By Su Hui, China
Recently Xiaoxi moved to a house in a courtyard. There was an octogenarian in the landlord’s family, who lived in a side room and whose kitchen was small and shabby. In the courtyard, most times the old woman was seen doing her own things silently: washing clothes, watering flowers, and cooking…. These scenes of her monotonous life were like the silent black-and-white films in the 20th century.
Seeing this old woman before him, Xiaoxi couldn’t help recalling his grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. Xiaoxi remembered: When my grandmother was alive, she used to carry a stool and sat outside the door, watching traffic moving in contrary directions on the bridge. The same and dull scene seemed attractive forever in her eyes. Every day she greeted the people who approached the village and who walked out of the village, and said fairly innocuous jokes to them; if it was during mealtimes, she would speak some polite words. It seemed as if she never felt tired of these things. As her grandchildren, we would return to our hometown from time to time, which made the small courtyard that was cold and lonely at normal times noisy. When we children sat around our grandmother, she would always repeat: “I’m already a person who is near to death. I don’t know whether I can live until this time next year and whether I can see my grandson get married and have my great-grandchildren….” At that time, Xiaoxi was unable to understand his grandmother’s mood, so he always comforted her just with some words and he felt confused why his grandmother had become more and more sentimental. That night when his grandmother passed away, his family surrounded the head of her bed. Even if they pressed their ear to her mouth, they still couldn’t hear clearly what she said; but each of them knew that she was waiting for her grandson she loved most. However, she left the world with regret before she could see the grandson. When Xiaoxi stood in the hall of the crematorium, he saw his grandmother lay down there and was wheeled into the incinerator. Finally, she became a handful of ashes. He sighed with infinite emotion in his heart: My grandmother’s whole life came to an end in this way. No matter how many struggles she had been through, no matter how much unwillingness, joyfulness, and happiness had been involved in her life, no matter how many times she had been numb and forbearing, all passed. And at this moment, all the achievements and errors, gains and losses, and happiness and sadness in her life have been gone like the wind, and there are only ashes left.
Xiaoxi came back from his thoughts and felt a little sad in his heart. Then he went back to his room, opened the book of God’s word and saw this: “When one enters old age, the challenge one faces is not providing for a family or establishing one’s grand ambitions in life, but how to bid farewell to one’s life, how to meet the end of one’s life, how to put the period at the end of one’s own existence. …”
“When one feels one’s body deteriorating, when one senses that one is drawing nearer to death, one feels a vague dread, an inexpressible fear. Fear of death makes one feel ever more lonely and helpless, and at this point one asks oneself: Where did man come from? Where is man going? Is this how man is going to die, with his life having breezed past him? Is this the period that marks the end of man’s life? What, in the end, is the meaning of life? What is life worth, after all? Is it about fame and fortune? Is it about raising a family? …”
“Because they fear death, people worry far too much; because they fear death, there is so much that they cannot let go of. When they are about to die, some people fret about this or that; they worry about their children, their loved ones, their wealth, as if by worrying they can erase the suffering and dread that death brings on, as if by maintaining a kind of intimacy with the living they can escape the helplessness and loneliness that accompany death. In the depths of the human heart there lies an inchoate fear, a fear of being parted from one’s loved ones, of never again laying eyes upon the blue sky, of never again looking upon the material world. A lonely soul, used to the company of its loved ones, is reluctant to release its grip and depart, all alone, for an unknown, unfamiliar world” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). Thinking about God’s words, Xiaoxi finally understood his grandmother’s mood at the time. When her grandchildren all sat around her, she was happy; when her grandchildren left, she stood at the door reluctant to be parted with them and followed them with her eyes all the time until they got on a bus; she shed inappropriate tears and had no choice but to endure those countless boring days. All of these feelings came of an old woman’s terror of death and a feeling of indescribable loneliness and helplessness deep in her heart. Whether a person’s life is wonderful or ordinary, when he faces death, he can no longer stand erect and his willpower can be destroyed at any time, thus ending up with a helpless sigh … Faced with the fact, we had to admit: In the face of death, we mankind are so hopeless and helpless.
When facing death, for the material world, we still have too much regret and concern, and still have too much unwillingness and reluctance; while at the same time, we have doubt about and really are afraid of the unknown world we’ll go to. Aren’t we really capable of getting rid of the fear death brings us? Thinking of this, Xiaoxi went on looking for the answer in God’s word. God said: “At the moment when a person is born, one lonely soul begins its experience of life on earth, its experience of the Creator’s authority which the Creator has arranged for it. Needless to say, for the person, the soul, this is an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge of the Creator’s sovereignty, to come to know His authority and to experience it personally. People live their lives under the laws of fate laid out for them by the Creator, and for any rational person with a conscience, coming to terms with the Creator’s sovereignty and knowing His authority over the course of their several decades on earth is not a difficult thing to do. Therefore it should be very easy for every person to recognize, through his or her own life experiences over the several decades, that all human fates are predestined, and to grasp or to sum up what it means to be alive. At the same time that one embraces these life lessons, one will gradually come to understand where life comes from, to grasp what the heart truly needs, what will lead one to the true path of life, what the mission and goal of a human life ought to be; and one will gradually recognize that if one does not worship the Creator, if one does not come under His dominion, then when one confronts death—when a soul is about to face the Creator once more—one’s heart will be filled with boundless dread and unease. If a person has existed in the world for a handful of decades and yet not come to know where human life comes from, not yet recognized in whose palm human fate rests, then it is no wonder that he or she will not be able to face death calmly. A person who has gained the knowledge of the Creator’s sovereignty after experiencing several decades of life, is a person with a correct appreciation for the meaning and value of life; a person with a deep knowledge of life’s purpose, with real experience and understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty; and even more, a person who is able to submit to the Creator’s authority. Such a person understands the meaning of God’s creation of mankind, understands that man should worship the Creator, that everything man possesses comes from the Creator and will return to Him some day not far in the future; such a person understands that the Creator arranges man’s birth and has sovereignty over man’s death, and that both life and death are predestined by the Creator’s authority. So, when one truly grasps these things, one will naturally be able to face death calmly, to lay aside all of one’s worldly possessions calmly, accept and submit happily to all that follows, and welcome the last life-juncture arranged by the Creator rather than blindly dread it and struggle against it” (“God Himself, the Unique III”).
From God’s words, Xiaoxi understood that God arranges for each soul with nothing to be reincarnated as a person on earth, and that His purpose is to allow each person to personally experience the joys and sorrows of life throughout their life, to experience how many things can come true as they wish, how many things fail to accord with their will, and how many things develop out of their control, and to experience that the life law of birth, aging, sickness, and death is also not up to them…. Through these experiences, God let each of us practically appreciate and understand: It’s God who rules over the trajectory of each living being, and His arrangements for each person’s fate embody God’s wisdom,and God’s love for us mankind. Only when we arrive at true knowledge of God’s authority and sovereignty, finally become subject under the dominion of God and no longer have personal choices, sentimentality or fear, can we calmly accept and obey all God’s orchestration and arrangements for us, even death. Then he thought that although ancient people once released a sigh, “Since ancient times one’s rising and falling have been predestined, so are partings and reunions,” they simply didn’t know who rules over these things behind them and how he does so. In fact, as long as we are willing to come before God and pursue the truth, perform our duty that we should perform as a created being, experience God’s work, put God’s word into practice and experience God’s word with our heart, we can little by little comprehend all the mysteries.
With this in mind, Xiaoxi was filled with gratitude toward God in his heart. Before, his heart, like duckweed, was wandering in the world without direction and destination. And he didn’t know where he himself had come from and even more couldn’t realize God’s domination at all but bewilderedly rushed about in the world of men. Nowadays, he enjoyed the watering and nourishment of God’s word as much as he liked like a seed growing in the fertile soil and taking its root deep into the ground. Because he found the source of life, came before God and had true reliance, his heart finally settled down.
Looking into the distance through the window, Xiaoxi saw: The sun is going down. The wind is blowing over the fields, and the fields of wheat are swaying in the breeze and it seems as if they are waiting for the farmers who are coming to reap them …