A Christian’s Experience: She No Longer Saw Her Step-Father as an Interloper (Audio Essay)
By Xia Zixuan, Hubei Province
A Grey Childhood
There was no mother and no father around when Zixuan was growing up; she didn’t know what the cakes the children from the city talked about tasted like, and she’d never seen a goldfish blow bubbles in a fish tank. On no evening did she ever hear the stories of Grimm’s fairytales, but instead she listened to her grandpa tell her the story of The Seven Heroes and Five Gallants. Her real father leaving and her mother remarrying had brought about feelings of inferiority when she was little, and even more so had become a shadow in the depth of her heart that she could not drive away. Especially when she saw the other children with their parents, caring for them and being with them, Zixuan’s heart would ache with pain.
An Untraversable Chasm
At the time of the millennium, Zixuan’s mother brought Zixuan to live with her in the city. Her step-father was good to her, but in her heart, Zixuan believed that “blood was thicker than water,” and that only family bonds built upon the kinship of blood were real. After all, her step-father was different from her biological father, and he could never treat her like his own daughter; even if he was good to her, it was a false display put on for her mother, and he was simply incapable of being sincerely and honestly good to her. Therefore, Zixuan felt very biased against her step-father, and they argued often. Even with tiny matters that were hardly worth a mention, as long as they happened in front of them both, it would develop into an entirely irrational quarrel. In over ten years, the family battles never ceased, their antagonism got worse and worse, and every one of them lived in a state of pain …
Once the question of whether mushrooms should be blanched or not came up, and Zixuan and her step-father both stuck to their own views, in the end they both stomped off in anger, and after that they didn’t speak to each other again for two weeks. Zixuan’s mother was caught in the middle, and felt like she may as well adopt a neutral attitude, scolding them both and then employing the traditional virtue of “respecting the old and cherishing the young” to try to rein them both in. Because of her mother’s attempts to restrain them, Zixuan and her step-father would act very “harmoniously” in front of her mother, but the minute she was gone, they would quarrel unceasingly. Every time, it was Zixuan who would pick up on something, do something that was deliberately provocative and push her step-father to the end of his tether. But because Zixuan was the younger, she could only be reprimanded and lectured. Zixuan didn’t want to hear it, however, and felt it was unfair, and she thought: “How come the responsibility is always on me? Why is it always my fault?” This brought Zixuan much pain, and it proved to her even more that, in the absence of any blood ties, her step-father really was without any genuine concern or care for her after all—her real father would never have treated her this way, she thought. And so Zixuan couldn’t find it in her heart to love her step-father, and it seemed as though there existed an untraversable chasm between them.
Feelings Reach Breaking Point
Although Zixuan and her step-father were on “friendly terms” with each other when her mother was around, this feigned harmony could not last long. That year, the two of them couldn’t take it any longer and blew up over a certain matter, and thereafter their quarrels escalated, and the family was pushed toward breaking point.
Winter came and temperatures dropped, and Zixuan’s step-father’s old illness of sinusitis returned. When they switched on their central heating, his nose would get so stuffy that he could hardly breathe, and to clear his nasal passages, he would open all the windows on the balcony. Yet Zixuan thought what a waste of money it was, to pay for central heating and yet have their home open to the four winds, like a great shack exposed to the elements. Not only that, but she was anemic and feared the cold, and so she resolutely forbade her step-father to open the windows. When it came to this issue, neither one of them would back down. Zixuan thought how her step-father was not as good as her biological father, and that he didn’t know how to love her, whereas her step-father thought of how he’d raised Zixuan for over ten years, all to no avail, and had expended so much of himself and yet had still failed to make her heart warm to him, and she didn’t understand him in the slightest. Zixuan’s mother saw that neither one of them would make a concession, and her patience had reached its limit. She just couldn’t stand it anymore, and so she yelled at them: “You’ve argued so often through all these years over such tiny things, have you ever once thought about my feelings? I’ve been stuck in the middle of you two for 18 years, how do you think I’ve managed to get through it?” Zixuan’s step-father felt bitterly disappointed, and he really couldn’t stand it any longer either, and so suggested to Zixuan’s mother that they divorce. Zixuan had also long since had enough of their life together, and she said angrily to her step-father, “Fine! Then we’ll each go our separate ways from now on, and stay clear of each other. I’m grown up now and can look after my mom. All our property and the house belong to you and I don’t want any of it. You’ve earned money all these years to raise me, so from now on I’ll pay it all back to you!” Seeing her family argue so, her mother felt grieved and helpless, and all she could do was sit in the living room, crying. This winter really had become a cold one for this family of three. Living in this awkward environment, Zixuan suffered greatly and felt much oppressed, and she felt even worse than she had done before. Yet she still didn’t know what to do, and could only yell silently at the sky every day: “Heavens, what should I do? Please help me …”
Saved by God’s Hand
Just when Zixuan was at her most pained and helpless, God’s salvation came upon her, and so her family that had been at breaking point was saved. Zixuan read these words of God: “One has no say in who one’s parents and relatives are, what kind of environment one grows up in; one’s relationships with the people, events, and things in one’s surroundings, and how they influence one’s development, are all beyond one’s control. Who decides these things, then? Who arranges them? Since people have no choice in the matter, since they cannot decide these things for themselves, and since they obviously do not take shape naturally, it goes without saying that the formation of all these people, events, and things rests in the hands of the Creator. Of course, just as the Creator arranges the particular circumstances of every person’s birth, He also arranges the specific circumstances under which one grows up. If a person’s birth brings changes to the people, events, and things around them, then that person’s growth and development will necessarily affect them as well. For example, some people are born into poor families, but grow up surrounded by wealth; others are born into affluent families but cause their families’ fortunes to decline, such that they grow up in poor environments. No one’s birth is governed by a fixed rule, and no one grows up under an inevitable, fixed set of circumstances. These are not things that a person can imagine or control; they are the products of one’s fate, and are determined by one’s fate. Of course, at their root, these things are determined by the fate that the Creator predestines for each person; they are determined by the Creator’s sovereignty over that person’s fate and His plans for it” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words brought sudden enlightenment to Zixuan; it turned out that the family in which every single person is born, their background growing up, and who their parents, relatives and friends are, and so on, all have their source in the sovereignty and predestination of the Creator; it is not decided by parents, much less is it chosen by oneself. Zixuan thought of how she had been born into a poor family and her parents had not been around while she was growing up, but instead she had lived with her grandparents. Later, she became a family together with her step-father and, as it happened, these environments and backdrops as she grew up had all been predestined and arranged by the Creator. And because Zixuan had been nurtured on the ideas of atheism and evolutionism all these years, she hadn’t been aware that there was a God, nor did she know that people’s fates were ruled and predestined by God. Therefore, she had always felt dissatisfied with this kind of family, and had complained about her unfortunate fate. When it came to her step-father, she always treated him with bias, believing that, no matter how good a step-father he was to her, he could never be as good as a real father, and so she had become estranged from him and had always quarreled with him. For this reason, she had lived constantly in pain, and hadn’t this been brought about by her resisting and contending with the sovereignty and predestination of the Creator? And yet Zixuan couldn’t figure it out—what exactly was the reason that caused her to be dissatisfied with the fate the Creator had given her?
That night, as Zixuan sat at her desk holding a book of God’s words in both hands, she continued searching for the answers, and she read these words of God: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him” (“To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “But when you truly know, when you truly come to recognize that God has sovereignty over human fate, when you truly understand that everything God has planned for you and decided for you is a great benefit and protection, then you feel your pain begin to lighten, and your whole being becomes relaxed, free, liberated” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Zixuan felt suddenly like she understood: The root cause of why she hadn’t been able to get along with her step-father all these years was that she had been influenced and indoctrinated by the absurd traditional ideas of Satan, such as “blood is thicker than water,” and “without blood ties, it’s not a real family.” She had mistakenly believed that only those people who were related to her by blood were real relatives, and only they could be sincerely good to her—her step-father could never compare with her biological father. And so Zixuan had always suspected that her step-father’s good treatment of her had not come from a place of sincerity, and no matter how good he was to her, she always saw him as being false. So in over ten years, she had been unable to accept him or understand him, and she had quarreled with him often over tiny things that weren’t really worth mentioning; she had been raised by her step-father without knowing to be grateful, and nor did she have a shred of the conscience or sense or humanity that a normal person should have, and so she had not only hurt her step-father, but she had also brought great pain to her mother and had suffered a great deal herself. Now, she thought of her real father who had been a gambler, and about how he had never once bothered with her in all these years. Although her grandparents were getting on in years and didn’t have the strength to raise her, her real father had never given them any money to help out. Then she thought of her step-father: Although he was not related to Zixuan by blood, he had been willing to take on the responsibility of raising her, and had provided her with food, clothing, and had paid for her to go to school. Only when she thought this did Zixuan perceive that the Creator had arranged what was best and most suitable for her, and that it was God’s love that had enabled her to live a life in which she had everything she needed under her step-father’s roof. But her mind had been distorted by the mistaken ideas of Satan, and she had never been able to accept her step-father or fit into this new family after her mother remarried. At that moment, Zixuan felt like crying, and she thought of how she had enjoyed the Creator’s love and yet had never felt any gratitude, nor had she expressed any gratitude toward her step-father for his kindness of having raised her for 18 years—she felt so devoid of conscience! After she’d come to this understanding, her heart at last was brightened, and the haze that had shrouded her heart for so many years was swept away. She offered up a prayer to God: “O God! You have arranged what was best for me, and yet I have always been deceived by Satan, and have been deceived and held in bondage by the idea and the view that ‘blood is thicker than water.’ I have always felt displeased with the family that You arranged and predestined for me, and I have lived in misunderstandings and blame, unable to accept or submit to Your sovereignty and arrangements and bringing so much hurt and pain to my mother and step-father. O God! I now wish to let go of my previous mistaken views, submit to Your sovereignty and arrangements concerning my fate, treat my step-father fairly, and by Your word live out a human likeness. Amen!”
Beginning A New Life
From that time on, Zixuan began to cherish the family and relatives the Creator had arranged for her, and through being watered by God’s words, she seemed to grow up all of a sudden and become sensible. Zixuan no longer saw her step-father as an interloper, but instead treated him as her own family; she also learned to consider matters from other people’s perspectives, and understand and show consideration for the difficulties faced by her step-father and mother. She took responsibility for herself within the family, and did to the best of her ability the things she was supposed to do: She actively took responsibility for cooking the family meals so that at least when her step-father and mother returned home from work every day, they were sure to eat a meal Zixuan had cooked; whenever the sun showed its face, Zixuan actively hung her step-father’s duvet out to expose it to the sunshine; whenever her step-father expressed a view, she no longer contradicted him or opposed him, but instead she learned to respect her step-father, and if his opinion was correct, then she would agree with him. Little by little, Zixuan came to realize that the family God had predestined for her was actually really great, and all she ever perceived was love …
One afternoon, when the blazing sun was high in the sky, Zixuan’s step-father braved the scorching heat and traveled a long distance to buy her a kind of cantaloupe that was grown far afield that she most enjoyed eating. When he got back, he was sweating profusely and his face had been burnt red by the sun, but when Zixuan was not there, he said to her mother: “This cantaloupe was really hard to buy. I’ve bought it especially for Zixuan, so don’t eat too much of it.” When he saw that Zixuan was still studying at 2 a.m. in the morning, he made a special trip to the market to buy her a brighter lamp, so that she could use it at nighttime…. Actually, he normally did things like this anyway, but Zixuan had never previously thought much of it. When she now looked again at these things her step-father was doing for her, her eyes overran with tears. She had truly come to appreciate that the family the Creator had predestined for her had always been one of love and warmth, it was just that she had always lived in blame and had never really perceived it. In gratitude, she offered up her thanks and praise to the Creator!
Later, when her step-father went to the market to buy food, Zixuan would often go to help him, and their neighbors admired them. When Zixuan wasn’t around, her step-father would often praise her to her mother on how she had matured and become sensible, and about how she was able to be considerate to people, and long-awaited smiles bloomed on her mother’s face; Zixuan also left the pain of all those years behind at last, and began to live a relaxed and happy life.
From then on, God’s word became the principle with which the family associated with each other, and more so became the standard of their conduct. The battles of the past were replaced by the practice of the truth, and love, understanding and tolerance took the place of the blame and misunderstandings of the past…. Although Zixuan and her step-father weren’t real father and daughter, yet they became something better, and the love and consideration between them surpassed the ties of blood. This was all because of the change wrought in them by God’s words, and God’s words also enabled this family, which had been at breaking point, to start anew!
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