We've entered the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic amidst which various phenomena have made many people see the real situation of their families. Selfishness and indifference are magnified in them, as well as contribution and care.
Leo Tolstoy said, "Happy families are all alike". But is that true? They may be similar, but not the same. Christian families are striving to practice faith in their lives. All of them have gone through different paths with their own takeaways and reached a conclusion with great confidence that the ending will be a happy one.
Through interviews, we learned that families who had pursued faith did not give up their efforts under pressure. On the contrary, they worked hard to practice faith in their daily lives.
Xiaomai and his wife Xiaojuan are newlyweds based in Shanghai who are still figuring out how to live a life together. Staying at home under lockdown, they got to spend more time with each other every day and fought more frequently. Trivial things like how to put salt on scrambled eggs could be a good reason to start a fight. Xiaomai liked whisking salt in the liquid eggs, and then pouring it into the pot to fry. However, Xiaojuan preferred to add salt after frying. Later, they laughed at what had happened between themselves.
Unfortunately, daily devotionals followed the same pattern. They agreed to dedicate a time each day to get close to God together, and the two took turns hosting. With different church backgrounds, they inclined towards different hymn styles. The husband liked selected hymns in traditional, while the wife liked modern style. Furthermore, their hosting styles were nothing alike either. Xiaomai hoped to strictly follow the process, yet Xiaojuan liked to be more natural and smoother. As a result, their devotional practice was directly interrupted by such conflicts.
Fortunately, they both believed that doing the daily devotion together was very important, so they both prayed to God for a smoother practice. Xiaomai said: "The best way to change the other person is to pray for her. I have to come before God first. We both have our own cross, meanwhile, we also have to carry each other's cross." Xiaojuan said: "I saw myself very self-centered, disrespectful and unsubmissive to my husband. I repented to God in prayer."
Both of them were willing to pray before God. Gradually, they saw their own problems, understood each other better and wanted to change their own behavior. Xiaojuan was ready to follow her husband, to learn the selected hymns, obey him, and respect him. Xiaomai was also prepared to listen to his wife's sharing without urging her to end it in order to proceed on to the next part. "Overall, I feel our family has become more spiritual and more united," said Xiaojuan.
A female believer surnamed Luo and her Christian husband Xin have two sons. Luo believes family fellowship should strengthen family cohesion, establish the image and authority of the father and provide spiritual care to the children.
Luo feels most deeply about the relationship between a father and the children. Because Xin doesn't usually spend much time at home, he has even less time to be with their children. But during the family fellowship, Xin sometimes shares Bible verses. If a father often teaches the Bible at home, he will build up the authority of God’s word in the hearts of the children, rather than by yelling at them.
At the same time, when the whole family sits together and communicates, the parents listen to the children's thoughts, ideas, and encounters, which makes the children feel more secure. Without such occasions, children will not know how to talk to their parents when they are treated wrongly at school or have things they can't understand. "Even just a 10-minute conversation, simply asking how the children are doing at school, will make a big difference. Those 10 minutes is quality time," said Luo.
The Christian couple Qing and her husband Li also have two sons. Qing’s greatest takeaway about the family fellowship is that the interaction between parents and children is deepened, and there is more heart-to-heart communication. The love in the family flows not only from parents to children but also the other way around. Qing was moved when her sons expressed their love for her.
Qing was not in good health. During the family worship, if the younger son felt that his mother was not feeling well that day, he would take the initiative to pray for her. In Qing’s prayer for her sons, God also guided her to understand them better. Qing shared that once she prayed for her children's studies: "When I prayed, God not only led me to pray for their studies but also guided me to pray for their souls, so that they could enjoy studying and the learning process."
Qing and Li told the children about their own faith stories. The children liked listening to them very much. In the process of recounting these stories, the couple also recalled the grace of God, the confidence and love at the beginning. This helped their hearts regain strength.
Zhang and her husband Li are both Christians living in Shanghai. Zhang engages in the prayer ministry of her church and Li serves in a Christian organization. The older one of their two children needs to take online lessons during the day, while the younger one needs them to be with him in turn. During the lockdown when the whole family could only stay at home, all kinds of dramas took place. But Zhang said: "With family fellowship, a tiring day became comforting after sharing God's word together. Sharing His word protected everyone's heart and washed away our sins of the day."
During the family fellowship, Zhang's family truly witnessed the changing power of God's word. One day, the children couldn’t calm down before sharing. Therefore, Li was a bit upset. Although he had already started reading the Bible, Li was obviously still in a bad mood. But as he was reading, Li seemed to light up more and more. Zhang said: “Even though the children didn’t say anything, I believed they saw God’s words would give people grace and change their hearts. No matter what difficulties they encounter in the future, I hope their experience at home can turn into strength which enables them to find peace in God’s word."
Being trapped at home due to the epidemic, Zhang and Li both focused on serving, which kept them very busy every day. Hence they did not pay much attention to the news related to COVID-19, so as not to become negative and pessimistic. Yet staying in the same house every day, they inevitably had some friction. Fortunately, God protected this family for its daily fellowship with Him. The husband and wife, as well as parents and children, would apologize to each other for their disharmony. Zhang commented: "For those who serve God, peace in the family is very important. When families are strong, they can serve with more strength."
Rev. Zhang hopes to pass on this habit to her children so that when they grow up, they can also have family fellowship in their own homes.
There are more beautiful stories happening in family worship. Ah Shuo discovered the good qualities of his wife thanks to family fellowship. The couple Zhen and his wife Fan prayed for each other in the beginning, then, for more and more other people. Seeing her son singing hymns, the female believer Mi forgave him for always getting frustrated over homework. The list of such beautiful stories goes on and on.
Certainly, they all mentioned that daily perseverance wasn’t easy. Behind every change was much hard work and sacrifice. But no matter what, they were walking on a hopeful path, knowing that regardless of what the process was, it would always be a happy ending.
- Translated by Shuya Wang