From China to Harvard (And Back Again) – The Beginning of Truth-Seeking
After I arrived back in Chengdu, I was forced to join my mom’s college student fellowship because I no longer had the excuse, “I am busy studying.” Because the fellowship was in another town, it would take me a total of six hours to attend every time. I initially felt like this was such a waste of time. But when I realized that I became calmer and more efficient after going the fellowship, I changed from reluctantly going to actively going. It was in this inland Chinese Christian fellowship that I witnessed a real truth-seeking attitude. At the beginning, I still misused my critical reading skills to pick out problems with nitty-gritty details and asked very harsh questions during the Bible studies. Subconsciously, it was my pride. I wanted to show these Chinese university students what critical thinking is.
But to my surprise, instead of jumping out of the chair and quickly becoming defensive, the students at the fellowship would pause five seconds before answering my question. This pause made me feel like they were taking my questions seriously and really thinking them over carefully, even though I was just trying to challenge them. Understandably, those questions were hard questions; most of the time, there could hardly be any convincing answers. When they met such questions, they would speak to me in tender tones, saying, “I am sorry that I don’t think I have the answer right now. But God’s wisdom is beyond human discernment. However, I hope you continue to ask these questions, and I will pray that God himself the Holy Spirit will guide you to the answer.”
“I don’t know” was so foreign to me after years at Harvard. In our sections at school, we were trained to speak up simply for the purpose of expressing our opinions, but it did not matter whether our point was right or wrong or whether we believed in what we said or not. The skill to voice and argue an opinion often seemed more important than truth. Whether objective truth even really exists was questionable at Harvard. Saying “I don’t know” was the worst. Why couldn’t you think of anything to say? You definitely must not have thought hard enough, or you must be social-phobic. You are weak.
However, doesn’t it take true courage to admit uncertainty? Doesn’t it take humility and the attitude of seeking after truth to not give an answer when you are not sure? Most importantly, “I don’t know” is not the end, but rather the beginning of truth-seeking. These Chinese Christians answered with a conviction and method to hope for truth. They told me that the ultimate truth has to be learned under God’s guidance, because only he knows what truth is. And the method is to pray for his guidance.
What a humbling experience! I, from the so-called best institution in the world, spoke out of pride and provocation. They, from the inland Chinese universities, spoke with humility, hope, and real truth-seeking attitudes. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:9) God knew humility was the prerequisite for me to receive his gospel. In subsequent Bible studies, I started to learn to speak with openness and tried to understand the big picture of the Bible.
Humbled, I patiently listened to my Christian friends’ testimonies of God. They claimed that they all had experiences of the Holy Spirit touching them. “Why haven’t I experienced such moments?” I wondered.
But soon I experienced such a moment. In May 2013, a famous pastor from Taiwan came to Chengdu to preach for a weekend. During the worship, I suddenly started weeping and could not stop. I realized that I had always held my personal success as an idol in my heart: my academic excellence, my prestigious school and job, and my nobility in caring for people. Although these external successes gave me a lot of worldly glory, they actually squeezed me so tightly that I eventually made serious mistakes. I felt as if my Achilles’ heel was pierced through. When the dark wound was exposed under the light, it hurt so badly. I wept.
Then the pastor called out, “Please feel free to come forward to pray in front of God.” I went up there; I kneeled down. I did not know how to pray, so I just spoke. “God, you lifted me up so high into Harvard, but I became such a proud person. Please keep humbling me, for when I am full, I am not able to receive you.” And in this process, I felt a stream of warmth burst out from the bottom of my heart, flow into my veins, and reach every capillary. It was an enormous peace, along with a tremendous sense of freedom – I experienced ecstasy, but this was something I had never felt before. God healed my wound during my “talking.”
Thanks to God’s grace, the realization of my weakness and sinfulness did not make me feel condemned, but rather it freed me from my shame. “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
The last barrier was my intellectual stubbornness. I think in everyone’s journey to know God, there are tons of questions even after becoming Christ’s follower. For me, there were probably a hundred of them, but five to six of them were so vital and I felt I could not reconcile them. One question among them was if God is all-good, and he creates all, why then does evil exist? So I said to God, “God, I cannot make sense of these few aspects of you.”
Two weeks after being touched by the Holy Spirit, a business school professor from Holy Cross College happened to get connected with my mom and came to our fellowship to share a high level overview of what Christianity and the gospel are. In his sharing, he answered all five of my questions. At that moment, I was completely in awe. God had sent someone from the other side of the globe to answer my questions. Yes, there were still many more questions on my mind. But God had reached out to me already. If I did not reach out in response, how could I learn more about him? If I still chose to refuse, I would be the most stubborn person in the world!
On that night, I raised my hand, willing to become a follower of Christ.
Wanxin Cheng grew up in Chengdu, China, and graduated from Harvard College in May 2014. She currently studies at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts. This is the second post in a three-part series sharing her spiritual journey. Read her first post here and join us on Friday for her third and final post.