We were on our way home from the weekly soccer game.
The pollution was boarder-line unhealthy for Beijing standards and way beyond healthy for anywhere else in the world. None of the Beijing folk seemed to think twice so I didn’t say anything as we played.
I was on my little brother’s old bike, which thankfully had gotten me to my destination and back. I had had my doubts. Everything looks older and more likely to fall apart when it’s covered in that nasty pollution-film that covers anything left outside.
I turned right into the alley that leads to my parent’s house when I heard something that made me stop dead in my tracks.
Not yelling, as if two people were verbally duking it out because the latter had been ripped by the former. No, this was all-out, top of your lungs screaming. It had that nerve-wracking, bone-chilling effect.
I looked up to see where the screaming was coming from. There at the top of the pedestrian walk-way overlooking the busy road was a women sitting on the top step, rocking back and forth, screaming a blood-curdling scream, her face lit up by the light of her smart phone. She was addressing her cries into this mini technological wonder, but I doubted that anyone was still on the other side.
I watched for a minute. The screaming continued. Dozens of people walked past her, giving her a look of disapproval or curiosity, but not a single person stopped to ask her what was wrong.
My brother Andrew and his friend Ben pulled up next to me.
We stopped and prayed for her.
It was hard to know how to pray. My brother was able to make out the word “death” amidst the high pitches and sand-paper screeches.
The three of us looked at each other. We were all wondering the same thing, but it took a while for one of us to be strong enough to ask the question, “Should we go up there?”
We prayed again.
Our Chinese was limited at best. My little brother, 16 years old, had the best vocabulary and I had the worst.
After prayer, listening for God’s response and staring at each other for a minute while the pitch continued to echo in our ears I said, “I’ll go if one of you is willing to do the talking.” It was all we needed. My brother Andrew and I parked and locked up our bikes as Ben went home to solicit prayer from those who were waiting on us for supper.
I could tell that my brother was nervous. I can’t believe that his Chinese had ever been put to the test in such an emotionally charged situation before. I know that I would have had a hard time approaching her even if she spoke fluent English. What do you say to a person who is loosing their grip on reality?
I am not sure of everything my brother said to her.
At first she didn’t want us to pray for her. She thought we were trying to convert her and she was being very clear that she wasn’t a Christian. My brother explained that it didn’t matter if she were a Christian, Jesus knew her pain and would help her.
At about this time a Chinese man finally approached and offered to help.
He asked us what was wrong with her. I suddenly realized that it looked like the two foreigners who were sitting with her on the dirty ground had probably caused this scene somehow. What had we done to her to elicit this kind of response?
I was worried for a second. What if the cops were called? On one hand I wanted to cops to show up because they might actually get this poor woman some help. On the other hand, this is the land where the person who calls for an ambulance to save someone’s life gets to pick up the tab. I hadn’t considered that it was possible for us to get into serious trouble just by trying to show her that someone cared. No wonder no one else had stopped.
Once our Chinese friend realized that we were simply trying to help her, he decided to bypass the language barrier and speak to her himself.
Stop crying. Nothing could be this bad. You are an embarrassment to our country. Look, you need foreigners to come help you…
Quite a screaming match erupted between the two of them as we tried to do anything we could to get the guy to shut up.
My brother went back to talking to the woman who hadn’t settled down in the least.
In a moment of clarity, I asked our Chinese man-friend, “Do you live around here?”
What ensued was the most random, talk-about-anything-you-can-think-of conversation I have ever had with anyone.
My Chinese is very limited. Thankfully, I had picked up the language a bit when I lived in China over a decade before, but I was really struggling. Every once and a while our conversation would stall and his attention would go back to the hysterical woman.
Think of something to say! Quick!
“Is this intersection Huayuanqiao?” I knew the intersection from riding the subway every day for the last two weeks. Anything was fair game for this conversation. Anything to keep him from opening his mouth toward this hurting woman.
I played my job well enough, but Andrew was amazing.
Soon they were praying together. She calmed down a bit.
She said that she had more peace.
She started to regain her composure.
My brother got to ask her what was wrong. They prayed again.
She was calm.
No, she didn’t want to grab something to eat.
“Wow, your little brother is quite amazing!” Says the man who “came to our rescue.”
Yep. It helps when your little brother is filled with the Spirit of the living God.
It turns out that this woman had something wrong with her physical body that had caused her to want to kill herself.
My only goal in approaching her was to let her know that someone cared.
She is not alone.
We went our separate ways.
She is in God’s hands now.
She could probably still use some prayer.
Counseling is a new concept in China. The idea of listening to someone’s problems without responding in criticism goes against a deeply rooted culture. Prayer Resolution is a huge blessing to many people who have never had a safe place to express their hurts and pains. Even within the church, this often-times doesn’t exist.
After one of my Dad’s classes, which I sat in on, a woman came up to him:
“I’ve been a Christian for 30 years and I never knew that I could tell God all the ways that people have hurt me. Thank you!”
Sexual images would come to his mind, unwanted.
He felt like there were two voices in his head, one telling him to dwell on the images and one telling him to flee from sin. He would try to distract himself by playing video games. He could hold up for a long time with constant vigilance and extreme care.
After he would masturbate, he would not feel like he could approach God so he would pray “without words.” When he stops masturbating for some period of time, he would feel close to God again.
Is this the victorious life that we have in Christ? Can God only help us manage our sin or is real healing possible?
He had to address the situations that had started this struggle, accusing and forgiving those who had exposed him to pornography for the first time. He confessed his own sins and asked for forgiveness.
He had formed sexual bonds with those images, which is why he didn’t seem to have control over them coming to his mind. They were bound to him. He gave up his claim on those images and asked God to cleanse him, break the bonds with the images and remove those pictures from his mind.
The next time we met, he still had sexual images coming to mind, but not the images that we had dealt with in prayer. For full healing we had to deal with the sexual ties to those images, but we also had to deal with the lie that he was believing.
He believed the lie that he is dirty.
In one sense, he is feeling a very real reality when he feels the defilement of his sin, but those things should not affect his identity.
He prayed, “I am willing to put my problems in your hands. There is a big lie that I believe when I sin: I am a very dirty person. I am not holy and I am very far away from You. I throw away this lie. I agree that I can come to you when I sin or am tempted. Help me to throw away this lie.”
After he prayed this, he waited to see what God’s response would be.
He saw a vision.
There was a train, but something was stopping the train from moving forward on the tracks. His self-desire and sin where obstructing the path of the train to the point where the train had almost completely stopped moving.
In his vision he started praying specifically about the things that were in the way of the train, asking God to remove them.
He felt a serious spiritual battle as he began to pray. He felt his mind wanting to go completely blank so that he would not be able to pray specifically about the things blocking the path of the train. But, God helped him and he was able to pray again.
He saw some sort of flying blade come from the rear of train, destroying the obstructions. Soon there was nothing hindering the train from moving forward.
We discussed this vision together. Sin had stopped the train, but the train was not derailed, damaged or destroyed. We concluded that sin is most definitely a problem, but it does not affect his value. “I am a son of God. I need to do things suitable for a son of God. Whatever battle I face, I will call on him… God, put this truth deeply in my heart.”
He moved around constantly when he was young. He switched schools more than once a year. He was always the new kid. Just when he would make new friends, he would leave them and have to start over again.
He was very smart. He was above average in reading in 1st grade until his teacher punished him for reading a book upside-down. He was just trying to show them that he was really good at reading and could even do it with a disadvantage. Instead of receiving the praise he was hoping for, he was sent to the principle’s office. He was humiliated in front of everyone. From that day forward he had trouble in school.
At the root of these and many other instances was a lie that was building in his heart. He learned the lie that there is no place for him.
As I talked to him he began to realize that, even today, he automatically assumes that people will reject him, that they are simply tolerating him until they found a good enough reason to toss him away. This has caused him to push people away and cut off relationships pre-maturely. This was a very destructive belief in his life.
He accused his parents for their contribution to this lie by providing a life of instability and accused his teacher of contributing to the lie by communicating that he wasn’t welcome unless he conformed to the teacher’s image. He accused many other people before God of their contributions to this lie. In the end he forgave them all because he didn’t want to carry any of this anymore and he could trust that God would do justice for him.
He confessed his part. He believed the lie and lived it out. He rebelled against the authorities at school and assumed people’s heart, not giving them a chance to show their trustworthiness.
He rejected the lie, asked God to break the power of the lie and asked God to replace the lie with a Truth. He heard God respond:
“This is my world, not their world. You are welcome in my place. I am the ultimate owner of everything.”
He also remembered a truth that God had given him earlier that summer, but hadn’t understood until now. “Any place you are at, you are allowed to be. I give you permission.”
After discussing these things we concluded that the Truth that God was giving him that night was, “I belong because God intended me to be here.” He asked God to bind this truth to his heart. The following week when we met he said that he was practicing this truth and reminding himself that he was in the right place because he is God’s.
Many people never feel like they belong, even when they are invited in. They are constantly on the outside, a loner, different. People don’t get them, “They would never understand.” They never feel at home.
This is not the abundant life that God wants for us. Even highly introverted people need to know that they have a place in the world (and eternity, for that matter). What does it take for you to feel like you belong? Do you expect people to accept you or reject you? Maybe you hear something in your head saying, “You don’t belong here.”