No Longer Being the “Expert” Is So Freeing
By Zhang Wei, China
I used to work in a hospital as the deputy chief orthopedist I put my all into it for four decades and accumulated quite a bit of clinical experience. I was well respected for my medical expertise by patients and colleagues alike, and I was looked up to and respected wherever I went. I felt like I was something special, a cut above. After accepting God’s work of the last days, I saw that some brothers and sisters who served as leaders and deacons in the church would share fellowship and help resolve problems in gatherings, and some were writing articles or producing videos. I really envied them and felt that they must be admired for the duties they performed. I looked down on duties like hosting or handling general affairs, thinking that these were unassuming and nameless. I thought, “I’d never do that kind of duty. I have social standing and a good education. If I’m to do a duty, it would have to be something appropriate for my status.”
After Chinese New Year in 2020, a church leader sought me out and said, “There are a few sisters on the writing duty who don’t have a safe place to stay. You’re not widely known to be a believer, so your home should be relatively safe. Could you host them?” I thought, “I’m happy to do a duty, but a high-ranking deputy chief physician like me, a professional, acting as a host, slaving over a hot stove, scurrying around the table—wouldn’t I basically be like a nanny?” I felt kind of put out. Wasn’t any duty at all more dignified than hosting duty? Whatever it may be, I figured I should have a duty with a bit of status, or a duty that requires some skill. Otherwise, I felt like I was being downgraded! Wasn’t being on hosting duty a waste of my talents? If my friends and family knew that I’d given up my wonderful position as an expert just to stay at home and cook for other people, wouldn’t they die laughing? I felt more aggrieved the more I thought about it. My thinking was that it was an urgent need for the church, so even though it wasn’t really what I wanted, I couldn’t refuse at such a critical time—that would be lacking humanity. Later it occurred to me that I was still lacking stature and didn’t understand much truth, so by interacting a lot with brothers and sisters on writing duty I could learn from them, and I might be transferred over to work with them. I assumed hosting duty would be temporary. Also, in such a grave pandemic situation, a hospital was the worst place to be, and I didn’t want to work anymore. So I resigned and readily assumed hosting duties.
I had always been busy with work, so I’d never cooked very much. I threw myself into learning how to cook so the sisters could have enjoyable meals. But once I’d made them, I never wanted to take them out to the table. I felt like that was a task for a server. When I had my meals in the hospital, there was always someone to bring me something ready-made, and colleagues would stand up and speak with me no matter what ward I was in. I was highly regarded wherever I went. But now, I had to put on an apron and wear oil-stained clothing day in and day out and spend my time scrubbing out greasy pots and pans while those sisters got to wear nice, clean clothing and sit in front of computers. I felt really pained and aggrieved. It made me think of: “Those who use their minds will rule over those who don’t,” and “Birds of a feather flock together.” Cooking and being a host was physical work, and it was on a different level from the others. Thinking about this upset me more and more and I felt burdened, as if there were a great weight pressing down on me. I didn’t want to do that duty long term. I thought, “I’ve authored medical papers and have been praised within the field. There’s no way my writing skills are lacking. If I can write some good testimonial articles, perhaps the leader will see my talent and put me on that duty. Then maybe I’ll be free of this hosting duty?” I started getting up earlier and staying up later, working on articles about my experiences. The sisters read them and said they weren’t bad. Thrilled, I sent them off to the leader, but I waited and waited, and I still wasn’t assigned to writing duty. I was so disappointed, and gradually lost my enthusiasm for writing articles. Then within a few short days, I heard that the church needed more people for video production, and I thought, “Video production is a duty that requires some skills. Now I have a chance—if I get better with computers, I’ll become a talent, someone who has skills.” Once again, I started getting up early and staying up late to learn some video production skills. But being older, I just couldn’t do things as quickly as the young people. I couldn’t keep up. That hope was dashed, too. I was feeling really despondent, like a more “high-ranking” duty just wasn’t in store for me, and I was stuck with this kind of labor. I felt like I was being snubbed. I wasn’t eating or sleeping well for a few days, and I kept forgetting what I was doing in the middle of cooking. I couldn’t focus on anything. Sometimes I’d cut myself while slicing vegetables, or burn my hand. I kept dropping dishes and utensils on the floor, making a terrible racket and startling myself. Whenever the sisters heard the noise they’d drop whatever they were doing and rush to help me clean up. I felt terrible, seeing how I was distracting them from doing their duty. In my misery, I prayed to God: “God, I’ve been put on hosting duty now. It seems so lowly to me. I feel wronged, and I can’t submit. I don’t know how to handle this. Please guide me.”
I read this in God’s words after that: “Whatever your duty, do not discriminate between high and low. Suppose you say, ‘Though this task is a commission from God and the work of God’s house, if I do it, people might look down on me. Others get to do work that lets them stand out. How can this task I’ve been given, which doesn’t let me stand out but makes me exert myself behind the scenes, be called a duty? This is a duty I cannot accept; this is not my duty. My duty has to be one that makes me stand out in front of others and allows me to make a name for myself—and even if I don’t make a name for myself or stand out, I still have to benefit from it and feel physically at ease.’ Is this an acceptable attitude? Being picky is not accepting what comes from God; it is making choices according to your own preferences. This is not accepting your duty; it is a refusal of your duty, a manifestation of your rebelliousness. Such pickiness is adulterated with your individual preferences and desires; when you give consideration to your own benefit, your reputation, and so on, your attitude toward your duty is not submissive” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Adequate Performance of Duty?). This passage really pierced my heart. God’s words revealed my exact state. I thought of myself as a distinguished expert with status, so I should be prioritized and respected wherever I went. I wanted to leverage that and stand out from the crowd. When I was put on hosting duty, it felt like my status was being downgraded, like it was an injustice. But the judgment and revelations of God’s words showed me that the reason I looked down on hosting duty so much was because I was looking at my duty in God’s house from the perspective of an unbeliever. I was looking at duties in terms of high or low, ranking them. If I could make a name for myself, I was happy to do it, but I looked down on anything behind the scenes. That outlook was holding me back from fulfilling my own duty, and I even wanted to throw in the towel. I wasn’t giving the slightest thought to God’s will in my duty, but it was clearly all for me to make myself look good, to pursue name and status. God was elevating me by allowing me to perform the duty of a created being, and it was His commission for me, but I was picking and choosing based on personal preference. That was totally unreasonable. I felt so indebted to God when I realized this, and I quietly resolved to put my heart into doing my duty well.
After that, I purposely ate and drank words of God and prayed in light of my state, and was able to host without reservations. But what happened next rattled me again. A sister I was hosting was elected as a church leader, and I felt really envious of her. I thought, “I can see how valued someone on writing duty is. They can really make a name for themselves, and can even be a leader if they do well. But what kind of future does someone on hosting duty have? I’m always wearing an apron, constantly splattered with grease and smelling like smoke, and every time I go out to stock up on food, I’m afraid of seeing someone I know and being asked why I’m not putting my medical skills to use. I just keep my head down and try to slip by, keeping close to walls. I can’t breathe easily until I’m back at home. I used to put myself front and center no matter where I went, and I was often up on stage, delivering a lecture. Everyone would be trying to shake my hand. But now I don’t want anyone to see me. I’m sneaking around just to buy some vegetables.” I got more and more upset and couldn’t get my standing out in the world out of my mind. I was feeling really nostalgic about being called “expert,” “director,” and “professor.” I couldn’t help but reminisce about the admiration of leaders, the praise of colleagues, and the retinues of patients. That felt like a distinguished way to live. I felt like a phoenix that had been turned into a chicken and wondered when I would be done with that duty. I couldn’t help but feel some jealousy, and though I saw the sisters enjoying their meals, I couldn’t get anything down. I lost quite a bit of weight. And then, the hospital director called me out of the blue, saying the pandemic had been brought under control, and asked me if I’d like to go back to work. I got worked up again, thinking it would be great to be working again, to once again live that life of prestige and don the mantle of an “expert.” But I knew that hosting duty was important, and that I needed to look out for the sisters’ safety. If I went back to work, I wouldn’t be able to host them anymore. I quickly prayed to God, “God! I have never been able to really submit to this hosting duty. I simply can’t let go of the past. Please guide me to know myself and help me submit.”
In my seeking, I ran into this in God’s words: “Consider how you should regard a person’s personal value, social status, or family background. What is the most appropriate attitude to have? To begin with, people must look to God’s words to see how He perceives them. Only in this way can a person arrive at an understanding of the truth, and only then can a person avoid doing things which are contrary to the truth. How, then, does God regard a person’s family background, social status, their education level, and the wealth they obtain in society? If you do not use God’s words as the basis for all things, and cannot stand on His side to receive anything from Him, then there will most certainly be a discrepancy between your views on matters and God’s intentions. If the distance is not great, just a minor deviation, then it will not be a problem, but if your views are in complete opposition to God’s intentions, then they are not aligned with the truth. From God’s perspective, He has the final say on how much He gives to a person, and your place in society is determined by Him, not by any person whatsoever. If God has placed a person in poverty, does that mean the person has no hope of salvation? If they are of low societal value or social status, will God not save them? If they are of low social status, could it be that they are poorly esteemed by God? Not necessarily. Then what really matters? What matters is the path such a person follows, their pursuits, and their attitude toward the truth and God. If a person is of very low social status and is poor and undereducated, but is very pragmatic and down-to-earth in their faith in God, loves the truth, and likes positive things, then is such a person of low or high value to God? Are they noble or lowly? Such a person is precious. Therefore, looking from this perspective, what determines the value or nobility of a person? That depends on how God sees you. If He sees you as worthy and precious, then you will be a vessel for noble use, and will be gold or silver. However, if God regards you as unworthy and lowly, then no matter how high your education level, social status or ethnic standing might be, you will still not be of high status. Even if many people support, praise and admire you, you will not have high status, you will still be but a lowly person. How is it, then, that a ‘noble’ person with high social status—one who is praised and looked up to by many people, and who enjoys great prestige—comes to be regarded by God as lowly? Is it that God simply contradicts humanity? Not at all. God has His own standards of evaluation, and His standards of evaluation are the truth” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Are Evil, Insidious, and Deceitful (Part One)). God’s words were enlightening for me. The root of my suffering was not looking at things from the perspective of the truths in God’s words, but still going by the satanic perspective on rank, on high or low status to judge my duty. I had always used societal status, name, education, and professional accomplishments as my barometers for success. Controlled by these sorts of perspectives, I saw myself as really high and honorable, thinking that I was someone with expertise who possessed status and a good position, someone special and on a higher rung. I held onto this outlook after gaining my faith, highly regarding duties like leader and worker and those that required more skills, while looking down on unskilled duties like hosting or handling general affairs. I thought those were on a lower rung and weren’t suitable for someone like me. I wanted to enjoy the kind of prestige I’d enjoyed before. It was because of my outlook on rank that I was being taken for a ride, left unable to eat or sleep and losing weight in my distress. It was so painful. But exposed and judged by God’s words, I saw God’s righteous disposition. He doesn’t care how high or low someone’s status is, or about their advantages or degrees. He cares whether they pursue the truth; He cares what path they’re on. No matter how high a position, what degrees or reputation someone may have, without the truth, they’re lowly in God’s eyes. Anyone who pursues and gains the truth will be valued and blessed by God, with or without status. I learned no matter how many people adulated me and how high my rank was, if I couldn’t submit to God and do the duty of a created being, I was utterly worthless.
I gave it more thought later. Why did I know my perspective was off, but I still couldn’t help but go after a duty that was more prestigious? I saw a passage of God’s words when I was ruminating over this. “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” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique VI). What God’s words reveal showed me that Satan was hurting me and constraining me with name and gain, keeping me totally imprisoned. I’d been inculcated by my parents, educated at school, and influenced by society since I was little. Satan’s philosophies and fallacies had seeped deep down into the marrow of my bones. Things like “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” “A man’s legacy is his life’s echo,” “Those who use their minds will rule over those who don’t,” these poisons had become deeply rooted in my heart long before. Why was I always reminiscing about the honor of being called an “expert,” “renowned doctor,” and “director,” always wanting to leverage this, thinking that I stood out and was a cut above the rest? Because I’d taken name and status as the right things to pursue in life and felt that by having them, I could gain others’ admiration and support. So whether it was at school, out in society, or in the house of God, I prioritized rank and status, and worked hard to develop expertise, hoping that I’d rise to the top of whatever group I was in. I felt that was the only kind of life through which I could realize my true value. When I couldn’t get that, the future looked bleak to me and I suffered terribly. The shackles of name and status thoroughly controlled me, making me stray from and betray God in spite of myself. Another thing I learned was that hosting duty doesn’t look like much, but it was those conditions that allowed me to recognize my mistaken perspectives on pursuit, begin to pursue the truth while doing my duty, and be freed from the bonds of name and gain. Once I understood God’s kind intentions, I gave Him heartfelt thanks, and felt really regretful and guilty. I kneeled before God and prayed: “God, thank You for setting up the conditions to expose my corrupt disposition and rescue me from my mistaken pursuit. I wish to repent and stop pursuing name and status. I want to submit and do my hosting duty well to satisfy You.” I turned down the hospital’s offer.
I read a couple more passages of God’s words after 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). “Ultimately, whether or not people can attain salvation is not dependent on what duty they fulfill, but on whether they have understood and gained the truth, and on whether or not they can submit to God’s orchestrations and be a genuine created being. God is righteous, and this is the standard He uses to measure all mankind. This standard is immutable, and you must remember this. Therefore, do not think about finding some other path, or pursuing some unreal thing. The standards God requires of all who attain salvation are forever unchanging; they remain the same no matter who you are” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Attitude Man Should Have Toward God). I saw that God doesn’t want lofty people, but He wants well-grounded people who can do the duty of a created being. I had status out in the world, but my understanding of the truth was shallow. The duties of leadership and writing both involve the truth, so they can’t be done by someone just because they have status and knowledge. I needed to be reasonable and do what I was capable of. I happened to have a home that worked well for hosting, so I had to simply serve as a host and pursue the truth. That’s the only reasonable thing. For different duties, the only real difference is the name and function. A person’s identity and essence as a creature don’t change. I thought too much of myself, thought I was so illustrious. I always thought of myself as an expert, a renowned physician, as if I were somehow above everyone else. I thought that being a host was a lowly duty and I wanted a more prominent duty. The grass was always greener on the other side—I couldn’t just put my head down and do my duty. I even fought against God in my heart, arrogantly lacking all reason. I thought of Job, too. He had such tremendous status among those in the Orient, but he never thought anything of his status or cared about the glory it afforded him. With or without status, he exalted God. Job was sensible. That’s why God praised Job as a created being who met His standards. I’m no match for Job at all, but I wanted to follow his example, to let go of those things and try to meet God’s standards. Once I stopped going after that, my mindset changed, too. I saw that every duty is important and essential. Without people to act as hosts, brothers and sisters wouldn’t have a good place to safely do their duty. From then on, I started making a conscious effort to forsake myself, make a genuine effort to make good meals and care for the sisters’ safety so they could do their duty in peace. With time, I no longer felt like there was any kind of difference in status between us, and I’d hum hymns while cooking, and grow closer to God. After finishing everything up I’d read God’s words, quiet my heart and consider all the work God had done in me, and what I’d gained, then work on some testimonial articles. Every day felt really fulfilling. It feels like a peaceful way to live, and it’s very freeing.
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