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Movie Review: Yearning—A Christian’s Path of Seeking the Light

By Zeng Yixin, Greece

Yearning is a movie that tells the story in the manner of reminiscences. The protagonist Chen Xiangguang is a good English teacher. He is very popular among students and their parents, and his being approved by them is not only because of his excellent teaching performance, but mainly because of his belief that brings hope to them. In the movie, Chen Xiangguang’s preaching the gospel to the parents of the students reflects that he is a Christian who truly believes in the Lord. But in China, schools are the education bases of atheism. All the staff and students are not permitted to have any faith. So when the headmaster knows that Chen Xiangguang believes in the Lord and preaches the gospel, he gives Chen Xiangguang but two choices: to give up his belief or to be discharged from school.

Yearning film still

Such an unreasonable request makes Chen Xiangguang helpless. Is it against the law that there is a Christian in the school? Believing in God is justified and lawful, and moreover, in his work, Chen Xiangguang neither interrupts his teaching nor breaks the school discipline and rules. Aren’t such unreasonable choices depriving him of his rights to survival? However, it is “justified and lawful” that such an unreasonable thing happens in the education base of atheism. In the movie, which reflects this aspect the most is the words of Vice-principal Hou, “How can you believe in the Lord and preach the gospel while relying on the CCP for sustenance? Do you not have any loyalty to the CCP?” More inconceivably, if Chen Xiangguang continues his belief in the Lord, his wife’s job will be involved, his daughter will not be allowed to enter into college, and even he himself will be in danger of being arrested and prisoned.

Sealing up the Glories—Walking Toward the Path of the Cross

At night, the downpour outside indicates the moods of the Chens at this moment. In the dim light, Chen Xiangguang seals up his certificates of excellent teacher and cups forever. The appearance of these properties proves his excellence in his teaching career. But such a good teacher is discharged from school by the CCP government due to his belief. It’s really ridiculous. Then a red cross turns out in the scene, which also conveys an important message: The protagonist is indignant at his experience, but the way of the cross is never meant to be smooth but rugged and rough. The Lord Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Chen Xiangguang puts away these halos and glories, it also indicates his resolution to follow God to walk the way of the cross from then on. After that, a song “Expectation,” starts, which is served with the pictures of the protagonist preaching the gospel, working, rushing about, and expending himself everywhere with his co-workers. They leave their expectations on the high mountains, in the fields, and on the sea shore. Both these pictures and the heartening lyrics describe the mentality of the Christians expecting the Lord’s return. It is worth noting that the song “Yearning” is an original song of the movie. We are brought into the inner world of the protagonist to appreciate his sufferings and strong expectation for the Lord by the emotional tune and the lyrics, “The CCP suppresses, captures and persecutes me. I am misunderstood by my family, slandered by the worldly people, mocked by the neighbors, and rejected by the world. Enduring these pains, I call on the Lord Jesus to give me strength.”

Being Captured—The Darkest Hour Before the Dawn

At another night, while the Christians are discussing how to welcome the return of the Lord, the police siren shrills suddenly, and they are startled, which again shows clearly the hardship of belief in the Lord in the godless land. Then the police siren dies away, and thereupon everyone breathes a sigh of relief. They should have thought things would turn out okay as before. However, the police burst through the door suddenly and break the peace. Without being shown any search warrant and arrest warrant, Chen Xiangguang is arrested and then starts his life in prison. In this scene, the words of the police team leader “My police uniform is the search warrant, and my handcuffs are the arrest warrant” ingeniously display and portray that the value of carrying out Chinese law, the means of the police enforcing the law, and the definition of conviction and imprisonment is just ornamental and no more than a formality in China. Let’s look at the accusation against Chen Xiangguang and the sentence pronounced upon him, and then we’ll be clearer:

Charge: A Godized man (Can such a charge be founded? What is called a Godized man? What’s the condition for measuring a Godized man?)

Stipulation: No praying. No talking about belief in God. (What stipulations are these? Not only is his body imprisoned, but his thoughts also are controlled.)

Treatment: being beaten, abused, bullied, and insulted by other prisoners at will; bearing heavy labor and mental tortures.

Prison Term: 4 years.

From these conditions, it is not difficult to imagine how much Cheng Xiangguang needs to endure during his life in prison.

The prison life plunges him into endless darkness. In the chilling cold of winter, his mother and wife come to visit him, and their endless words change into tears. In a few minutes Chen, Xiangguang’s heart, like the temperature outside, drops to freezing point. At night, he lies awake tossing and turning with sorrow and misery. His expectant eyes are filled with desolation. Just when he is extremely weak, his heart is warmed by a slip of paper handed cautiously by Zhao Zhiming in the same cell. This scene brings the emotion of the movie to a small climax. The words on the slip become a beam of light in the darkness and Chen Xiangguang has hope again from them. The slips of paper appear again and again. Under the situation of severe guard, the heavy reeducation through labor becomes Chen Xiangguang’s shelter. The words on the paper constantly nourish his heart, and meanwhile strike his heart: In all these years of his faith in the Lord, Chen Xiangguang has been thinking that when the Lord returns, He will descend on a cloud with great glory, heaven and earth will shake, and the sun and the moon will not give their light (See Mark 13:24-26). Yet, these scenes haven’t appeared, so how can it be said that the Lord has returned? But the words on the slips carry authority and power, and there is no doubt that they are the utterances of the Holy Spirit. After hearing them, people have faith and strength…. Chen Xiangguang’s thoughts mingle together continually.

Yearning film still

Once when they go out to work, with one heart and one mind, Chen Xiangguang and Zhao Zhiming take every opportunity to communicate. At last, under God’s wondrous protection, Chen Xiangguang receives what he has never gained before. Many years of confusion in belief in the Lord have been resolved at that moment. Not until the moment of waking from the dreams does he discover that the prophecies in the Book of Revelation have been fulfilled one after another. The rapture he has hoped for many years is imminent. In the darkest prison, Chen Xiangguang sees the dawn which he has expected for so long.

Coming to Seek the Light When the Dawn Appears

His four years’ life in prison doesn’t stop Chen Xiangguang from believing in God and preaching the gospel. The appearance of the dawn encourages him to lead other believers to seek and investigate the work of Almighty God as soon as he is set free. Here I am moved by the Christians who are of one mind. The one who sells breakfast in a dining car, the one who repairs bikes on the roadside, and the old man selling tofu are all guards that protect the Christians to have a meeting safely. Why do they do so? The appearance of several people from the neighborhood committee solves the puzzle. In China, many of the aunts and uncles from the neighborhood committee are the CCP’s spies to specially monitor the various dissenters and the Christians in their living area. Were it not for the protection of the Christians outside, how could the Christians in the room seek and fellowship in peace? This is also a plot with Chinese characteristics!

Through some twists and turns and the fellowship of the witnesses from the Church of Almighty God, finally Chen Xiangguang and others get the answers to a series of questions which have troubled them for a long time, such as what it means to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, whether the kingdom of heaven is in heaven or on earth, how people welcome the return of the Lord, and so on. Their expectations have finally realized.

Continuing …

A hymn “The Call of God” leads us back to the path of Chen Xiangguang on which he seeks the light, and continues the development of the story as well. The appearance of Zhao Zhiming not only ends Chen Xiangguang’s concern, but also tells that though the expectations of Chen Xiangguang and others have been realized, their steps will not stop, for too many Christians are expecting the return of the Lord as they once were.


Watch Yearning Full Movie


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