Editor’s note: Pastor Li Jie was detained in Linfen, Shanxi Province, in August of 2022. On the date of their 10th wedding anniversary, his wife, Li Shanshan, wrote a letter to celebrate their relationship. She shared that letter with their friends here. This is the first half of that letter; the rest will be posted in a few weeks.
The old Chinese idiom goes, “A husband and wife are birds of the same forest, but when disaster strikes, they fly separately.” But I don’t believe that. I believe couples should be like birds of the same feather, flying together in times of difficulty. March 9, 2023, marks the 10th anniversary of my marriage to my husband. Our life was rocked by a great disaster in late summer of 2022, and my husband is now imprisoned while I, as his wife, am awaiting trial, waiting to stand trial alongside my beloved husband. On this wedding anniversary without my husband by my side, I can only express my longing for him through words.
My Dear Husband,
Never did I imagine we would spend our 10th wedding anniversary in this way. We are miles apart: “One couple for one lifetime, lost in reverie in two different places.” [This is a quotation from Qing Dynasty poetry.]
Marrying a Poor Boy Without Regrets
You asked me out on the day of Qixi Festival in 2011. [A Chinese holiday similar to Valentine’s Day.] You said, “Although I like you, my family is poor. After adding all our bits and pieces, we have only 30,000 yuan [about $4,400] saved. Can you talk to your parents and get their approval so we can start dating?” Foolishly, I told him I would ask if my parents agreed.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
I told them about us. My father respected my choice, but my mother was worried. She was concerned that you were too handsome, and also two years younger than me. After a woman gives birth, she said, the woman ages. By then, you might dislike me. My mother also worried your family was too poor, and our lives would be difficult. She said, “If you marry him, you’ll have to rely on your faith to live.”
I understood her concerns; she didn’t want me to live a hard life. But I knew my marriage was in God’s hands. After I prayed, I told her, “Don’t worry. If he is the husband God has chosen for me, God will take care of us. As long as he is a brother who has been born again in Christ, I will marry him. No matter what the future holds, God will take care of us!”
Oh husband, do you know? Your faithfulness to God and your love for me and my family make me feel so secure. God bestowed you upon me, and it is truly my blessing.
We got married on March 9, 2013. At the wedding, I passionately said to you, “”Whether times are good or bad, whether we’re rich or poor, healthy or sick, happy or sad, I will always love you, treasure and respect you, believe in you, take care of you, and be faithful to you forever.” Although we had occasional quarrels and disagreements after marriage, our love for God never changed. Many times, God moved us to confess our sins, repent, and stop arguing.
You were often ill, frequently suffering from fevers and insomnia. Then, I would make you a foot bath. I poured water into the bath, brought it to you, and let your feet rest on a small stool above the hot water. Then I gave you a cup of hot water to drink while you steamed your feet. This promoted sweating, and removed the cold air from your body. Soon, you stopped having frequent fevers, and your sleep improved. It was better than if you had taken medicine. Do you remember these things?
My dear husband, how I wish I could make you a foot bath now! The lawyer told me you often suffer from insomnia in the detention center, and you cannot help but cry when you think of me and our child. I feel the same way! Every night, as I look at your photo and reminisce about our path, I can’t stop crying. I finally understand what the psalmist David meant when he said, “Every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.”
“All I Need Is You”
Please do not feel guilty because you were not able to buy a house. All I need is you, clean and honest, just like you are now. You are indifferent to fame and wealth, and serve God wholeheartedly. That is my only safe haven. When I said, “I do,” I was prepared to rent a house forever. Before we got married, I told you I don’t watch TV or sit on a sofa. We should keep things simple. If we had too many possessions, it would be a hassle when the time came to move again. I don’t care about furnishings; I don’t even watch television. Besides God and you, books are my most important spiritual nourishment.
You know I like to live a simple life. I have worn other people’s old clothes since I was little. It’s not that I can’t afford new clothes, but I think buying clothes is a hassle. Living a simple life saves me a lot of time and energy. It allows me to think about more important things. Do you remember? I have often told you, “If we have food and clothing, we can be content with that. ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain.’”
We are indifferent to our material conditions. It is impossible to imagine that we turned to crime for money. Nobody could believe the charges of fraud they have pinned on us. Those who know us know: we live in a rental house, ride electric bicycles, eat discounted groceries, and wear clothes given to us by others. How could we be “fraudsters”? Furthermore, according to the Bible, Christian offerings are voluntary. These offerings could never be considered a crime. The law of heaven does not dictate this. If an earthly law said they were, that would be an unjust law. I believe the adversity you are facing is a test from God. I also believe that a trial like this cannot shake your faith in God.
My dear husband, I expected our marriage to include poverty, illness, and quarrels, but I never imagined we would be imprisoned together. If I had known that, I would have added a line to my wedding vows: “No matter if we are free or imprisoned, I will always always love you, cherish and respect you, believe in you, take care of you, and be loyal to you forever.”
Now, as I write to remember our 10-year anniversary, I want to give you the words I did not include in our vows back then. Can you hear me?
Li Shanshan is married to Li Jie, a house church pastor who is currently in jail.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for this couple and their children as they endure difficulty.