Editor’s note: Grace transforms. In recent decades, millions of Chinese people have met Jesus and had their lives turned inside out. Their hopes, dreams, families, leisure, and (in some cases) occupations have changed because of Christ.
This is the first in a series of stories about Chinese coming to faith. The personal experiences of these Chinese believers flaunt the inescapable truth: God is real, and meeting him changes everything. Our hope is that these interviews challenge and encourage Western believers to examine their own faith, as well as reminding them to pray for their brothers and sisters in China.
“Lola” is a bright young woman who attended one of China’s top universities. Her résuméis full of professional accomplishments. Though her life is full of modern success, turning to God meant trusting him more than the ancient, vindictive spirits her mother served. Before Christ, Lola thought often of life’s pointlessness, and from her teen years struggled with an awareness of her own internal darkness. As with many young, urban Chinese, she first heard of God’s grace during her college years. This is the second section of this three-part interview with Lola, detailing her experience encountering and growing in the gospel.
Can you share more about Anna beginning to tell you about God?
When I was a teenager, I wasn’t close to my parents. Now, when I look back, it’s because they were in stressful stages of their careers so they were busy. I had all these questions and confusion about life, but we never sat down and talked about it. I had all this confusion about whether my parents really loved me or cared about me. I felt like they didn’t. I also didn’t know why I needed to work so hard at school, as if my parents only cared about my performance. Now I understand, but back then I didn’t feel understood. I didn’t know if they loved me. I had all these questions about not feeling understood, why I needed to work hard, what is this superpower that controls or knows about my life.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
So, I went to Anna and she told me that in this world, there is one God who loves you to the fullest that you can imagine. He loves you more than your parents do, and he understands everything about you: your ideas, your thoughts. I was also confused for a long time about all the darkness in my heart. Anna told me everyone shares this darkness. But the good news is we can do something about it. God has provided a solution.
Why did you open up to her about that darkness? If you hadn’t shared it with other people before, why did you decide to talk with her about it?
I guess I was just too desperate.
Also, it was a whole new world at college, and I didn’t know what to expect at all.
I already knew there was some superpower. When she told me there is only one God, and he loves me and has a solution for the darkness in my heart, I wanted to know him.
Did you pray a prayer of acceptance right then?
Yes. That was the first time I heard the gospel. I did hesitate a little bit because I thought, “I’m pretty sure if I go against my mom’s god he is going to hurt me.” So, I paused a bit to think about it.
My mom’s gods work like this: before I started college, the shaman gave me a bottle of wine and spoke to the bottle. She told me if I had any struggles in college where I was not sure what to do, to walk seven steps to the east, pour a little bit [of wine], and then turn. There were a lot of actions.
I brought the bottle of wine with me to college and put it in the deepest part of my closet. So, I thought, “What am I going to tell my mom? What am I going to do with this thing? That god has cured me, harmed my family, saved my family. My mom deeply believes in it, and he knows a lot about me.” So, I paused, but I was just too desperate. “Screw it, I want to know this God.”
I prayed the prayer with Anna and started a Bible study with Brittany, the American girl, for two years. But I still kept the bottle of wine. Probably till the end of my first year, I had fear in my heart that if I threw it away the family god would do harm to me. Brittany and I talked about it and I finally understood that there are evil spirits, but God is in control. I was finally able to let it go and believe that our God is the almighty God.
When did you tell your parents about your new faith?
The first winter break in college I came back with a Bible. I told my mom I had heard of this new thing and I wanted to believe it.
What did she say?
I can’t remember. But you know, my dad doesn’t believe what my mom does. He is the most loyal Communist Party member I’ve ever met. He believes the Communist Party is the best organization in the world, and I should join it. I still haven’t, and he is still trying to convince me.
In my family, we’re pretty open with each other, but also give each other space. They’ve never forced me to leave my beliefs. But if they come to see me and I invite them to my church, they go.
I feel like that’s uncommon.
It is pretty uncommon. God so blessed me with my family, even though they’re unbelievers. I believe they will believe one day.
So your mom was not upset that you had gone against the family god. Were you very surprised?
I was scared. I told her, “Mom, I don’t want to go to the shaman anymore, I don’t think I should go.”
My mom also burns paper money for dead people. My dad doesn’t believe in that either and didn’t want to go. I told my parents I didn’t want to go anymore, so my dad started going with her. That’s how our family works: even though my dad never believed in what I believe or my mom believes, he is supportive. His going with my mom doesn’t mean he believes it, he just wants to make sure she has company and is safe.
You became a Christian in college. Sometimes faith is a process, but for you it sounds like it was instantaneous.
When I look back on my first two years, I was eager to learn. I hung out with Brittany a lot: for the first year once or twice a week, and the second year maybe three times a week. She trained me to lead a younger believer in Bible study. I learned a lot through that: how to care about others, how to speak truth, how to tell others about our God. We Chinese have so many traditions that are different from Christian faith—the first two years were a lot about knowledge. At the beginning, a lot of it was drawing boundaries and learning what things are not true.
Can you give me an example?
Not believing in all these other gods. Starting to build habits. A lot of it was activity-based: go to fellowship weekly, go to Bible study. That was all new. We didn’t do that before. It’s straightforward: Christians do this, non-Christians don’t.
What happened after those first few years of faith?
The third year, it became more about experiencing God. I didn’t really want to obey him. My third year I had a lot of struggle and wrestling with God.
Do you mind sharing what you were wrestling with him about?
The biggest thing was I started to date a brother from our campus fellowship. I had a hard time practicing what God meant to our relationship. That brother’s belief was also in a growing stage. He had theories in his mind, but we didn’t know how to live it out. We knew God was the center of our relationship, but we never wanted to read a Bible verse together or talk about it.
We fought a lot and ended up breaking up. I initiated it, because I felt we were not mature enough to keep it going; it was exhausting. After we broke up, we were still interacting and hanging out a lot, just us two. Emotionally, I feel like my life was pretty messy.
I had a hard time with one of my roommates and decided to move out. I told my mom, “I need extra money to move out for a few months.” And she was like, “That will be really dangerous, can you please suck it up?” But I decided, “No.” So I moved out, but it turned out it was not a good decision.
You lived by yourself?
[Yes.] I had some eating problems because I was under a lot of stress.
An eating disorder?
Almost like that. It didn’t last too long, but it was pretty bad for a while. I ate a lot, and then I threw it up. It wasn’t just once a day, sometimes it became the only thing I did in a day. But I didn’t tell anyone about it. I just got it over, thanks to God.
I start to hang out with another mentor my third year in college, and she encouraged me to move back to my dorm. After a few months, I did move back.
Was it smoother, or was it still hard?
It was still hard. My personality is, I just need a lot of space.
Did it shake your trust in God when you experienced these emotions and difficult times?
I remember I was having a really hard time obeying him and trusting he is good. My struggle was, “Why did this happen to me?”
I had a lot of why questions, but I didn’t expect an answer. I was just angry at God.
How did it resolve?
When I look back, I would say I was facing the consequences of my sin. People didn’t tell me that if I sinned, there would be consequences. I felt it was too much: “If you are the God who cares about me and loves me, why do you make it so hard? I made a mistake, so what?”
But when I look back, in that time my faith became more real.
Why do you think that happened?
It went from a knowledge level to challenging my behavior. “Do I really want to grow and live a life that’s like Jesus? Or do I just want to know God and fill my life with good activities that make me look like a good Christian?”
Do you want him, or do you want his benefits?