Mourning into Dancing

Personal Testimonies

Mourning into Dancing

I often doubted I would reach adulthood. I had no serious illness, no physical danger, and no disadvantaged childhood. The problem was that by the time I reached adolescence, life in general—and my life in particular—seemed unreal, purposeless, and meaningless. I was haunted, often in the quiet of the night, by insistent but unanswerable questions: Why was I here? Where had I come from? And where was I going? I was not raised an atheist or agnostic; my family was God-fearing, church-going, and morally grounded. Yet even within this framework I was able to find no definitive answers, no solid core to base my life on. I was achingly purposeless and so hollow that I seemed to echo. This sense was so acute, even from childhood, that when I was about eight years old I once asked my mother, “Was I missing something when I was born that you never told me about?” She reassured me that I was just like everyone else, which only made me wonder how everyone else managed to cope with such emptiness for an entire lifetime.

I spent the next dozen years trying on an assortment of academic, athletic, social, and religious personas and activities. In each case, I felt like a bystander, an imposter. Not one of them provided the sense of purpose I was craving or addressed the anguishing inner void that was becoming increasingly familiar. Even the university courses in psychology and philosophy I so eagerly registered for offered no enlightenment, only more questions posed in resignation and despair. One existential novel we studied, aptly entitled Nausea, summed up the prevailing view: We are isolated individuals with no intended purpose, meaning, or goal adrift in an indifferent, even hostile universe. It was truly nauseating. By this point, although I did not consider myself suicidal, I had little difficulty understanding the impulse. On several occasions I cried out to God, “If You are real, if there is any point to all of this, You’d better let me know.” Although He didn’t answer immediately, He did preserve me through those years, preparing me for His answer.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, I packed up and relocated to Austin, Texas in search of graduate school and a fresh start. What I found was not only the change in lifestyle that I was expecting—much more, I found God’s timely answer to my prayers, a change in life. Within just a few days, I met some Christians who were different from anyone I had ever known. These were the first people I had ever met who were not aimless, hopeless, or clueless; they radiated joyful purpose and a crystal-clear sense of destiny. They were not hollow human shells “just like everyone else,” but full to overflowing with something solid and real. As I spent time with them, I realized that they were not just speaking words to me—they were living what they were speaking about. As they spoke, something within me resonated and responded. I realized the source of their joy and purposefulness. It was not a more enlightened philosophy, a better-adjusted frame of mind, or a new, improved variety of religion. Their content and life was God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ and their living was His practical expression. I was dumbfounded. I thought I knew about Jesus. I considered myself a multi-generation Christian. I had even gone to Sunday school and read some of the Bible. But I had never imagined that this God-man Jesus, Who was so real that I could sense Him living before me and speaking to me in these Christians, was what I had been so desperately seeking since childhood. He was my source, my destiny, and the reason for everything in between. He was the priceless treasure, the content of reality to finally fill the void within me and to give purpose to each moment and detail of my life. He was irresistible. I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, called on His name, and asked Him to come into me, to live in me, and to be all my life. Just that simply, after twenty-one years of wise and merciful preparation, He came into me, filled my empty spirit with Himself as the life-giving Spirit, and saved me not only from my sin, but even the more, from a pointless, vacuous existence.

Twenty-three years have quickly come and gone since then, with an unforeseeable variety of experiences (including the graduate degree). Throughout all of them, this Christ has been faithful to make Himself increasingly real to me, to fill each detail of my living with His marvelous life and Person, and to rescue me from the meaningless emptiness I never expected to escape. He has been able to accomplish this through His precious indwelling Spirit, through His enlightening and enlivening Word, through the faithful ministry of many brothers, in particular of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee who unveiled to me the Bible and my human spirit, and through the glorious, practical, daily church life. I am full of thanks and rejoicing to have found in Christ and among His members a Christian life and a church life so full of reality and so rich with eternal significance and purpose. The Lord Jesus has truly turned all my mourning into dancing.

 

S.R.

 

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