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Why Didn’t I Want Baptism?

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Why Didn’t I Want Baptism?

 

In fall 1995, I was in my last year of the Master’s program at the Department of Psychology in Beijing Normal University.  The fall leaves decorated the city in a poetic color but I was in no mood to enjoy it.  After a whole year of intense study for the TOEFL and GRE, I finally started submitting the doctoral program applications to colleges in the US.  The worry mixed with hope made it hard for me to relax at any time.  So I started praying every night. 

 

I got a prayer book from a Canadian teacher back in 1992 when I was a junior in the Foreign Languages Department.  That teacher and her family are Baha’i and introduced Baha’u’llah to me, the most recent in the line of Messengers of God.  At that time, I was only twenty years old and couldn’t understand their faith but always admired their peace and joy in life.  I found those prayers in their book soothing at night. 

 

So when my friends asked me how I got accepted by all 9 graduate schools with two full scholarship offers in spring 1996, my answer was always, “because I had prayed.” 

 

Everybody thought that I was joking.

 

Prayers stayed as my bedtime routine since then as they always brought peace no matter how chaotic my day was.  And all my prayers have come true.

 

I had prayed for a husband who respects knowledge.  Dominic, a walking dictionary and encyclopedia, came to my life out of the blue in spring 2001.  (Although I had other characters that I wish that he has after we got married, I couldn’t blame God for their absences because I did not pray for those when I was looking.)

 

I had prayed for two sons.  I got William and David within four years after the wedding.  (Although I changed my mind and wished for a daughter recently, again, I couldn’t blame God because a daughter was not in my prayers during pregnancy.)

 

Gradually I learned that I have to be careful with what I pray for.

 

From my four years of doctoral program in Philadelphia to the fourteen years of working life in California, I’ve visited about seven churches and attended services regularly in three.  I love Sunday morning services.  Beautiful music and touching sermon often put me to tears.  Dominic was born Catholic so both William and David were baptized within six months after their births.  They attended Sunday schools and Faith Formation classes between age 3 and 8.  David also loves his weekly AWANA program where he recites the Scripture verse by verse.

 

But I remained the only person at home who was not baptized.

 

Deep in my heart, I know something was missing but I could always find many evidences to defend my “faith” in the High Power whenever I questioned myself.

 

Look, I say gratitude prayers to God every night to thank Him for all the blessings during each day.

 

Look, I attend church services, participate in church activities and donate more regularly than many baptized members.

 

Look, I went to a church retreat in Santa Cruz Mountains.

 

Look, I never hesitate to help others.  I donate foods and clothes to homeless shelters.  I give to people who ask for money on the street.  I donate hours of my time to non-profit organizations for various projects in our community such as the high school students’ essay contest to raise awareness for mental health.

 

I am living in God’s words, right?

 

But why didn’t I want to be baptized?

 

I even found myself negotiating with God from time to time: If I give myself in Your name, what could You do for me?

 

In March 2001, I was turning left at an intersection and did not yield for a Nissan that was going straight.  Smoke came from my engine right after the collision.  What’s worse, the airbag from the steering wheel hit my face so hard that my left cheek was bleeding badly. I prayed that I would truly believe in God and accept baptism if I survive this accident without any permanent mark on my face.  After my full recovery, my two roommates told me that they had thought for sure that I would need plastic surgery to restore my cheek as it was so badly bruised.

 

In March 2007, William, who just turned two, got a severe stomach flu and vomited all over his bed four times in one dark night. Between exhausting loads of laundries, I held his helpless burning body in my arms and could only pray.  “Dear God, please cut my life short to stop my child’s suffering.  If you could help him recover within the day, I will be baptized.”  William’s vomiting was gone the next morning and the fever was also done by that evening.

 

In May 2013, right before William’s First Communion, I couldn’t find his banner that's needed for the ceremony. After a desperate search around the house, I turned to God for help again.  “Heavenly Father, if you help me find the banner, I will be baptized.”  Within 30 seconds, the banner miraculously showed itself behind a pile of books that I had searched before. 

 

While I marveled at God’s power again and again, I also betrayed him and did not follow through with my words.

 

At first, I had thought that it was because of my respect for all religions.  Buddhism, for example, and various other religions, have benefited hundreds of millions of people from different cultures.  Do I have to deny all if I choose to believe in one? 

 

Then there is my unanswered question. If God created us all and love us all, why many children were born with deficits or disabilities?  During the 18 months when I worked for the Preschool Assessment team, I had to turn around to wipe my tears at several meetings before presenting my diagnostic report to the parents.  Some children were bound to wheelchairs with little chance to ever walk or talk.  Some depend on machines to help them digest or breathe properly.  I couldn’t look in their innocent eyes without asking why.

 

So for 18 years, I prayed and attended church services while seeking my answers. As time goes by, the hole in my heart grew bigger.  Although prayers always bring peace to me at night, who is the “God” that I am praying to?

 

*           *           *

 

            Last week, I saw an online notice that, Dr. Bing Cheng Feng, the author of “Psalm of a Wandering Son,” would be giving three sermons at Silicon Valley Christian Assembly in Santa Clara between April 18 and 20, 2014.  I cancelled my trip to Reno with my family and stayed at home with David for that weekend.

 

            It was my first time visiting the Silicon Valley Christian Assembly in the evening of April 18.  I was impressed since the moment David and I stepped into their bright building. Nothing is fancy from outside to inside but the greeters’ genuine smiles made the place welcoming and warm as a home.

 

           Shirley, the warm-hearted mom whose online notice attracted me here, thoughtfully arranged a couple to sit with me at dinner time.  Mr. Ming Zhong and his wife shared with me their experiences raising a daughter with Down's Syndrome.  They told me that my confusion regarding why some children were born with disabilities stemmed from my biased standard in judging the worth of human lives.  They learned that God does not judge His children based on how human society does, such as school grades, which college they go to or how much money they make in the future.  God only judges us by whether we have Him in our hearts and live by His words.  More often than not, children with disability have stronger faith as they rely on God more wholeheartedly.  Mr. and Mrs. Zhong also explained to me that there is no discussion about “fairness” in the Bible, only “just.” 

 

            Their sharing was the only answer that spoke to me after 18 years of searching.

 

            The packed worship hall was filled with beautiful singing before the sermon.  Tears came down my face without control.  I don’t know why but singing at church always put me to tears.

 

            For the two-hour talk that night, Dr. Feng shared scientific findings that showed how many wonders in nature are beyond what human science can ever explain.  He showed how small the Earth is when compared with the universe and how well the universe is designed.  He showed us how perfectly everything works together to have life on Earth. None of those could ever be created by accident.  Dr. Feng emphasized that if we still want science to prove whether God exists or not, we'll never find a definite answer as we are created by God and can never fully comprehend our Creator’s power.  He further explained that there is no need to wait and have all questions answered before baptism as we’ll never find our answers unless we open the door to our hearts and let Jesus in first.

 

            In my hand was a simple half-page handout, asking three simple questions followed by two prayers. 

 

1.    Do you want to face yourself and admit your sins in front of God?

 

2.    Examine yourself for 3 minutes, mark a check on any sin that applies to you from the following list.

 

3.    Please select any negative feelings that enslave or burden you from the following list.

 

When I say prayers to God every night with William and David, did I just thank Him for the boys’ progress and ask for His blessing instead of questioning how to serve in His words?

 

When I attend church services and donate on Sunday mornings, did I do that with joy or sense of obligation?

 

When I do charity work for the community, did I secretly feel proud that my name is recognized by more people instead of the honor of another opportunity serving in God’s name?

 

When I went to retreats in Santa Cruz Mountains, did I devote to the studies and focus on my spiritual growth or just to fit in with my group of friends?

 

When I took on more duty and bring snacks for William’s baseball team every Monday, did I secretly look down upon those parents who chose not to take turns?  Who am I to judge others when I carry so many sins on my own shoulders?

 

I’m impatient, disorganized, judgmental, at times arrogant … And the list goes on.

 

            Suddenly, the clouds in my head cleared up.

 

I hesitated before baptism for 18 years because I did not want to face how small and humble I am or to admit how many sins I have done. 

 

I grow resentment at home when Dominic travels often and works long hours during weekdays while I juggle between the boys’ school, extracurricular activities and my part-time job.  If I truly follow God's words, how could I justify those negative feelings that I enslave myself in anymore?

 

I had prided myself as a “good” person all those years.  Now I see that pride was built upon emptiness.

 

During the second talk in the following evening, Dr. Feng answered more of my questions on faith.  Human are created by God to take care of the lives on Earth.  The meaning of life is to shine God’s glory through our words and behaviors.  God planted the consciousness as well as the seed to seek faith in human’s heart.  The Bible documented why human are also born sinners.  We can work hard to live by God’s words but it’s impossible to have a sin-free life.  With due respect to other religions, there is only one God as He is the only God who sent his only son to die on Earth for our sins.  Eternal life is not a legend.  God makes the final judgment at the end of our lives on Earth.

 

After I purchased Dr. Feng’s book “Psalm of a Wandering Son” that night, I realized that it was given to me by my roommate back in 2001.  But I was not prepared to read it with focus at that time.   

 

Thank you, God, for your patience with me and giving me another chance this night.

 

When Dr. Feng asked the audience who is ready to welcome Jesus in their heart for the first time, I raised my hand without hesitation.

 

*                 *                       *

 

            On the bright Easter morning, I woke up with more joy and peace in my heart than ever.  Dr. Feng was right, a stronger relationship with God is the only way to build stronger relationships with nature and other people around us.  The clouds and sky look closer to me.  All the trees in the backyard look more energetic to me.  All the foods at breakfast are tastier to me. David behaved amazingly caring when we had visitors with two young boys that afternoon. Even my back-up keys and glasses showed up at unexpected places today after I gave up searching for them last week.

 

 Following 18 years of searching, I finally feel ready.  I still have many questions, but now that the door is open, I know that I’ll find my answers with Jesus leading the way.

 

            Thanks for helping me get Home.

                                                            

                                                                                                                                                            -------   Easter, 2014

 

 

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评论

雨林的头像
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亲爱的心桥, 谢谢分享你的感悟。我深深地懂得你描述的这一种内心深处的平静和喜乐。

 
心桥的头像
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感谢雨林的理解。以前每晚祈祷后我也会感到心里的平静,但这次的"平静和喜乐"不同,更深刻,更彻底。真心感谢冯秉诚牧师(《游子吟》作者)的“启示之光”和“永生之途”布道会。

 
融融的头像
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多么深刻和美好的见证,感谢赞美主!

 
心桥的头像
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感谢融融的鼓励。多年的犹豫之后,今天的踏实更觉得宝贵。感谢神的赐佑和祝福。

 
予微的头像
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心桥,写的真好,我能够一口气读明白了这么长的英文,感谢神!

我也是一个很多疑问的基督徒,看到心桥能够坚持祷告,自己不禁惭愧。多谢分享,你的见证,鼓励了我!

 
心桥的头像
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感谢予微的鼓励。关于残疾儿童的问题,我请教过许多教会,之前的回答大多是:虽然原因我们可能不理解,但神自有安排。上周五终于得到我能理解的答案。感谢主对我的耐心。我还有很多问题,但有信心会在以后的圣经学习中慢慢得到启示。

 
融融的头像
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心桥,转文给朋友,收到赞扬的回音:

 

(1)真實又深刻的見證!讚美主的恩典。

(2)This article is very touching!  I found.  (not many others).  Thanks for sharing!

 

 
周小哭的头像
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我的问题比你多,其中一个也是关于“生来命苦”的孩子以及那些无助的被拐卖的孩子们。其实我一直也没有找到自己满意的答案,但是我已经在期待着神的光照,能够让我READY,让我带着问题就如你一样地站起来。真希望这一天能够快点地到来。这次创业的过程非常地神奇,我不但希望自己的小小梦想能够实现,更希望自己能够从中找到那个我所相信的超自然的神,到底是哪一个神。

 
心桥的头像
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谢谢小哭分享。从您的最近几篇作品可以看出,我们的经历很相似,喜欢和家人一起去教堂敬拜,支持并参与教堂活动。真正认识“神”需要时间。这18年我很怕 pushy 的教友,“认识”需要自己心里 ready,外力也许会适得其反。和您一起期待!

 
海云的头像
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Welcome, sister! 

 
心桥的头像
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Thank you!

 
Sujuan的头像
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感谢主!神永远是我们的盼望和依靠!谢谢心桥分享!极美的见证!

 
心桥的头像
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感谢 Sujuan 的关注。自己后知后觉,承蒙神的耐心。

 
阿朵的头像
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非常非常美好的见证!冯秉诚的《游子吟》我是十年前买的,对于无神论者很有启发,大力推荐。

 

前言

    近年来,一批又一批中国学生、学者赴美求学、深造,有机会接触基督教。他们聪慧、勤奋,富于进取。不少人开始翻阅《圣经》,步入教堂。然而,“神六日内创造天地万物”,“童女生子”,“死人复活”… 象一盆盆冷水劈头盖脑浇来。他们或满心疑狐,或面露轻讽。唯物主义、科学至上和世俗骄傲横卧在神与人之间。他们虽仍偶尔参加教会一些活动,寻求的心门却渐渐关闭了。 

    我理解他们的挣扎,因为我曾经历过。同时,我坚信基督教信仰与科学、理性没有根本冲突。1992年起,我在教会开办慕道班,按《圣经》的观点,从科学和理 性的角度探讨基督教的基本信仰,并到其他教会参与布道事工,使不少人得到帮助。为和更多人分享,在众教会的弟兄姊妹的多次敦促下,才将大纲、资料整理出 来,成为此书。书中的信息首先不是为了劝说别人,而是为要说服自己。 

    神借着大自然和《圣经》这两本书向人类启示他自己。神创造大自然,科学家研究大自然,《圣经》和科学决不会彼此相悖。基督教信仰是植根于耶稣复活这一历史 事实的客观真理,经得起质疑和推敲。有幸来到神面前的诚实人,都会相信耶稣,因为他是又真又活的神。我不企望借着这本小册子,把一个人几十年形成的无神思 想体系一下子扭转过来。拆除藩篱,使人能够谦卑地走近神、亲自面对神,是本书的主要目的。 

    两年多的写作过程并非坦途,但常得到神奇妙的引领。感谢各教会的弟兄姊妹用恒切的祷告托住我,感谢我的家人的全力支持。这本书从策划到付印,始终得到《海 外校园》杂志社苏文峰牧师、苏郑期英师母和同工们的直接帮助。没有他们的鼓励、参与和忍耐,本书现在是无法和读者见面的。

    旅美逾十载,仍梦思萦绕着故土。人生近半百,始回到天父怀抱。我以双重游子的身份,将此书献给神,献给海外学人和国内同胞。愿更多灵魂被拯救,盼望祖国繁荣昌盛。愿神使用这本书,得到祂当得的荣耀。

 

里 程 1996年8月11日

作者简介
 
    本文作者里程,毕业于北京大学生物系。1978年于中国科学院研究生院学习,1981年获硕士学位。1982年赴美,1987年获密西根州立大学 博士学位。先后在俄亥俄大学和西方储备大学(Case Western Reserve University)工作。1993年至今在威斯康星医学院从事医学基础研究工作。 作者长期崇尚无神论和个人奋斗。在神的大爱的感召下,逐渐认识了基督教信仰是客观真理,遂决志信主,1992年复活节受洗。已婚,现有一子一女。

 
心桥的头像
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谢谢阿朵的介绍。2001年室友就把这本书送给我,但当时自己心无灵犀,走马观花,并没心领。今天重新拜读,句句写在我心里。18年来一直相信神的存在,但等到今天才真正认识神的伟大,感谢神对我的耐心。

 
阿朵的头像
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亦秋的头像
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恭喜心桥,看了你的心路历程非常的感动。每个人都有自己的时间,神可比我们耐心多了。指出一个typo:So when my friends asked me how I got accepted by all 9 graduate schools with two full scholarship offers in spring 2006, my answer was always, “because I had prayed.” 应该是1996吧!Tongue Out

 
心桥的头像
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感谢亦秋的细心提醒。近二十年弹指之间,竟把1996写作2006都没觉察,可见时光流逝之快。昨天在 Silicon Valley Christian Assembly 有幸参加13位弟兄姊妹的受浸仪式,聆听感人的见证,再次亲历神的伟大。认识神的路还很长,只求自己掌握机会每天好好学习。

 
姜尼的头像
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为什么不用中文写这个见证?

 
心桥的头像
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因为写英文对我来说更容易。我没有中文软件,写中文必须一句一句在“华文在线”网站上写完后再 copy & paste 到文件上,很麻烦。时间充裕时,一定用中文把我下篇见证记录下来。感谢您的关注。

 
渺渺的头像
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感谢心桥的美好见证!太喜欢看了,对于我一个从小出生在信基督家庭的孩子来说,这样的见证读着尤其令我感动。感谢赞美主的带领,让我们在这里又一次认识了神的美好和无比宽厚的恩典!

 
心桥的头像
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渺渺从小出生在信基督的家庭,真有缘分和福气。您对文轩各文友的支持和鼓励,原来源于神的爱。感谢您的关注,祈告更多的兄弟姐妹认识神的美好和无比宽厚的恩典!

 
渺渺的头像
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如果能将您的见证翻译成中文,让更多弟兄姐妹们得到分享,那是再美好不过的事了!可惜我是有心无力啊,自己看看还能理解,但翻译水平那就相去甚远了!哪位能帮帮忙呢?再次谢谢心桥!

 
心桥的头像
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感谢渺渺鼓励。下篇见证我一定用中文写。期待和大家在认识神的道路上更多的交流和分享。

 
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