayed, “God, I have been rebellious, living in pursuit of wealth, fame, and gain, unwilling to come before You. Today I awaken and realize that sacrificing my life for fame, gain, and wealth is not worth it. God, thank You for never giving up on saving me, always waiting for my return. I am willing, from here on out, to focus on eating and drinking Your words, participate in more gatherings, and do my duties. I am unwilling to be fooled and harmed by Satan any longer.” After praying, An Ran felt a sense of steadiness in her heart. In the days that followed, she diligently ate and drank God’s words every day and attended more gatherings.

Shortly after the Spring Festival, a classmate she hadn’t kept in touch with suddenly called her, offering her a position working for the city’s after-school program, where she would tutor students only during mealtimes. Though this job paid less and brought no recognition or admiration, An Ran was delighted to have more time for eating and drinking God’s words and doing her duties.

Another Sunday morning, as An Ran walked home, while others walked swiftly here and there on the road, she slowed her pace, her head swimming—yesterday a phone call came from her cousin urging her to return to work at the school; her relatives also urged the same. An Ran pondered: Her illness had improved, and she was still young—why not give it another try? If she returned to the school, other people’s esteem and admiration would follow.

As a breeze passed by, An Ran remembered the bitter days at school. Now, she had finally managed to step out, and was able to normally attend gatherings, eat and drink God’s words and do her duty. If she went back to work at the school, wouldn’t that invite unnecessary hardship?

Thinking of this, An Ran took out her phone and messaged her cousin, politely declining.

Beep! With a honk, a car stopped in front of An Ran. She grabbed her suitcase and embarked on the path of doing her duties.

Sitting by the car window, An Ran reminisced about her journey, from someone deeply entangled in money, fame, and gain, to becoming a member performing duties in the house of God. Indeed, every step was led by God and filled with so much of God’s love and salvation. If not for God’s words providing enlightenment and leadership, she would still be trapped in the whirlpool of pursuing fame, gain, and status. She silently thanked God in her heart, willing only to cherish the precious time she had now, to earnestly pursue the truth and fulfill her duties to comfort God’s heart.

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