Cross-cultural relationships have their challenges, and I think mine is no exception. I’ve been in a relationship with a Chinese woman for over half a year, and I am often reminded of our cultural differences. Even after living in China for 4 years, I’ve realized there is much I don’t understand about the culture. Part of that is because of my poor language skills. Something I am slowly working on. But with the Chinese language, I think it will be a lifelong endeavor.
At any rate, despite cultural differences, I’ve found that we have many similarities too. And some shared experiences. Most importantly, we are both Christians. And as 桂兰 likes to remind me, we are 天国人, which literally means “Heaven-Country-Person.” In other words, our true home is in heaven. And that’s a good thing to remember.
Because, let’s face it, if this world is all there is, there is no hope. There is no meaning to life, and there is no reason to love others as we love ourselves. If this is it, why not live your life on your own terms, find as much satisfaction as you can, and seek to find whatever brings you pleasure?
I’m not sure who invented the “bucket list,” but it’s certainly reflective of the culture we live in. In order to escape the mundane drudgery of life, we’ve invented our list of things we hope to do before we die. And if we have enough money and time, we may be able to accomplish many of those desired activities. Even if we do, what was the point? Why do it? To find ultimate satisfaction in our accomplishments, to tell some great stories to friends, to bring us a sense of fulfillment in life?
But is that truly fulfilling? Does climbing Mt. Everest or going on a safari result in a fulfilling life? Will it bring us the inner peace that we desire? It may for a time. But soon many of us will return to stressful jobs, broken relationships, and unmet expectations. And that trip to South Africa to see some giraffes and rhinos will be a distant memory.
So what is fulfilling then? Apart from a relationship with God, the Creator of this world, there is nothing that will truly satisfy us. But can’t we find satisfaction in our accomplishments, our wealth, or our relationships? Why can’t that fulfill us?
There was a king who had all that. His name was Solomon. He was the greatest king in Israel, the wealthiest, and the most powerful. Oh, he happened to be the wisest too. And he had a ton of wives – hundreds of them. But he said that life was empty and meaningless without God.
He was a powerful king, but soon another would take his place. He had tons of money, but once he died, it would go to someone else. And he had many beautiful wives, but when he got old, he would no longer have the energy to enjoy the pleasures of marriage. And in the end, his own senses would fail him, and he would have to be cared for by others.
It’s a bleak reality. But it’s a true one. And especially in American culture, we don’t like to think about death. We like to focus on health, wealth, sexuality, and entertainment. But if we’re honest, death will come to each of us, and we never know when today could be our last.
My grandpa died this past fall. In some ways, it wasn’t that shocking. His health had been failing for years, but it was still gut-wrenching to see a loved one slowly fade away from this earth. I remember after he died, we had a viewing at the funeral house with an open coffin with my grandpa in it. It was an odd experience. His soul was gone, yet his body lay peacefully inside the coffin.
A few days before my grandpa died, my dad asked him whether he feared death. He told him that he was trusting God and ready to go to heaven when God called him home. He certainly didn’t desire death, but when it came, he was ready to leave this earth and meet the Creator of this world in heaven. He found fulfillment out of his relationship with God, and now he would live eternally with Him in heaven where there is no sorrow, disease, or death.
So can we really find fulfillment in this life? For me, it’s found in loving God completely and caring for others as myself. My life is still riddled in pride and selfishness, but God has given me the strength to slowly begin to follow Him rather than my own desires. And one day, when I die, I will see Him face to face and live eternally in heaven.
This world cannot give us hope or peace or satisfaction. But as Christians, we can find fulfillment through our relationship with God and our time spent in his Word. We must continue to tell others the hope that is found in Jesus and must not waste our life here on earth. We must not forget that we are 天国人.