Monday, July 02, 2007

And the angels dance!

I have just received the best news in the world!

L is from China and a friend of mine at university. He only arrived in England last October and struggled initially with the language and Western culture in general. He didn't look like the sort of person I'll initially click with: a chain smoker, a tai-ko look etc. But I also knew well that appearances deceive, and how difficult it is to be a stranger in an alien environment.

God has given me a knack for being able to understand people even when they don't articulate themselves well, and of course, coupled with the fact that I am Chinese after all, even if my Mandarin is rubbish, I was able to better understand him, help him with his English and negotiate the everyday foibles of life - purchasing cheaper train tickets, using the library etc. And he taught me a lot as well: he has much experience in life, and his generous spirit and his bravery at studying in a foreign tongue never fails to amaze me.

At some point, it came out that I was a Christian, and he confided in me that he had been shown kindness in New Zealand by Christians as well, where he had initially studied English. And he was eager to know more. I broached the topic of my faith in several conversations, and introduced him to Christian friends whom he could better converse with in Mandarin.

And one day, I took a chance. I asked him if he wanted to read the Bible with me. To my big surprise he said yes! And so we began looking at Mark's gospel together over a couple of months. It's a great experience to read the Bible with a non-Christian, especially one who has zero Bible knowledge, and I had to make sure that I explained Bible terminology such as "sin", "repent", "believe", "prophets", "Pharisees" as simply as I could without completely draining them of meaning!

Nevertheless, I took him to the Gospels simply because I wanted us together to see Jesus. Together we saw Jesus coming onto the scene, declaring himself to be the King who had been promised ("The time is fulfilled! The kingdom of God is at hand!"). We saw Jesus' compassion on the paralytic and his amazing twin claims to being the King ("Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven, or go, take up your mat and walk?") and Rescuer ("I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"). We saw Jesus exercising his Kingly power over creation ("Even the wind and waves obey him!"), evil spirits ("What do you want with me Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"), illness (the woman with infirmity) and even death (Jairus' daughter). And we see Jesus telling us why we are in need of a Savior ("What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean'"). We saw Jesus ready to help a man with even his unbelief ("I believe, help my unbelief"), for only Jesus can cure us of our spiritual blindness (Peter's confession of Christ comes after Jesus performs a rather unusual healing of a blind man, and it is clear that Mark deliberately sets the narrative that way).

It was a good experience, but it was not without its frustrations. Many times, I wondered if I was really communicating a gospel of grace or if I was subtly communicating a works-righteousness gospel. There were times when L seemed on the verge of becoming a Christian, only for him to shrink back. Many times I despaired at my own prayerlessness and my own failure to model a Christ-centered life. I worried if I was getting too pushy, or not challenging him hard enough. But through it all, I also knew that God was really the One who was overseeing things, and I was not the one who was ordering the future.

We haven't reached the momentous events of Mark 15 yet (although he does know how Mark's story ends). In fact, I had been neglecting meeting with him to read the Bible together recently, partly out of busyness but also partly out of discouragement. But tonight L gave me a call. He told me that he had read a book of testimonies that I had given to him. And that finally, he had decided, at 2am, just like one or two in that book, to get on his knees and talk to the Creator of the Universe, who also happened to give his only Son out of love for us.

And that, he thinks, he's finally become a follower of Jesus!

It's not an easy decision. I know in many ways, his understanding of following Jesus (as is mine) is still limited. But he knows it will cost - together we read Jesus' warning that following him means taking the way of the cross. When we next meet, I'll be reading the story of the rich young man with him. Only with God is all things possible.

And I know that really, L becoming a Christian was only possible because of God. It didn't have that much to do with me, I was just in the right place at the right time. But I rejoice anyway, knowing that my God is both a sovereign God and a loving God.

Update: See my follow-up post May the angels truly dance.



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Blogger why, yarn? said...

woohoo!! amen! praise the Lord! etc, etc, etc..

11:07 am  
Blogger mad_scientist said...

For a moment, i thought I will hear church bells ringing and confetti flying in the air ... but this news is greater by far. :-D

Seeing another crossing over from the darkness into His Light is always an occasion of joy ...

And the honour of having the privilage of being part of the person's journey, being His instrument - just humbling. Especially when we see our own imperfections so clearly. Indeed, God is sovereign.

All the best as you guide your friend in his new life with Christ; following in the footsteps of the Shepherd. And congrats! :-)

1:44 pm  

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