Today I’m seventy-five years old. Yes. Three-quarters of a century. How can that be? I can still remember standing in my parents’ backyard, a small girl marveling at the powder on my fingers from touching the delicate wings of Mourning Cloak butterflies. Now here I am, my grandchildren grown, my sons middle aged, my memories rich and my loved ones golden.
In hobbit culture, it’s traditional on one’s birthday to give gifts to others. My gift to you today is My Story, excerpts from a chapter from my final book, Walking in His Way—Aligning with the God of the Universe. It tells you how I got to be the person I am today, including what it was like to grow up in Taoism and Confucianism and then discover, to my shock, that there is an entire realm beyond this one, and it includes an open invitation to an astonishing supernatural relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
Thank you for being part of my life, contributor to the richness that I treasure of friendships and family, which are the most valuable blessings of all.
I was born the second daughter of a Confucian scholar. When my dad was a young boy, he was required to read Confucius’ Four Analects every day. He incorporated that worldview into the fabric of his life. I grew up fed on Confucian ethics. Filial piety was especially emphasized—absolute obedience and devotion to my parents regardless of how it affected me personally.
Confucianism is not technically a religion, an attempt to please or appease God for favor, protection and provision. It’s a philosophy, an ethical system in which each person has a pre-determined, assigned place in the hierarchy of family and society. Each person is like a column holding up the roof of the building. If you move away from your designated place, the structure could come crashing down. And it will be your fault. All decisions in life must be made with everyone else, and society itself, in mind. My father used to say everything I did would reflect on me, my family, and all of China—so be a good girl.
I won’t go into all the abuses that happen within that rigid and demanding system back in China and in my dad’s life from childhood even into his years as a young adult with a family of his own, but the part you need to know is I was taught unquestioning obedience. My father used to tell me, “When I say ‘Jump!’ the only question you ask is ‘How high?’” He also said, “You are too young to make good decisions. When you are mature enough I will let you know.” To make matters worse, as the second daughter, I had no status at all in the family four. The hierarchy was Confucian-set: the father, the mother, the elder sister, and me, the caboose. If I ever tried to assert an opinion (even where to go for dinner) I was immediately overruled. There was only one Alpha, and I was not it. I learned early that alpha-hood was out of the question for me. Don’t even think of it. Of course, never having had a chance to make decisions and learn from the consequences, I never learned how to make good ones, so by the time my father told me I was old enough to do so, I didn’t know how, and of course I made very bad ones, which only proved I still wasn’t mature enough to be trusted to decide anything.
The other philosophy I absorbed throughout my childhood was Taoism (the “T” is pronounced as a “D”). Taoism isn’t about ethics or morality. It’s more like a description of what can be observed on Earth. The Tao is an impartial and impersonal force. Humans are an insignificant small part of a huge whole. Things are neither good nor bad: they just are, and the job of humans is to find how to fit in and not get crosswise with the Tao, that powerful, inexorable Force.
This is the classic Taoist story my father told me.
A farmer had a horse, and one day it ran away. His neighbor said, “Oh that’s terrible,” and the farmer said, “You never know. It could be good, it could be bad.”
The next day the horse came back, bringing with it another horse. His neighbor said, “Oh that’s wonderful!” and the farmer said, “You never know. It could be good, it could be bad.”
The next day the farmer’s son decided to ride the new horse. It bucked him off and he broke his leg. The neighbor said, “Oh that’s terrible!” and the farmer said, “You never know. It could be good, it could be bad.”
The next day soldiers came through the village looking for young men to conscript into the army. Because the farmer’s son had a broken leg, he was not taken to fight in the war.
Of course, you can go on forever—the son, overcome with guilt, becomes an alcoholic, etc., etc., But you get the idea. In Taoism, it could be good, it could be bad. You never know. It all depends.
The symbol of the Tao you see most often is a circle with a black curved raindrop shape wrapped in the curve of an equal white curved raindrop shape. In the center of the heart of each of the shapes is a dot of the other color. My father told me, in actuality, it’s not a flat circle, it’s more like a baseball in three dimensions, and the color, which are wrapped around each other creating a sphere, are black and red. Black represents the yin principle and red represents the yang.
As I said, Taoism is descriptive. Yang is the principle that includes hot, dry, sun, orange, aggressive, penetrating, outside, male (all males are yang, but not all yang is male), blustery, restless, anger, bright, hard, oppositional, decisive. Yin (not ying) is the principle that includes dark, moist, blue, cool, female, receptive, internal, intuitive, ice, calm, still, yielding, depression, deep, rest. There is also a sliding scale so there are varying degrees of whatever—temperatures or energy, foods, colors, personalities. Absolute yin is death. Everything is one or the other.
Taoism is so lovely that God, Himself, had to reveal its lies to me. After I became a Christian, I had a hard time giving it up. I could find nothing wrong with it. So I asked Father God, and He showed me the lie. In the symbol of the Tao, there is a drop of yang in the center of the yin and a drop of yin the center of the yang. There is nothing pure. But God told me He is the Father of Light in Whom is no variableness or shadow of turning. In Him there is no darkness at all. Furthermore, in Taoism, it could be good, it could be bad, depending on your point of view and happenstance. In Jesus, no matter what happens, God will work all of it together for good for those who love Him and are living for Him. We have security. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Ps 23:6)”
There is no Supreme Being in either Confucianism or Taoism, no concept of sin, accountability of choices after death, and nobody to pray to. My father’s mother used to throw the yarrow sticks each morning to see her fortune before she would dare to step out the door. When there’s no God, and you’re on your own to figure out how to navigate your life, you can become very superstitious, afraid to trigger a cascade of ill fortune with no One to appeal to for help.
In Taoism, there is no concept of sin. I realized this as I sat rehearsing the Kyrie from Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Occidental College Glee Club and chapel choir. I remember it clearly. We had just sung Kyrie eleison (“Lord have mercy”). Dr. Swann looked at us and said, “I don’t care what you believe. You need God’s mercy.” I was mystified. What does that mean? Why do I need mercy? I’d heard the word “sin” before, but it always made me think of a drunk in the gutter. I didn’t know it’s an archery term that means “missing the mark.” Not hitting the bullseye. It would be many years before I understood the significance of sin, what it does, and why I wouldn’t want to. I already wasn’t a drunk in the gutter. How can anyone know what is sin and what is not?
Well, the Bible goes into that in detail, but there’s a really easy way to find out what is sin and what is not. Did Jesus do it? We know He didn’t commit murder, lie, steal, sleep around, or profane the Name of the LORD. But I now realize there are other “missings of the mark” I wouldn’t automatically consider. So I ask myself, was Jesus ever retaliatory? vengeful? self-centered? dominating? power-hungry? short-tempered? malicious? rebellious? Did He belittle others? Did He mock, ridicule, scorn, or demean? Was He selfish? obsessed with His comfort, convenience, or insistent upon getting what He deserved including dignity, respect, and honor? Was His life all about gain, privilege, validation, control? Seems to me He left vindication and validation in the hands of His Father. After four decades of living with the Lord, I no longer need the world to validate me, but I still struggle with flesh. So, in this way of looking at sin, I have to say I need mercy. I sure do! Lots of it! And the good news, the Good News, is I have it. New every morning. In abundance. I have it because Jesus already paid for every one of those sins. Kyrie eleison. Thank You, Jesus! In that mercy, in the abundance of forgiveness, there is freedom from the penalty of sin, freedom to make mistakes and learn, freedom to go to God and reconnect, realign, and reconcile (the way everything is right when you get all the numbers to agree on the ledger sheet).
But back to my story. My parents decided early on not to try to indoctrinate me in any religions, though I was thoroughly steeped in Confucianism and Taoism. You can’t help conveying your beliefs to your children. It’s expressed in everything you say and do. When my friend Janet left for school, her parents would say, “Have fun.” When I left for school, my parents would say, “Be good.” …
In the 1950s, Chinese were not welcome in White neighborhoods. The Anti Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 had been repealed only about a decade before, and hatred for the yellow peril was still alive and well, even among Christians. I still remember answering a knock on our door. I opened it and saw a middle-aged white woman standing there with a sour look on her face. “You’re going to hell and all your ancestors too because you don’t believe in Jesus,” she snapped. Then she spun around and left me standing there in shock staring after her. I was a little kid. I knew nothing of Jesus. And after that, I didn’t want to. After that, I started hating Christians and Jesus too. If that’s what His followers were like, I didn’t want anything to do with any of them.
As a freshman in college I thought someday I would have to figure out what I believed about God. I remember looking out of my dorm window thinking, How about now? I decided that God, if there was one, got everything going and then stepped back and let it work itself out. God, if there was one, was much too big and important to bother with Earth and us insignificant beings upon it. After that, I studied world religions. In class, I learned that human beings, trying to understand their circumstances, developed religious systems that would explain the life they saw around them. I was particularly attracted to Hinduism because it was the oldest. I always liked originals. To me, they had more credibility because they were the first. I was also attracted to Buddhism, which came out of Hinduism and shared some basic tenets such as reincarnation, but I wasn’t drawn to the easy kind that the masses followed. I liked Zen Buddhism. It required more discipline and was very artistic. The best calligraphers were Zen Buddhists.
As I said, it’s one thing to read about a world religion in a book, and quite another to see it in practice. In 1967, my parents sent me on a university ship for a semester at sea. I took world religions so I could go on field trips to the most sacred places in India and Japan.
Hinduism and Buddhism
It was dusk when I began walking the streets of Bombay with my shipmate Margaret and the Indian man who was one of the directors of tourism in charge of greeting our students. He had taken an interest in me and offered to give us a tour of the city. So he chose for us wonderful foods from the vending carts and told us about the architecture and history of the ancient city. I noticed emaciated people in rags lying on the streets and in doorways, barely visible in the dimming light. They seemed to be the color of dust, almost indistinguishable from the hard surfaces on which they lay. Our guide said, “Pay no attention to those people. They all have jobs. They just prefer to sleep on the streets and in doorways.” Confucian-trained to unquestioningly respect and accept whatever Teacher said, I believed him. But then I found out that every morning some people would come by and pick up any body that didn’t move and throw it in the back of the cart. So much for my romance with Hinduism. On the dirty streets of Bombay, I had a first-hand look at what reincarnation translates to in real life.
Here is how reincarnation works. You have this thing called karma. It gets sticky when you do something bad and loses its stickiness when you do something good. When it’s sticky, it picks up stuff that weighs it down. When it’s less sticky, some of the heavy stuff falls off. When you die, whatever you weigh at the time determines how you will be born the next time around. The more you weigh, the lower your life form. If you’re a bad man, you might come back as a woman or a dog. If you’re good, you can be born a male human being in one of the castes, the highest being Brahmin (they’re the ones with the dot on their foreheads) followed by the Kashatrian class, which is the warriors. I don’t remember the others. The lowest of the low are the untouchables, because they’ve been so awful they don’t even deserve to be in a caste. And if you’re very, very good, you will come back as a Brahma bull.
The thing about karma is it’s utterly inexorable. You get what you deserve. There’s no forgiveness, grace, mercy, or extenuating circumstances. What you weigh is what you get. Therefore, if you have a low birth, you must work off your bad karma by suffering to make up for all the wrongs you’ve done. Blindness, physical deformities, low economic status all indicate less than stellar performance in your former life.
In a documentary I saw two blind kids making their way through a crowded Tibetan street when an old woman yells at them, “You deserve to eat your father’s corpse!” One of the boys says to the other, “I wonder what I did. I don’t think it was too bad, though. I don’t think I killed anyone.” The parents are affected too. It is thought they did terrible wrong in their previous life since they are cursed with a useless blind child. It’s really an ugly system when you see it in operation. …I think it’s important to see religious systems as they really are, as they are believed and practiced.
But wait! It gets worse. Since reincarnation is a belief that says you are what you deserve to be, and you must work off your past bad behavior by suffering, no one is inclined to help you. It’s not a character flaw in other people; it’s an expression of their worldview. In their religious system, to help you would be to interfere with your process and actually hinder your coming back next time in a higher life form. So, by necessity, there is a lack of compassion. In Pearl S. Buck’s memoir of her childhood in China, she wrote if you saved a drowning man, not only would you be responsible for the man, you would also be responsible for his entire family because you interfered with the ending of his present life and the completion of the suffering that was, perhaps, sufficient to give him a better life next time.
You can guess that the caste system is rigid and unforgiving. If you’re privileged, it’s because you deserve it and you can justifiably look down on everyone else. Lower castes deserve their lack of status, and your destain actually helps them suffer, thus causing more paying off of the consequences of their wicked former life.
Our guide was of the Kashatrian caste. He regaled Margaret and me with lovely stories of tumbling with his siblings in their beautiful home, their travels to fascinating places, his excellent education. He was very, very nice to us, but when his “man” came to the taxi window to ask for instructions for his next task, our guide was so curt and rude to him that we were shocked. The man was trying to do his job, but he was interfering with our departure to the next interesting place, and our guide verbally cuffed and kicked him as you would a bothersome dog who got in your way as you strolled in the park.
You can learn a lot about a religion by how the people act, and especially how they treat other human beings. Of course, the Christians of my early life were more like stink weeds than flowers releasing the fragrance of Christ, but I found out later that was not Jesus’ fault. Nor is it characteristic of Christianity. In fact, when I began interviewing my parents for books I was writing on their lives, they told me about a number of Christian people who had put themselves at risk to help them. Many of them were white, and several became their lifelong friends. I mention this because it’s too easy to lump people together in categories and make a case for offenses and wrongs that are unforgiven and require restitution. I don’t feel that way. In my talks on the Chinese-American experience, I often tell the audience not to feel guilty about how their people might have treated my people. I say, “As a representative of my people, I forgive you.” Enough of this blaming and complaining and demanding. Back in China, the Chinese were mean to each other, even in the same village. There is no one righteous, no not one. We all need to be forgiven. However, in the lands where reincarnation isn’t a romanticized, watered-down concept of past lives and multiple opportunities to learn and do better, there is no hope of forgiveness. And the manifestations are surprisingly heartless. I heard there’s a sect of monks that beats dogs so they can be born higher next time.
In reincarnation you experience the consequences of your choices, for good or for ill, and you pay for them the next time around. But no worries. If you’re a dung beetle because you’ve been very bad, or blind, or mentally inert, you have a lifetime to learn, suffer, make better choices, and be born better next time. In this way, you can continue learning, improving, and finally get to the point where your karma doesn’t weigh you down at all. At that point, you don’t have to come back anymore. You float on up to Nirvana, a state of total bliss, a raindrop returning to the ocean, your individual life disappearing into the great oneness.
There’s always a drop of truth in the lie. The truth is, our human hearts long for total oneness with God. And God longs for total oneness with us. Jesus says it in John 17. It’s the kind of connection that knows no separation, that soulmate closeness that humans long for in a mate, the kind of unity a jockey feels with a 1500 pound race horse when they are roaring down the track, moving together as one. You’re not absorbed in the other, and you do not become one another, yet you are so joined together you are no longer two entities but one.
In Buddhism, you don’t get Nirvana. When you’re good enough, you become a bodhisattva, a god in human form. Let me explain something here. In Buddhism, everyone can become a buddha. It represents a state of being where you have reached the Middle Way in a perfection of non-involvement with the vicissitudes of life. You don’t get worried, you don’t get afraid, you don’t get angry or frustrated, or excited about anything. You live in a peaceful tranquility as exemplified by the slightly upturned corners of the mouth of the statues of Gautama Buddha that represent him in his enlightened state.
“Gentle Guan Yin” was my favorite story in Frances Carpenter’s book, Tales of a Chinese Grandmother. I still remember one of the lines. “She thought only good thoughts for nine years, and at last she was perfect.” But as she was about to enter into Heaven in her new god-state, Guan Yin heard the cries of humans in distress and turned back to help them. She is considered the goddess of compassionate hearing, and a favorite bodhisattva to this day.
According to this system, anyone can become a buddha or a bodhisattva, you just have to be good enough to be perfect. Of course, Gentle Guan Yin thought only good thoughts for nine years. I can’t even do nine minutes. Not much chance of goddess-hood for me!
So what’s the lie here? By extreme discipline you can become perfect. You can become a god. Not “you can become like God,” but you can become a god and be worshiped. What’s wrong with this picture? Do you hear hissing from the Garden? Trumpets blaring to call you to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue? Anti-christ’s declarations on the threshold of the end of all Time? Scripture does say we are joint-heirs with Christ, which is rather elevated and spectacular when you think of it, but human beings as gods? Nah.
The Zen Master
As I said, I was drawn to Zen Buddhism, and there was a living Zen Buddhist master and calligrapher that I greatly admired. It so happened that one day when I was in San Francisco, I noticed a poster that said he was going to be speaking at the campus of a nearby college. Delirious with my good fortune, I eagerly arrived early—early enough to be in the front of the cluster of adoring disciples who crowded around this popular man.
The poster had said we would be meeting in a particular room, but when we arrived, it was obviously too small, so the master called the school to change the room. When the young woman arrived to escort us and unlock the new room, she was in an agitated state. I don’t know why. What did the illustrious Zen master do? He laughed at her. Then he ridiculed and berated her. The more flustered she became, the more he derided her for being upset, for not being tranquil the way he was. It was ugly. As we walked to the new room, the Zen master continued to make fun of the woman’s distresses. She had obviously no idea of how to maintain tranquility in any situation, the Middle Way where nothing bothers you. I felt sorry for her. And Zen Buddhism, in person, lost its shine. Even I, a floundering, confused young woman, knew that wasn’t the way to treat other people, especially when they’re having a bad day.
God does want us to be able to have His peace no matter what the circumstances, but that comes from knowing He will take care of us no matter what. But that’s a different kind of peace from detachment. That peace comes from secure attachment to the One Who holds our times in His hands and will work it all together for our good.
Incidentally, this flat-line, seemingly serene existence is not life and more abundantly. Jesus wasn’t a flat-line person. He threw the money changers and merchants out of the temple—more than once. And He told the Pharisees they were a brood of vipers and whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. Not very polite, tolerant, or nice. But the Greek word for meekness is prautes, strength under control—like a great war horse completely under the control of its rider. As Greek scholar William Barclay put it, it’s never being angry at the wrong time and always being angry at the right time.
Once I asked Jesus why He said such awful things to the religious leaders of His people. It was because that’s what it took to shock them out of their complacency. “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more” would not have done the job. They had to be shocked, the way an exposed wire from a worn electrical cord can give you a small, but very unpleasant jolt. It makes you aware something is wrong, and might motivate you to investigate what it is and figure out how to fix it. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were high-ranking members of the Sanhedrin. Not all the religious leaders in Israel were so invested in their power and status and righteousness that they did not become open to radical Truth, especially when He was there in person telling them where the dangers lay.
By the way, I used to think of Hindus as extraordinarily detached from this world, sitting in lotus position for hours, serenely working out their karma with private meditation. Recently I learned that Hindus have murdered thousands of Christians in India. And Buddhists can be violent against Christians as well.
There’s another thing about Hindus. It seems the outcasts, the untouchables whose lot in life is to starve, be shamed, and rot, are coming in droves into he arms of Jesus Christ. What a shocking freedom they must have, what delirious joy must be theirs when their worldview opens, transformed with spiritual eyes to see a different reality—the generous grace of God’s forgiveness for every wrong, and their adoption with honor into His Family!
I thought it would help you to know about this, because every so often we hear how awful Christianity has been to other cultures, peoples, and religions, especially in the Crusades. I’m not defending what wrongs have been done in Jesus’ name. I hated Him for it, remember. But it’s worth noting that the murders that have been done because of atheism worldwide far outnumber what the Church has done in all its years of history. …
So I abandoned Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and moved to the occult, the hidden knowledge that is mysterious and supernatural. That was the rage in the 1970s. Some of it wasn’t new to me.
In the 1950s, playing with Ouija boards was common. We had them in our house… I had grown up with astrology. My mother used to read our newspaper horoscopes to us every morning, though we didn’t take it seriously. We could tell they were so general they would fit almost anyone. Nevertheless, Mom bought each of us, including her grandchildren, mugs with our signs on them and a brief description of who we were star-destined to be. Those descriptions became part of our identities.
Aren’t newspaper horoscopes just a harmless amusement? No. At the very least, reading daily horoscopes is input that is not coming from the God Whose entire desire for us is His best for every day. He knows the end from the beginning. Why would we look elsewhere? It’s a diversion—not as something that’s entertaining, but as a stream is diverted from its proper course, resources are diverted from their intended recipient, attention is diverted from the One Who knows how to guide us through whatever comes into our day. Why would we look elsewhere?
At the very worst, astrology can lead to deeper study and become an open door into other occult knowledge. That’s what happened to me. I was trying to align with the stars to insure my future and establish the best configurations of compatible signs in my surrounding relationships. It was deadly. Astrology pigeon-holes people, turning them into categories of expected behavior, instead of seeing them as unique individuals. I ended up divorcing my husband because I was sure we could never reconcile our differences since our signs were so incompatible.
Isaiah 8:19 says: “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God?” Well, yeah. That’s a very good thought, except I had no idea there even was a god, much less The God, so I never thought to seek Him. Plus I already knew I didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus—white man’s God. However there seems to be a drawing to the supernatural, a sense there’s More, so I started looking. It didn’t take long. In the 1970s, Eastern Mysticism was becoming more and more popular, with saffron-robed gurus showing up on network TV, their India-accented voices sounding wise and tranquil. My life was anything but tranquil.
It was an era of experimentation with the paranormal. One fad was astral projection (the spirit leaving the body and tootling around in other dimensions). LSD and peyote were big too. I didn’t use hallucinogenic drugs—or any drugs. I didn’t even drink. Nevertheless, curiosity about personal power seems to be like blood in the water to the sharks of that dark realm, and soon I was being mentored by a psychic with startling violet eyes whose office was just down the hall from mine. I was seeking more power in my life because I had lost all control over it, including my mind. Having given up on my marriage, I ran away, leaving my two little boys with my parents, telling them I would return for them when I had my life together. Why would I do such a thing? As I studied astrology and developed my healer skills, I became less and less in control of my life. I kept dreaming about killing my sons and I was afraid I would do it someday. This may seem creepy to some of you, and I don’t lightly share it, but God told me you need to know, so here goes. Actually, I’ll give you the short version.
Dr. Dennis Greenlee and I were having dinner in a nice restaurant. He had hired me to work in his office and was interested in getting to know me before I left my present job and went to work for him. During the conversation, Dennis mentioned that his life’s dream was to be a missionary. A missionary for Jesus! Those people who force their Christianity on other cultures, insisting that they conform to their standards of morality, forbidding their own heritage, telling them they were all going to Hell and their ancestors too, because they didn’t believe in Jesus! I threw my hands over my ears and said rather too loudly, “Don’t ever say that name to me again!” I said a few other things, but you get the point.
Dennis quietly got me to calm down. He promised. No more Jesus. I sat back down, and he encouraged me to talk about what I was interested in. I told him I was being mentored by a powerful psychic and was about to go astral projecting. I told him I was learning how to make energy balls and tune in to supernatural realms. Dennis listened without comment, but unbeknownst to me, shortly thereafter he asked his Gideon brothers to pray for me. “Pray that the little Chinese girl will see what she’s dealing with and that Jesus will reveal Himself to her.”
Not long after that, Dennis and I were visiting in my apartment. All of a sudden, I felt as if we were being encircled by something so terrifying I could hardly speak. It was like being in a circle of campfire light with wolves from the dark pressing in from every side, only much scarier. I told Dennis I was going to pull up my auric shield, but I couldn’t get it above my knees. Calmly, he said, “I can get rid of them.”
“Do it!” I ordered, shaking harder than I knew was possible.
“You won’t like it,” he said with maddening calm.
I barked, “Do it anyway!”
“Okay,” he said. “In the name of Jesus, I command you to leave.” Like a wave withdrawing from the shore, the “things” withdrew and disappeared.
The next day, I went to see the head psychic. I could tell there was something—a seven-foot tall something—following me. “Something is here,” she said. “It doesn’t mean me harm, but it means you harm.”
“I know,” I said. She had to answer the phone so I sat on a stool and said in my mind, “Jesus, I don’t know you and I don’t like you, but I saw something last night, and if you’re who he says you are, get rid of this thing.”
The psychic got off the phone and said, somewhat surprised, “It’s gone.”
I said, “I know.”
That was the beginning.
So now I knew there was a realm, an invisible one, inhabited by beings that were real and powerful and terrifying. I had also seen a power much greater than theirs, that they had to obey, but that did not force itself upon me. I knew it was Jesus because that’s the name we called on for help. I didn’t see or hear Him, no light in the corner, no voice in the room, but He came and the other things left. I didn’t fall at His feet and worship. Instead, I felt a kind of reserved amazement. Oh! You do exist. I wonder what that means. When you’ve spent your life hating someone, you don’t automatically fall in love with Him. I take that back. Some do. Recently I watched a documentary about five Muslims, each living in a different country, who were in deep anguish for one reason or another. Each got to the point they begged God to reveal Himself, and Jesus showed up. Each of them was radically changed, but they already believed in God and had been devout and serious followers of their faith.
My coldness of soul was from no consciousness of God at all. It’s like the kittens in the experiment I heard about. Researchers put young kittens in an empty room with horizontal lines painted on the walls. After a few weeks they put the kittens in a normal house, and the kittens bumped into the legs of the tables and chairs. I was like that with God. I couldn’t see anything vertical. No neural pathways from exposure, so I simply couldn’t comprehend it.
Not long after that, I started working as a microcurrent therapist at Dr. Greenlee’s office… I’d see a patient every fifteen minutes, twenty-five patients a day. Even though it was forty-five years ago, there are two patients I remember quite well. They were middle-aged white women, Marge and Myrtle. When I think of it, they were about the same age and look as the one who showed up at my door when I was a little girl—the one who told me I was going to Hell and my ancestors too. But Marge and Myrtle weren’t like that.
Marge had those lumpy knuckles of osteoarthritis—very painful. I could see the pain in her eyes, but she never complained. Myrtle was a caretaker for some grown men with mental disabilities. She called them her boys and always spoke of them with immense fondness, though I know they were sometimes difficult, and she was not young or strong. She, too, never complained. These two women would come in and tell me about Jesus. I don’t remember what they said exactly, I just felt the acceptance and care, and also noted that they said the same things—about how God loved me and had a purpose for my life. Really? Could it be true I wasn’t the randomly birthed second daughter of the Confucian scholar? The invisible, the inept, the untalented, the plain, the unremarkable? I knew they didn’t know each other. I thought they must be reading the same book or something because they consistently said the same words. And they never told me what a wretched sinner I was—though I really was. I had abandoned my children. I was still in the occult. I was rebellious, defensive, profane, lawless—a person still believing I would have to construct my own value within the overwhelming meaninglessness of life.
Marge and Myrtle were regulars. Each of them had an appointment every week. And whenever one of them had an appointment, whatever day or time, the patients on either side of their time slot would cancel. I’d have forty-five minutes with one of those sweet women, hearing and feeling the love of Jesus week after week.
They loved me into the Kingdom.
Looking back, I know God intervened. Even then I knew something was fishy about those cancellations. It was the first I noticed the fingerprints of God on my life, evidence of His Presence and love as He waited to be wanted. I’m telling you this for several reasons.
I didn’t believe in demons. I thought there was just the Tao, and power could be good and it could be bad. Since my intention was to heal people, I was sure the forces I was cultivating and controlling were good. It never occurred to me there might be malevolent entities on Earth that would actually be controlling me, and make me, the original peacemaker, want to kill my children. It was the twentieth century, for Heaven’s sake. Well, I found out demons are real whether you believe in them or not. And they aren’t your friend.
Even though I was rude to Him, the Lord of the Universe was patient and loving with me. Gently and graciously He began to open my eyes, particularly through the love of Marge and Myrtle, and, about a year later, I finally gave Him my heart.
Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave. He made a public spectacle of all of the demonic realm when He conquered them on the Cross and was resurrected as proof that every single sin was paid for in full. So we certainly don’t need to be afraid. There is also a lot in the Bible about the supernatural power of God. The invisible realm operates by authority. All power in Heaven and Earth has been given to Jesus. And He has given it to us. Demons always have to obey, which is why Dennis didn’t even have to raise his voice. It was the authority of Jesus’ Name he was using, not rituals, incantations, or personal power.
…I often thank the Gideons in my heart and ask the Lord to bless them, because they prayed for me when I was hostile and unreceptive, and God answered by showing me the truth of the spiritual reality that exists beyond what we can see, and rescued me.
During my unguided search for truth, I had no idea what “personal God” meant. I thought, if there was a god, he made everything and, being much too big and busy to bother with us puny, insignificant humans, left it all to work out itself. After I became a Christian, Jesus surprised me by saying, “Honey, it takes a much bigger God to know every hair on your head and the thoughts and intents of your heart.” I didn’t know, when I was a freshman in college, deciding what I thought about God as I looked out my dorm room window, that He was listening—waiting for me to discover the depths of His love.
I wish my parents had taught me about Jesus because, though I eventually came to know Him, I made a big mess out of my life first, and wasted time I could have spent growing in the love of God. But we were Chinese and nobody told us. On the other hand, when I was thirty, Jesus sent Marge and Myrtle to love me into the Kingdom and, years later, I was able to bring both of my parents to Christ.
Looking back into those early years, I have an impression of a young woman desperately pretending to be alive. More accurately, I feel the truth of the Scripture that says we were once dead in our trespasses and sins. For thirty years I sat in darkness under the shadow of death, but the Dayspring from on High came and shined His Light on me and guided my feet in the ways of peace. I have now spent more than half my life in the company of the God of the Universe. I have never felt such love. I have never enjoyed my life more. I am gloriously, overwhelmingly, eternally grateful. Someday I will see His dear, beloved face and be with Him forever, and, as C.S. Lewis wrote, that will be the beginning of my real story, the Great Story in which every chapter is better than the one before.