The road is very important. To get to a certain place, we have to know which road to take. If we find ourselves on the wrong road, even though it is wide and easy, we will turn back as soon as possible. If we are so serious in our daily trips, should we not be even more serious with the road of life, which concerns our destiny?
Communism and the Cultural Revolution
Lu Xun, a well-known Chinese author, once said, “The trail is blazed by men.” In other words, there is no predefined path in the world. A trail appears when trod upon by many. At first, I was very proud of this great Chinese writer for such a brave and confident statement. However, after careful consideration, I found it frightening. No predefined path means no absolute truth in the world. The path of truth is defined merely by the labor of men. How do people know if a path is “right?” It must depend on the number of people walking on it! There is safety in numbers—or is there?
… While growing up, I was told at one time, to study hard and master science, and at another time, to drop all studies for the sake of revolution. I was fanatical about the Cultural Revolution and went to the countryside for labor reform. I heeded the call of the Party to offer up my precious youth, which I lost forever. [When] the absurdity of it all made me realize that the Cultural Revolution and Communism were never going to work, I encountered a deep ideological crisis. I spoke my mind and was publicly criticized. It did not resolve my inner doubts: people criticized me according to the current official creed—a creed that could easily be reversed at a later time. I did not expect to regain my youth, but I was pained by the fact that my devotion had been exploited. What I once held so dear to my heart was worse than rubbish, a poisonous snake that I quickly shook off with great fright…
Since Communism was not a science but a mere superstition, I felt free to desert it. I now had strong faith in science, so I devoted my whole heart to it. In 1985, I came to the United States to study. I believed that if I could truly master science, I could understand the mysteries of life. I was naively impressed by the thick books I saw. I admired human beings for their great accomplishment in research and invention.
One day I was discussing a research topic with my dissertation committee chairman, a famous professor. I asked him a question and he told me that he did not have the answer. I was shocked. This man had so many scientific publications that I could not even begin to read them all. Yet he did not have the answer to my question! I finally realized that science was nothing more than what a group of people do every day in a laboratory. As I studied more, I saw how little I really understood. Natural science can explain the phenomena of the physical universe, but it is value-neutral. For example, a neuroscientist can tell us the structure of the brain, but he cannot offer a scientific basis for morality. I had long worshipped science as the ultimate “reason,” but now its power vanished before my eyes.
In addition to science, my other goal in going abroad was to study democracy. Chinese intellectuals have long considered science and democracy the two treasures of Western civilization … I reasoned that since science had disproven Marxism and thereby freed me from its spell, science should also be able to prove that democracy was the truth.
However, further exploration showed democracy did not point to the way of truth, but simply accepted all ways as true. Modern theories of democracy emphasized pluralism and choice. Democracy intrinsically could not be locked into a value system, for that would lead to dictatorship—exactly the thing democracy opposed! According to the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the value of truth lies in its freedom, and freedom means choice. Whatever one does out of one’s own free will, regardless of right or wrong, has value. This theory, however, did not work for me, for I had no viable options to choose from. I had come to the end of my road. What I looked for in democracy was a way of life that I could follow with a clear conscience, but I did not find it.
My future looked gray. Before I left China, I thought I could attain significant achievements. But a Ph.D. was not as great as I thought it would be. Science was not that charming after all, and was certainly not worth spending my whole life on. Nothing in this world seemed worthwhile.
One night, I contemplated suicide. I used to think that people who committed suicide were foolish. But given the way I was feeling, not committing suicide seemed unnatural and cowardly. Suicide would have been a protest to the world and a declaration that I refused to keep traveling down a futile path. I wanted to declare the fact that the world really had no road. All paths led nowhere. Suicide would have been my last protest against the meaninglessness of this world. But I was afraid to do so …
A Glimmer of Light
As a last resort, I looked toward religion for truth. I used to despise religion, thinking it was the opium of the people, a narcotic for the powerless. A strong person certainly has no use for God or Buddha as he is marching down the road of life with his head up high. But I had lost the road, so I was willing to try religion. I attended an international Bible study. Our first study was in the Book of Genesis. As I read, “God made man in His own image,” I felt that the clouds were lifted from over my head. I suddenly understood why I took life so seriously, why I was so determined to live a meaningful life: because man has dignity.
Because of that dignity, man is not satisfied by a life with no value. Was that why I had such a strong desire to leave China? I was hurt and angry that I had been punished for voicing some of my thoughts. I had wanted to protest the government’s power to muzzle me and deprive me of my sacred right as a human being … Where did this intrinsic value come from? If humans were the product of evolution, our existence would be based entirely on random probability. We could even be an intermediate product still being evolved. But if God existed, then He had intrinsic value, and what He created would have intrinsic value. I realized our value was based on God.
I discovered greater truths in the ancient book of Genesis than in any other theories of the world. It changed my view of the Bible entirely. I now saw the Bible as a book of ancient wisdom and definitely worth careful study. I became very serious in my approach, determined to learn its truths well … .
After this experience, I felt that I had a wider perspective on things. But my questions about life remained unresolved. Life was still painful and my inner struggles continued to rage on beyond my comprehension. Meanwhile, God was working on me in a wonderful way. He knew I always wanted to find the truth on my own. If I succeeded, I could brag about my foresight, spirit and courage. But God chose to meet me on another path … . I came to realize that my pride had hindered me from accepting God’s truth. God frustrates the wisdom of the proud. If a person comes to God in arrogance and demands to know the road of life, He will not answer. He will only instruct those who come in humility. In the past, I studied the Word of God because I thought it was superior to the wisdom of man. My life was never connected with God’s life because I was too proud to pray. When I went to church with my wife, I would simply close my eyes and rest when others prayed.
One night, my heart was greatly moved, and I prayed for the first time. I did it in secret. Normally I am an eloquent speaker, but I was speechless in front of God. I felt that I was not qualified to speak before Him. But as I kept trying, the words flowed more and more freely. I was ashamed of myself for taking this long to come to Him. He had loved me and watched over me all this time, yet, instead of gladly receiving His gift right away, I had doubted His love for me. Finally, as I bowed my head in complete humility, I felt totally relaxed in His love. When I went to church the next time, I was a changed man. I enjoyed the worship as it led me to God. I was moved as we sang the hymns. Other Christians also noticed my change, for God had finally opened my eyes to the path that leads to eternal life.
The Road of Life
I was once attracted by a saying, “Life is precious, because we can live only once. At the end of our lives, let us not regret because we have squandered away our years and let us not regret because we have accomplished nothing.” However, if we believe that we came by evolution, then the value of our lives, however great, will vanish with the passing of the universe.
All the Chinese philosophies are dead-ends. Buddhism does not show you the origin of human life. Confucianism does not teach you about the end of your life. Taoism does not even differentiate between life and death. Even at their best, each of these theories deals only with a fragment of human life. Only the Bible can tell you whence you came and where you will go. It tells about the creation of the universe and the origin of man. It tells us why the world is filled with pain. Why can man not find the way to God? Because God Himself has to reveal it to us. Our God is omnipotent and omniscient. Without divine revelation, human minds can never understand Him. All the roads that we humans have trod are roads to death, for we are all sinners. Do not follow the crowd on the broad road of death. History has taught us well. Many “glorious” people movements, like the French Revolution and the Cultural Revolution, led only to tragic failures … .
True satisfaction in life comes from God Himself. Our heart cannot rest until it rests in the arms of Christ. Why do men always search for eternity? Because God is eternal. Why do men always search for love? Because God is love. What is the source of our greatest pain? It is a severed relationship, and none more tragic than a severed relationship with God himself. This relationship was severed by our unbelief, starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The healing of this relationship starts with our faith. It is our faith in God, not our good works, that restores us to God. Only when you open your heart to God can He begin to live in your life. Return to God’s path and let Him bring you the ultimate satisfaction in life.