Leaving My Studies Behind
By Lin Ran, China
Ever since I was little my parents told me that since they had no son, just two girls, me and my sister, they had a hard time facing the family, so I absolutely had to study hard, make them proud and show the family that daughters were just as good as sons. When my mom said that, it really left a deep impression on me, and I resolved to study hard, make them proud, and bring them honor. I always studied hard and got good grades. When the older generation asked kindly how I was doing, seeing my mother looking so happy when she replied really brought me joy, and made me feel I was winning respect for her and making her proud.
In grad school, my parents said to me: “You have to do well in this program, then go get a PhD. Then you can get a cushy job as a university professor, earn lots of money, and make us proud.” Hearing my parents say this really stressed me out. After all these years of studying, I had long since become sick of exams. I thought of all those people who’d jumped to their deaths because of the stress of a PhD and feared that I’d end up just like them. I didn’t want to study anymore. But looking into my parents’ expectant eyes, I just couldn’t say no.
At that time I had accepted’s work of the last days, but because I was so busy, I couldn’t attend gatherings. It wasn’t until grad school when I was teaching in the countryside that I could attend gatherings in the local church. At one gathering, Sister Zhang Lu told me more and more people were accepting God’s work in the last days, and that waterers were urgently needed. She asked if I’d water newcomers. I thought of when I was a child and almost got run over by a truck while riding my bike. It was thanks to God’s protection that I survived. I was in a serious car accident in college, but I only got a cut on my forehead. This too was God quietly watching over me. God had always been silently protecting me so that I could grow up properly. I knew that as a created being, I had enjoyed a lot of God’s grace and the sustenance of the truth, and that I ought to repay God’s love by performing a duty, so I agreed gladly. While watering the newcomers, my partner sister and I would pray and rely on God to fellowship God’s word and resolve their difficulties. Seeing their problems being resolved and them setting down roots on the true way made us so happy, and made us feel like our duties were really meaningful.
Later, as more and more newcomers needed watering, I wanted to quit school and do my duty full-time, but I thought of how my parents had put all their hopes on me. If I dropped out of school, the other villagers would keep looking down on my parents. They’d spent so much on me, so how could I let them down? I hesitated, not knowing what to do. One day, I read a passage of God’s word: “You are a created being—you should of course (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Practice (2)). From God’s word I understood that I am a created being, that my life was given by God, and that I should live for God. Pursuing the truth in my duty, casting off my corrupt disposition, and attaining God’s salvation—this is a worthwhile and meaningful life. For so many years, my life had consisted of just studying and teaching, to make my parents happy. I was always so busy, but I felt so empty inside. I didn’t even know what it was all for. Even in my free time, I didn’t know what I could do that would be meaningful. I didn’t know how to get rid of this feeling of emptiness. I tried so many things, like learning instruments, painting, reading, listening to music, running, but none of them changed how I felt. I was still so empty inside. My life still felt directionless and purposeless. I thought more about my years of hard academic work. Though I’d gotten a postgrad degree and become a teacher, and the praise and affirmation of those around me satisfied my vanity, these things didn’t bring me spiritual fulfillment or comfort. In the face of the great disasters, even the loftiest knowledge cannot save you. Only by pursuing the truth, doing a duty, and escaping your corrupt disposition can you be saved by God and survive. Understanding this, I prayed to God, and decided to resign from my teaching position and apply to withdraw from grad school.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?”
One day, after coming back from watering new believers, I saw that my family had been messaging me over and over to try and get hold of me. My heart began to pound. What would I do if they were dead set against me doing a duty? I called my mother who screamed at me down the phone: “You’ve got some nerve dropping out of school without telling us!” Family from my hometown then rushed over to tell me to go back to teaching and finish school, or else they’d take me straight back to my hometown. I was scared they’d really do it and that I wouldn’t be able to gather or do a duty anymore. So, I just went back to my teaching role. But I felt very uneasy and guilty. I thought of the rapid spread of God’s gospel in the last days, all the newcomers in need of watering, and about how I should be doing my duty. But when I’d think of my parents’ hopes for me I’d start to feel conflicted. I felt like I owed them, and I was afraid of hurting them. At a gathering, the others learned of my state and read some of God’s word to me. Almighty God says, “Are there not many among you who have seesawed between right and wrong? In contests between positive and negative, black and white, you are surely aware of the choices that you have made between family and God, children and God, peace and disruption, riches and poverty, status and ordinariness, being supported and being cast aside, and so on. Between a peaceful family and a broken one, you chose the former, and you did so without any hesitation; between riches and duty, you again chose the former, even lacking the will to return to shore; between luxury and poverty, you chose the former; when choosing between your sons, daughters, wives and husbands, and Me, you chose the former; and between notion and truth, you once again chose the former. Faced with all manner of your evil deeds, I have simply lost faith in you. It simply astounds Me that your hearts are so resistant to being softened. Many years of dedication and effort have apparently brought Me nothing more than your abandonment and despair, but My hopes for you grow with each passing day, for My day has been completely laid bare before everyone. Yet you persist in seeking dark and evil things, and refuse to loosen your grip on them. What, then, will be your outcome? Have you ever given careful consideration to this? If you were asked to choose again, what then would be your position? Would it still be the former? Would you still bring Me disappointment and wretched sorrow?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Whom Are You Loyal?). I was very touched when I read these words. God has become flesh to work and save us, and He has poured His heart and soul into us so that in the end we can be saved and remain. Any rational person with a conscience should do a duty well to satisfy God. But every time I chose to do a duty, I felt like I was letting my parents down, that they’d invested so much in me and I was failing to repay them, letting all their love and devotion go to waste. I also feared that by quitting school, I wouldn’t bring honor to my parents and they would be looked down on in the family. All I could think about was how to satisfy my parents and I even gave up my duty to spare them the heartache. As a created being, I have enjoyed the sustenance of God’s word, but I was not fulfilling a created being’s duty to repay God’s love. I was so unconscionable. I was letting God down. Even though I was so rebellious, God still didn’t abandon me. He just kept on guiding me and supporting me through the brothers and sisters. But all I gave to God in return was pain and disappointment. I was failing to live up to the painstaking efforts God had put into me. I felt so remorseful and guilty, so I prayed to God: “God, I have not been satisfying You. I have owed You so much. Please give me faith and strength, and guide me to make the right choice.” After praying, I wrote a letter to my family, telling them that I decided to quit school and do a duty.
My parents called me later, saying: “If you dare quit school, we’ll just overdose and be dead by tomorrow.” It was excruciating to hear my mom and dad say this, and I kept praying to God: “God, no matter what they say, I won’t betray You. I just ask You to give me the right words to say. My stature is so small, and I am scared that I will unwittingly say something that Satan will use against me because of my ignorance and foolishness. Please guide me to stand firm in my testimony.” I felt a little more settled after praying and said to them: “You know that I’ve chosen the right path, so why are you coercing me like this? I just want to believe in God, pursue the truth, and do my duty. Can’t you just let me choose my own path?” My mother replied furiously: “I know that believing in God is the right path, but to do a duty you’ve even given up your studies. Do you think it’s been easy for us to pay for your schooling all these years? You can’t be so selfish!” Hearing my mother say this, I thought: “Man is created by God. Everything we enjoy has been given by Him. Doing a duty and expending for God is our responsibility and obligation. If I were to not do a duty to satisfy my parents, that would be selfish.” So I said to them: “I’ve made up my mind. No matter how you obstruct me, I’m doing a duty.” Agitated, my mother said: “We’ve spent so much on you so you could get ahead in life and make us proud in front of the rest of the family, and we could live an easier life. How are you not thinking about us at all? You’re so cold-blooded.” My sister also called to reprove me: “You realize that if you quit school, everyone in the village is going to look down on us and that our parents will be disgraced? If you quit school and work, I’ll call the police and have them arrest all you believers!” It was so depressing to hear my family say these things. It turned out everything they’d done for me had just been an investment. When I was at grad school making them proud in front of their friends and family, they spoke to me softly, saying I was their most beloved daughter, but when I pursued the truth and was doing a duty instead of bringing them honor, they hurled abuse at me. They weren’t investing love in me, but were using me. I recalled God’s word says: “‘Love,’ as it is called, refers to an emotion that is pure and without blemish, where you use your heart to love, to feel, and to be thoughtful. In love there are no conditions, no barriers, and no distance. In love there is no suspicion, no deceit, and no cunning. In love there is no trade and nothing impure” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen). This is God’s best explanation of love. Only God’s love for mankind is pure and without blemish. To save mankind from the corruption and harm of Satan, God has incarnated twice and has spoken millions of words of truth, silently paying a price for us. God has never asked anything of us. He just hopes that we can pursue the truth and attain salvation. Only God’s love for us is selfless. My family’s “love” for me was using me to gain others’ respect. This wasn’t love, but a transaction, a blatantly benefit-seeking relationship. I recalled God said: “People who live in the flesh take as pleasures the various relationships and family bonds of the flesh. They believe that people can’t live without their loved ones. Why is it that you do not think of how you came into the world of man? You came alone, originally without relations to others. God brings people here one by one; when you came, you were, in fact, alone” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). The relationship between family members may be close in the flesh, but there is no spiritual connection. Each person has been preordained to come into this world by God. Everyone has their own role to play and their own mission to fulfill. Though by blood they’re my mother, father, and sister, we share no spiritual connection. They just raised me, fulfilled their responsibility, and made my physical life better, but they cannot decide my future or destiny, much less save me from Satan’s corruption and harm. Only God can give me the truth and life, and cleanse and save me. My parents not allowing me to do a duty, be close with God, or gain God’s salvation was harming me and ruining my life. I couldn’t be constrained by them. Realizing this, I prayed to God: “God, thank You for giving me some discernment over my family. Please watch over my heart so that I may stand firm!” The next afternoon, I left school to go take on a duty.
I later thought to myself: “I know I’ve chosen the right path, so why when my family obstructs me and tries to get me to quit my duty do I always feel constrained by affections, as if I owe them so much? Why exactly is this?” During a devotional, I read God’s word. “In the past, people always acted on their conscience and used it to measure others. People constantly had to pass the test of conscience, always fearful of gossip, afraid of being laughed at or of gaining a bad reputation, or of being called ‘without a conscience, a bad person.’ So, they had to reluctantly go along with some things just to fit in. How are people measured now? (By the principles of the truth.) How were things back then, when people’s lives were bound by the notions and fallacies of unbelievers? By way of example, since you were small, your parents kept indoctrinating you with such words as: ‘When you grow up, you must make us proud; you must bring honor to our family!’ What have these words been to you? An encouragement, or a restraint? A positive influence, or a kind of negative control? The fact is that they are a kind of control. Your parents set a goal for you based on some statement or theory that people think is right and good, making you live your life in service of that goal, and you end up losing your freedom. Why do you end up losing your freedom and falling under its control? Because people think that bringing honor to their family is a good thing that should be done. If you don’t share that thought or aspire to do things that bring honor to your family, you are seen as a foolish waste of space, a good-for-nothing loser, and people will look down on you. In order to be successful, you must study hard, gain ever more skills, and bring honor to your family name. That way, people won’t bully you in the future. Are all the things you do for the sake of this goal not, in effect, shackles that bind you? (They are.) Since pursuing success and bringing honor to the family is what your parents demand, and since they are acting in your best interests so that you live a good life and do your family proud, it is only natural that you would aspire to such a lifestyle. But effectively, these things are troubles and shackles of a sort. When people do not understand the truth, they think that these things are positive, the truth, the right way, and therefore, they take them for granted and abide by them or obey them. And when these words and requirements come from your parents, you obey them absolutely. If you live by these words, working hard and dedicating your youth and your whole life to them, and finally you get to the top, live a good life, and do your family proud, you may be brilliant to other people, but inside, you are increasingly hollow. You don’t know what the point of life is, or what destination the future holds, or what kind of path people should take in life. You haven’t understood or gained anything at all about those mysteries of life whose answers you yearn for, and want to know, and want to understand. Have you not effectively been ruined by your parents’ good intentions? Have your youth and your whole life not been ruined by your parents’ demands, which, in their words, are ‘in your best interests’? (They have.) So, are your parents right or wrong to make demands that are ‘in your best interests’? It may be that your parents genuinely think that they are acting in your best interests, but are they people who understand the truth? Do they have the truth? (They do not.) Many people spend their whole lives hanging on their parents’ words, ‘You must make us proud, you must bring honor to the family’—words that inspire them, and that influence them throughout their lives. When the parents say, ‘It’s in your best interests,’ this becomes the impulse behind a person’s life, providing a direction and goal to work toward. As a result, no matter how glamorous that person’s life, no matter how dignified and successful it is, their life is actually ruined. Is that not so? (It is.) Does this mean that if someone doesn’t live according to their parents’ demands, they are not ruined? No; they also have a goal of their own. What goal is that? It is still the same, namely to ‘live a good life and do their parents proud,’ although not because their parents have told them to, but because they have accepted this goal from elsewhere. They still want to live by these words, and do their family proud, and get to the top, and become an honorable, dignified person. Their goal hasn’t changed; they still dedicate their whole life to achieving these things. Hence, when people do not understand the truth, they accept many so-called correct doctrines, correct statements, and correct views that prevail in society. They then turn these correct things into the direction, foundation, and motivation for their own life’s efforts. In the end, people live uncompromisingly and unreservedly for the sake of these goals, struggling through life until they die, at which point, some are still unwilling to see the truth. What pitiful lives people lead! However, once you understand the truth, do you not then gradually leave behind these so-called correct things, correct teachings, and correct statements, as well as your parents’ expectations of you? Once you gradually leave behind these so-called correct things, and the standard by which you measure things is no longer based on the statements of traditional culture, are you not then no longer bound by those statements? And if you are not bound by these things, do you live freely? You may not then be completely free, but at least the shackles will have been loosened” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Reality of the Truth?). Reading God’s word really touched me. Since I was a child, my mother had always told me to study hard, get ahead, make her proud, and bring honor to the family. To bring honor to my family and gain others’ praise, I made “Silence the world and bury your head in books” my mantra, and studying became pretty much my only goal. For so many years, I had been like a studying machine working around the clock. I had no right to choose and no sense of resistance. Though I was praised by my parents and those around me, I was always filled with a sense of emptiness. I’d often ask myself: “Why am I living like this? Is a life like this meaningful?” But I couldn’t find an answer, and was often depressed and in pain. Reading God’s word made me realize it was all harm done by Satan. Satan used poisons like “Filial piety is a virtue to be held above all else,” “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors” to bind and control mankind. They were like a yoke Satan had placed over my body. If I didn’t pursue these things, I would be condemned by my family and by society, labelled unambitious and useless. Influenced by this environment, I passively went down the path of pursuing wealth and renown. In the pursuit of good grades and degrees, many students become depressed from the academic pressure. Some even kill themselves and their lives are ruined. But every time I wanted to quit school to do a duty, I’d feel myself bound and controlled by these poisons. I felt my parents had spent so much on me and if I quit school, I’d be letting them down and not bringing honor to them. I finally saw that these poisons are Satan’s ways of misleading and corrupting us. They distort our direction and goals in life, make us abandon our faith, not do the duty of a created being, and they make us slowly drift from God and betray Him. If it weren’t for the revelation of God’s word, I never would’ve seen the harm of these satanic poisons. I would’ve carried on down this road of no return, in the end losing God’s salvation and being destroyed along with Satan. Realizing this, I was filled with gratitude to God. This was God protecting and saving me.
Later, I read more of God’s word. “Since being filial to one’s parents is not the truth, but only a human responsibility and obligation, what then should you do if your obligation conflicts with your duty? (Prioritize my duty; put duty first.) An obligation is not necessarily one’s duty. Choosing to perform one’s duty is practicing the truth, whereas fulfilling an obligation is not. If the conditions are right, you may fulfill this responsibility or obligation, but if the current environment does not allow it, what should you do? You should say, ‘I must do my duty—that is practicing the truth. Being filial to my parents is living by my conscience, and doesn’t rise to the practice of the truth.’ So, you should prioritize your duty and uphold it. If you have no duty now, and don’t work far from home, and live close to your parents, then find ways to take care of them. Do your best to help them live a little better and lessen their suffering. But this also depends on what kind of people your parents are. What should you do if your parents are of poor humanity and constantly hinder you from believing in God, if they keep dragging you away from believing in God and performing your duty? What is the truth that you should practice? (Renunciation.) At this time, you must renounce them. You have fulfilled your obligation. Your parents don’t believe in God, so you have no obligation to provide for them. If they believe in God, then they are family, your parents. If they do not, then you are walking different paths: They believe in Satan and worship the devil, and they walk the path of Satan, which is a different path from that of those who believe in God. You are no longer a family. They regard believers in God as their adversaries and enemies, so you have no more obligation to take care of them and must cut them off completely. Which is the truth: being filial to one’s parents, or performing one’s duty? Of course, performing one’s duty is the truth. Performing one’s duty in God’s house is not simply about fulfilling one’s obligation and doing what one is supposed to do. It is about performing the duty of a created being. Herein is God’s commission; it is your obligation, your responsibility. This is a true responsibility, which is to fulfill your responsibility and obligation before the Creator. This is the Creator’s requirement of people, and it is the great matter of life. But respecting one’s parents is merely the responsibility and obligation of a son or daughter. It is certainly not commissioned by God, and less still does it fulfill God’s requirement. Therefore, between respecting one’s parents and performing one’s duty, there is no doubt that performing one’s duty, and that alone, is practicing the truth. Performing one’s duty as a created being is the truth, and it is a bounden duty. Respecting one’s parents is about being filial to people. It does not mean that one is performing their duty, nor does it mean that they are practicing the truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Reality of the Truth?). God’s word shows principles for dealing with parents: If your parents support you in your faith and duty, you can honor them as much as possible without delaying your duty. But if your parents oppose God and obstruct you in your faith and duty, you should not be constrained by them and should place doing your duty and satisfying God first. My parents pursued money and repute, following Satan. They were in their essence devils, and belonged to Satan. In my faith I want to pursue the truth and do a duty. Our paths are completely at odds. If I were to listen to my parents and not do a duty, I would be following Satan and resisting God. Realizing this, I felt a sense of release and knew how to treat my family in line with principles.
After this, I carried on doing a duty in the church and to my surprise, my family went to the school to sort out my quitting on my behalf. I see more and more people are accepting God’s current work. I am so lucky to join the ranks of those spreading His gospel and to be able to lend my strength to the expansion of God’s kingdom gospel. I am so happy for this. I now do my duty with my brothers and sisters, and we fellowship and practice the truth. Though I understand very little of the truth, I feel my corrupt disposition is slowly changing, I am living out some human likeness, and I can fellowship the truth and testify on God’s work. These are things I never would have learned, no matter how many years I studied in school. I truly feel that doing my duty and expending for God is the most correct choice I have made.