Emptiness After the Curtain Falls

By Zhao Yu

In the evening sun, when Zhao Yu was walking alone on the playground of a university campus suddenly her cellphone rang.

“Hello! Zhao Yu. This is Mr Li. On Thursday afternoon the leaders of the Education Bureau are going to visit our university. Please prepare to make a report.”

Zhao Yu hesitated for a moment, and said haltingly, “Mr Li, I’d like to, but … I’m afraid I might not be free. I will have a performance to host for an English Society then.”

Then, she heard him saying angrily, “You don’t prioritize your things. That’s all.” And he hung up.

After Zhao Yu heard his assessment of herself, she felt confused. She thought: Am I not right doing like this? On Monday, I already made an appointment with the schoolmates that I will host the art joint performance in celebration of the 4th Anniversary of the founding of their English Society on Thursday afternoon. And I have already tried on the hostess’ dress. How could I break off our engagement? What’s more, it’s boring for me to make a report before the leaders. It is more impressive to be a hostess on the stage. In a beautiful bouffant dress, holding the microphone, I will step onto the stage in the light and the attention of audience.” She indulged in all kinds of fantasies, reveling in self-regard.

Since Zhao Yu won the Eighth University Student Campus Host Competition that night, she had achieved a measure of fame in her campus. Whenever some students voluntarily organized various society’s art activities, they would invite her to serve as the hostess. However, this was nothing to her. From the primary school to the high school, though she was not good-looking and had no excellent records, she was often sent by teachers to take part in all sorts of speech contests. This strong point that she was born with had won her plenty of honors, flowers and applause, and the surrounding classmates envied her very much. So she indulged in self-admiration. Gradually, she seemed to be transformed into another person, increasingly self-righteous, proud and aloof. Just like this time, Mr Li let her make the report standing for their university, she didn’t think anything of it at all. Instead, what she wholeheartedly pursued was to be the focus of attention among all the schoolmates again. In her opinion, no matter what activities she took part in, the most important thing was to enable her to shine on the stage in the splendid dress before audience.

On Thursday afternoon, the joint performance began on schedule. In a purple bouffant dress, and high heels, she stepped onto the stage with a well-thought-out plan. With her special affinity and standard smile of a hostess, she deliberately walked toward audience. The spotlight threw light on her face and dress, and at the moment, she looked dazzling and magnificent against the light. After every program, once she came out to announce the next one, the audience applauded specially enthusiastically. To the music of the last program, the performance came to an end: The music stopped, the spotlight was turned off, the audience scattered, and the actors also left gradually; only several students were busy cleaning the spot.

Zhao Yu stood on the stage and looked at the empty auditorium, as if she was quite sorry. The broken colorful balloons and colorful ribbons covering the ground seemed to be telling a sad beauty after a magnificent feast. At the moment, she suddenly felt an inexpressible emptiness and pain within, and it was already not the first time that she had felt like this. Every time after she hosted an art performance, she had this kind of sense.

Although she had long dreamed of becoming a hostess, whenever the curtain descended, she had no that kind of joy and excitement at all as she did in the beginning, only feeling endless loneliness and emptiness. She even feared this sense of emptiness. Every time it appeared, it tortured her. So she only wanted an opener, but didn’t want an end. In her heart, she even begged the sense of gaining the attention of audience never to disappear. But at the same time, she was clearly aware that it was impossible. Therefore, as often as the sense appeared, she felt lonely and helpless. As there was no place for her to pour out her inner loneliness and emptiness, she buried this kind of pain in her diary, as if only by writing something in her diary would she feel relieved. All that she recorded in her diary was her worry and misery but there was no pleasing thing.

Zhao Yu was lost in deep thought. To be an excellent hostess was once her long-held dream. For the sake of such a dream, she had always been pursuing and making many efforts, and no matter how difficult the process was, she insisted. Yet she didn’t understand why she felt progressively empty in her heart, although, on the path of realizing her dream, she had obtained lots of honors, reputation and admiration from many people and gained the things that others had been dreaming of.

Was her pursuit not right? When thinking of the word “pursuit,” she suddenly remembered the words that her mother often said to her, “Xiaoyu, remember that only the pursuit of truth is practical in this world, while the pursuit of fame and gain, status, money and all the fleshly enjoyments is empty. So whenever you feel upset, encounter setbacks, or feel empty without a goal, this is because our hearts are far from God and because we don’t pursue the truth. At this point, do remember to cry out to God and say to God. God likes it when we pursue the truth and when we seek God in all things. As long as you rely on God, He will help you through the crisis.”

Having thought of her mother’s words, she quickly bent her head and prayed to God, “Oh, God! I’ve been away from you for a long time. While my mother urged me to pray to You often and ponder Your words more, I pursue fame and gain all the time and have already put You at the back of my mind. Oh, God! I’m wrong. Now I really feel miserable. Why do I live so miserably? Why am I still so painful after I have obtained what I want? I know it was You who created the heavens and earth, mankind and me, but how should I live so that I don’t feel pained? What’s the true life? How can the value of life be embodied after all? Oh, God! I don’t know the answers. May You lead me.”

After her prayer, she recalled God’s words that her mother had read to her, “From when man first had social sciences, the mind of man was occupied by science and knowledge. Then science and knowledge became tools for the ruling of mankind, and there was no longer sufficient room for man to worship God, and no more favorable conditions for the worship of God. The position of God sunk ever lower in the heart of man. A world in man’s heart with no place for God is dark, empty without hope. And so arose many social scientists, historians, and politicians to express theories of social science, the theory of human evolution, and other theories that contravene the truth that God created man, to fill the heart and mind of man. And in this way, those who believe that God created everything become ever fewer, and those who believe in the theory of evolution become ever greater in number. More and more people treat records of the work of God and His words during the Old Testament age as myths and legends. In their hearts, people become indifferent to the dignity and greatness of God, to the tenet that God exists and holds dominion over all things. The survival of mankind and the fate of countries and nations are no longer important to them. Man lives in a hollow world only concerned with eating, drinking, and the pursuit of pleasure. …” (“God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind”). “These things came after man was tempted by Satan and their flesh became degenerate, such as the pain of the flesh, the troubles and emptiness of the flesh and the extreme wretchedness of the world. Satan began to torment man after it had corrupted them. Man then became more and more degenerate, the illnesses of man were deepened, their suffering became more and more severe. Man felt more and more the emptiness, the tragedy and the inability to go on living of the world, and they felt less and less hope for the world. So this suffering was brought on man by Satan, and it only came after man had been corrupted by Satan and became degenerate” (“The Meaning of God’s Experiencing the Pain of the World”).

Then, these words seemed to awake the long-buried memory in Zhao Yu’s heart, and she felt like a walker who was hungry and thirsty and suddenly found water in the desert, and also felt like a night-sailing ship which discovered the lighthouse. God’s words made Zhao Yu find the answers to the questions that had confused her for so long. It turned out that because of Satan’s corruption, we have lost the position of God in our hearts, and are far away from God, so that we live increasingly emptily and miserably. The science and knowledge and so on which look like good things are all not truth. What they bring us is only temporary happiness. After the happiness, we still feel pain. Because they are not the truth, they can’t become our lives. Only by walking on the path of worshiping God and pursuing the truth, can our life become full and hopeful. Thinking of these, Zhao Yu understood: It turns out that all the pain is from Satan. Since we human beings were corrupted by Satan, God has been doing the work of saving mankind. However, before, she didn’t pursue to walk on the path of worshiping God, but pursued knowledge and indulged in fame and gain and status. But when she truly got these things, what she experienced was the sense of emptiness. From this, we can see that it doesn’t matter how high reputation and how high status we have. That is, if we are far away from God and don’t worship God, even though we get what we want, those are all fleeting clouds and we have no true life to speak of. Zhao Yu recalled each time she served as a host, the admiration and praise that she obtained were all temporary. When the curtain descended, her emptiness and pain within became greater and greater. Now, Zhao Yu came to know that no matter how high her status was, how much fame and gain she got, they couldn’t fill her spiritual emptiness. Fame and gain was originally empty. When it disappeared, she only had emptiness and pain. Her heart was moved by God’s word. She felt that she was too far from God, and it had been so long since she forgot God. After she drifted so long and suffered so long, she came to know what she lacked was God’s word. She couldn’t help but shed tears of self-blame and indebtedness. She prayed to God, “Oh, God! I thank You. It is You that let me find the cause of emptiness in my heart. In order to get a shred of praise from others, I pursued this reputation despite everything, but what I got was endless emptiness and pain. Today, I know that only by pursuing the truth can I free from this emptiness, and only by worshiping God will I not regret. Oh, God! From now on, I’m willing to follow You and live out a meaningful life.”

From then on, she formally attended the gathering. Under the comfort and encouragement of God’s word, her mood was no longer sad and her heart gradually became settled and brightened. She saw God’s word, “Only if one knows God and has the truth does he live in the light; and only when his view of the world and his view of life change does he change fundamentally. When he has a life goal and comports himself according to the truth; when he absolutely submits to God and lives by God’s word; when he feels assured and brightened deep in his soul; when his heart is free of darkness; and when he lives completely freely and unrestrained in God’s presence—only then does he live a true human life and become a person possessing truth. Besides, all the truths you have are from God’s word and from God Himself. The Ruler of the entire universe and all things—God Most High—approves of you, as a real man living the true human life. What could be more meaningful than God’s approval? Such is a person who has the truth” (“How to Know Man’s Nature”). From God’s word, Zhao Yu understood that only by comporting oneself according to the truth could one have a true life. Meanwhile, she also personally experienced the power of God’s words. In her experience of the work of God, the sense of emptiness and pain in the depths of her heart was also slowly disappearing. She experienced the value of living according to God’s word. She had a right life goal. Her spirit also was liberated.

Now Zhao Yu understood that only by following God and pursuing the truth would she not regret. The true value and meaning of life were embodied by worshiping God. Zhao Yu wrote in her diary like this: Oh, God! It was You who selected me. Finally I can see Your face. Before, I pursued fame and gain in spite of everything. Although I felt extreme pain, I was not willing to turn back. When the curtain descended amid shouts of applause, it was also the time when the pain came upon me. Satan afflicted me like this and let me forget You by every possible means. Amidst the darkness You extended a helping hand to me and comforted my hurt heart. It is You that are my soul’s destination. It turns out that You are always by my side and never far away. Thank You for leading me to find my soul’s destination and walk on the correct path of life.

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