In the part one of this article Si Wei shared her journey from darkness to a personal relationship with Christ. Here she goes on to tell about the next stage of her journey—sanctification. Not surprisingly, God chose to use the furnace of marriage to expose Si Wei’s unhealthy mindset and areas of idolatry, which she shares with us in this conclusion to her story.
Success—Our Generation’s Greatest Spiritual Disaster
The Transformation of a Millennial (Part 2)
Looking back, it is evident that God chose to use a painful marital situation to purify me and create good soil in my life.
As a child I was fairly lively and boisterous, and people labeled me as “not pretty.” Before believing in God I never experienced a formal dating relationship, although there were some hidden crushes. The boys in our class often saw me as one of their “buddies.”
I kept my hair short because it was more convenient and I didn’t have to wash it so often. I wore colorful clothes, and my palms were forever covered with pencil lead; everything about me came across as very masculine.
Entering into the workforce served to reinforce my stance as a hard-hearted workingwoman. I didn’t pay attention to the distinctions between male and female, because what I really wanted to know about a person was: does he have talent? Does she have ability? Can he settle a matter fairly? Can she produce good art? These are the things that mattered to me.
Later on, I sketched an androgynous looking person as the supervisor in my “Big Machine” series of sketches. I wanted to show that our current society blurs gender lines, with each person being simply a vehicle for accomplishing a certain task.
I didn’t come to a full realization of the deeper meaning of this until after I began following Christ. Then I started to realize that God created me as I am, that he created me as his daughter. I finally truly acknowledged my identity as a female. It was here that I started to think that I should have a family and nurture children.
In the past I thought that marriage and love had nothing good to offer because we are all so self-seeking. I was uncomfortable with the idea of two strangers sharing a bed and a lifetime. What if my husband turns out to have a bad temper and kills me one day, I would wonder. At any rate, my thoughts on this matter were rather strange.
As far as I was concerned, my own talents and my own self were the only things worth relying on. Looking back, though, I think that in reality I didn’t dare hold out hope for love. Eventually this attitude turned into active avoidance where I would say, “This stuff is boring. Why do you want it?” That attitude seemed pretty cool and sophisticated, but in fact there was a sour jealousy beneath that sentiment.
At its root love is a beautiful grace and a natural desire that God plants in the heart of all people. But when you can’t get this love for yourself you may become a rebel of sorts, using your rebellion as a weapon to eliminate your own feelings love because they are so painful. Rather than say you can’t obtain this thing, isn’t it better to just belittle love and therefore eschew it from your life?
[Through the journey God took me on] I came to completely accept my outer appearance. I realized there is diversity in the humans God created, and he is the greatest artist who created not a single leaf exactly like another. Therefore, I had no business comparing myself to others. Each woman has her own unique beauty, and my very existence is evidence of God’s grace.
I came to understand that human standards—big eyes, a tall nose, perfect skin—are simply lies that confuse people and create unwarranted sorrow. Moreover, the Bible says that the Lord does not look at us the way man does, but the Lord looks at the heart.
When I had been a believer for only a short time I attended a friend’s wedding, and there met a man who really loved God. We quickly fell in love and got married. I never expected that marriage would be such an intense and exhausting process of maturing as a woman.
The first challenge I faced upon marrying my husband was in the area of submission.
Although my husband is an interior designer, our aesthetic senses are very different.
I knew that the Bible teaches that the wife should submit to her husband, so when we redecorated our house, I turned the project over to him. In the past, I most certainly would have grasped for control over the project.
I remember walking into our new house and seeing that he had installed a thick, clunky white cupboard right above the bathtub where I would like to have seen something more delicate. Even worse, our parents had hung a tacky red veil of sorts over it. Maybe others wouldn’t had such a strong reaction, but as a lover of cutting-edge modern art this was like an attack on my senses. I thought I would go crazy over it. After multiple such occurrences, I began to regret not finding someone with a more similar sense of taste.
Through prayer, God helped me to see that “submitting to your husband” boils down to this: can you respect your husband in the everyday details of life? He also gave me this word: “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” Slowly I came to realize that some of the things I held onto as part of my identity, or as simply being part of my temperament, weren’t actually all that healthy; they were fairly narrow-minded.
But in order to be a well-rounded person, we must experience the tension of personality differences with others. I’ve realized that my husband’s sense of aesthetics runs towards the rural, folksy style, a bit like something you would find in a small town in California. It’s relatively simple and open, very different to my own style. I started to understand this when I went to visit my husband’s hometown in Shanxi and saw the local traditional architecture. I began to realize that in the life I had lived as a single person, my whole set of standards and self-worth were based on this reality: If I affirmed or liked something, it existed in my life, if I didn’t, it just didn’t have reason to show up. For me, it essentially didn’t exist. Everything revolved around me.
Another thing that brought me to the edge was that within the first month after we married I became pregnant. Although I really was willing to become a mother, I never thought it would happen so quickly. As someone who loved her work, it seemed like a waste to enter motherhood so soon.
I experienced a difficult pregnancy, with morning sickness lasting until well into the seventh month and most days filled with overwhelming nausea. Work on my art was impossible, which removed my last personal domain and put me in a place where I had to face the man in my life everyday, all day, with no place of escape.
My husband’s company was facing a slump, and I couldn't work. The stresses in life were overwhelming. Even though we argued throughout the pregnancy, I insisted on staying and fighting for our marriage. I wanted to run away, but knew that as a Christian I must give an account to God for my choices. I am not saying that all Christians must live this out the way I did, but I chose to stand my ground. Even if I died in the process I did not want to retreat. This [marriage] was my commitment before God.
I think that if I weren’t a believer we likely would have split early on because we were so constantly at odds with each other. It wasn’t just about respecting my husband’s opinion on specific issues. Marriage itself is one big act of submission. You’ve chosen this person, so you must submit to him as your husband. You can’t go off and be single again, and you can’t just decide to switch him out for a different one. Loyalty is also one expression of submission, as it is one of the qualities that God values highly in us.
My husband’s work situation didn’t show any signs of improvement after the baby was born. Now we had a mortgage and the pressure of raising a child, and it was at this time that I saw myself emerge as a woman I really didn’t recognize. Before this I had always thought of myself as really cool, but under pressure I became a worldly, nagging, middle-aged woman. Once I saw my deep-rooted worldliness, I again plunged into the depths of self-contempt. It was here that I finally started to realize my complete helplessness, and that there was nothing good in me at all.
My biggest lesson in marriage has been that of releasing my own self-centeredness. When two people are living in such close contact every day maintaining a self-centered approach in any matter can turn into an argument and even lead to divorce. For example, I am extremely ambitious and detest my husband’s lack of discipline at work. I also doubt his overall ability, which causes him to feel very lonely and weak.
God slowly removed my pride, especially in the realm of work. He truly opened my eyes to see that my husband is very talented, with an open and elegant sense of style, and the reality is that I am not as skilled as he is. When I praised him, he was encouraged. We get along much better now than we did in early marriage, and I believe our relationship will continue to improve.
The teachings of Jesus and our own desire to pursue our self-centered lives are opposed to one another. Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. The words of Jesus are the words sent to us from heaven.
Gifts Are Not My God
Those of us born in the 80s lived in a world focused on “me,” with families that went to all lengths to direct their resources our way. Today we no longer lack basic needs and we really don’t have to suffer physically. Young people don’t really bear any great burden for their families but are free to willfully pursue their own dreams. If I want something and can’t get it, well, that’s just not okay.
“Self” became very important, and as we entered our teens we became headstrong. However this headstrong nature in our 30s or 40s becomes something different. The only standard in our word is that of success. Success is the great spiritual disaster of this generation.
My parents were very young when they took on the weight of a family, facing the reality that they often lacked enough to eat or drink. However, I doubt they faced the same temptation of success that now pulls at my generation. In their generation, to live was enough. For those in my generation struggling to be successful, scrolling through social media, and seeing the lives of others just feeds discontent and frustration.
However, [because of God’s work in my life] I am no longer seeking my ultimate purpose in my work and I no longer put such stress on what I do. The most important thing is that God helped me to adjust my work ethic. Drawing is a gift that God gave me, and I can steward this gift. Before knowing the Lord, my talent was my god. If there is no higher mission and no clarity of order of things, work will ultimately revolve around me, myself; my own standards will continue to be the center of things, and this will inevitably lead to many problems.
If someone said my drawings weren’t good I’d be unhappy. Whenever a customer wanted changes done to my drawing it really rocked my emotions, but now I don’t have such large mood swings. My former attitude was: “These customers just don’t understand. They are too picky.” Now that I realize that this is work God gave to me, I am so grateful that I can continue to draw. I’m also not as self-centered, and not as quick to lose my temper.
Now, the bottom line is that if the customer asks me to make changes I just go ahead and make the changes. In the past I wanted to create perfection, but now I realize that it isn’t in doing things well that I find happiness, but in making sure the other party receives a positive benefit from what I have done. I used to be very picky at work, but now I’ve developed a greater level of tolerance, which has ultimately opened my eyes to a wider world.
I used to really hate the singular criteria of society, but later realized my own standard was also very narrow. My old standard was that if you drew well I liked you, which was pretty cruel. Now I understand that judging someone on their abilities puts you in the place to be judged on your ability and others may secretly look down on you.
In the months after the Tianjin explosions, I drew a series called “We.” In the past I would never have taken on a project like this, because it would have seemed too common, too mainstream and unsophisticated. In addition, I didn’t think I had the ability to draw something related to so much suffering. However, this time the drawing came about naturally, and it really was a reflection of both the disaster and loving another as oneself.
I chose the name “We” to represent an attitude of not simply holding onto the standard of justice towards the perpetrators, but to point to the reality that, because mankind has rejected God, we are all in desperate need of redemption. As the Bible says, "Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter.”
Moving forward, I first of all want to commit myself to persevering in marriage, becoming a good wife, fulfilling my role as a mother, and to contemplating new creative projects. I remember that we used to have a photo project called “Looking for Love in the Center of the Universe.” The caption we wrote at that time was: “We need to be loved, but we also want the ability to develop self-love, love for others, love for animals, and love of nature. If among the masses of people we can’t find trustworthy love then let us search for it among the cosmos!”
This [in God] I have truly discovered. I’ve also come to possess the ability to love others more.
Original article: 成功是我们这一代人最大的心灵灾难 —— 80后司玮的蜕变 (Territory)
Image credit: Success, via The Blue Diamond Gallery
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