From China to Harvard (And Back Again) – Who I Want to Be
Looking back, my life story is gradually turning into a God story. As much as I wanted to make my own effort to find and choose my faith, I was merely stumbling down a road in thick smog. I didn’t know true north and I didn’t have a proper compass, ignorant of the right way to think and experience. But God reached out his hands, paved my way, and guided me. Even though he did not blatantly show his face to me, God artfully, carefully, and respectfully let me experience his existence intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Meeting him is just the beginning. The initial smash of pride just cracked out a fissure. It still takes time and a process to completely put to death my old self formed over the past 23 years. My new self must resurrect with spiritual fruit.
For the rest of my gap year, God challenged my values and transformed me inside out through the Bible and the activities of the student fellowship. The abundant, precious free time in the second half of my gap year enabled me to totally soak in the Bible. And the Holy Spirit even used me, a baby Christian, to help with discipleship trainings. Through fellowship and the scripture, God rooted my faith in him firmly.
The biggest transformation was in my values and how I see my relationship with the world. My mom’s fellowship lacked pastors or ministers, but God sent his faithful servants from the United States and South Korea to the group every month. Being bilingual, I was honored to translate for them. Because of this, I quickly became familiar with scripture both in Chinese and English. During my interaction with these people, I learned abundantly about how God disciplined these believers when they went astray and how God pulled their lives out of dark valleys.
I was utterly amazed by how gentle and loving these people were. They completely changed my values about who I wanted to become. They did not have any masks and pretenses for protection, but completely opened up their gentle and loving hearts to others. I wondered, “Aren’t you afraid of being scarred and hurt by this world?”
Then I found the secret in their hearts. The deeper I knew them, the stronger the faith I found in them. I realized they were not naïve; nor were they fearless of being hurt. Rather, they knew that suffering in this world is inevitable. It is not about how to avoid being hurt, but how to heal from the wound. Their strong faith in God enables the Holy Spirit to heal them in a short time so that they will not be scared by the hurt, but rather able to continue facing people with the most sincere heart and love.
I used to see my values centered in contributions to the world and the judgment of historical recognition. But such values were the things that made me feel overwhelmed every day thinking about what career I should pursue and how much I should do to have done enough. From these faithful servants of God, I realized that who I want to be is no longer a title or a description of achievements, but a faithful follower of Christ with the same tender and loving heart towards people.
With the firm foundation of faith in Jesus, I excitedly went back to Harvard and graduated from it. Although I faced even more pressure, tougher expectations, and greater uncertainties looking at the future, I no longer felt lost, overwhelmed, or alone. In fact, the last semester at Harvard was the best semester. Freed from the pressure to choose classes in my comfort zone in order to maintain a high GPA, I went out of my comfort zone and took classes that I enjoyed and could learn from.
With a better understanding of human nature, I was also better at empathizing with and loving my friends with different backgrounds from me. I engaged deeply with different Christian fellowship events. Bible studies helped me continue to deepen my relationship and understanding of God and gave me a safe space to have difficult conversations about life. Through Christian fellowships, I made great friends for soul communication.
A deeper understanding of Christianity also allows me to see, feel, understand, and empathize with American society to an unprecedented depth. No matter how secular New England society has become, its fundamental values like human rights and individualism are still greatly indebted to Christian values. Only when I understood the fundamental origins, could American culture start to resonate with me.
Now out of Harvard, the community of Highrock Church and the Harvard Kennedy School Christian Fellowship (my boyfriend is co-leading there) continue to support and console me when facing the imperfections of people and life. There can still be frustrations and confusions, but loneliness and anxiety disappeared completely from my life because I know my Shepard is always with me. And he has a plan for me.
Because I know my Shepard takes care of me, I am finding more and more ways my faith touches my life. For example, even though last year my boyfriend and I were in San Francisco and Boston respectively, we were able to maintain praying together every day. Virginia Wolf used to write that the longest distance is from one heart to another. But she failed to learn that two hearts can meet on the bridge of the Holy Spirit. Distance cannot separate hearts united in the love of Christ.
God’s plan is mysterious! He exalted me so high that he sent me to Harvard, and yet he brought me back to ground zero in order to save my soul. I am excited to continue to walk with him in this life of grace.
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 final post in a three-part series sharing her spiritual journey. Make sure you check out her first and second posts!