This is your life.
“Buy one, get one free! Come quickly! We're selling out fast!”
The offer doesn't even phase you. You've heard it too many times. You want something fresher. The smell of stinky tofu hits your nose. It's strong and attractive, but you keep walking. You grab a sausage and some sweet potato balls. Then, your friends start calling you over.
“Hey! We're going to sit over here to eat.”
The night weather is perfect; warm with a light breeze. When you get to the table, your friends are all laughing and really happy. It's a perfect night, full of joy and peace. You forget about all your worries. Being right here is enough.
'Beep. Beep. Beep.'
Your alarm screeches out into the air, bringing you from the dream world to the real world. It's time to get ready for your new day. Everyone in your family has their own routines. You're familiar with all of them. You know them. They know you.
Getting ready moves by like a blur. Everything blends together with time. You're preparing now for the future, but everything you do is done to honor the past. You want your parents to be proud, and you want your children to have the same values you do.
You cherish the people at your job like they're family. You all take care of each other and help each other. It doesn't matter if it's work related or not. You're there for each other.
Today is going to be especially busy. Everyone is quiet, preparing for their day's duties. Soon, it will be loud and chaotic. You take advantage of the quiet, getting as much done as you can.
You forget to be thankful with everything that is going on, but deep inside you're glad you have a great job, great co-workers, and a great family that really loves you.
After work you have to run some errands. You need to go to the bank, the pharmacy, and buy some things at the supermarket. All your errands are tedious and involve lots of waiting and decisions. You feel a bit lonely doing them on your own, but you'll be with friends soon enough.
You're relieved once your last errand is finished and you're ready to spend the rest of the night relaxing. You message your friends and decide to all go shopping together. When you get to the shopping strip, you start picking out all the places you want to go.
Every time you're all together, everyone instantaneously starts sharing what happened that day. Everything is over-dramatic and emotional. You want to share something deeper, but there's no opportunity. You simply follow along with the group.
The stores are fresh and clean. You feel comfortable; happy. Your friends start asking you for your opinion.
“What do you think about this?”
“Do you think I'll pull this off?”
“Is this too small for me?”
You don't buy anything this time. You just want to look. It's your friends who make the purchases. It will be you next time.
Everything that was exciting when you first arrived starts to lose its appeal. You feel tired and ready to go. Your friends want to sit down for some tea and snacks and relax. Normally you would say yes, but this time, you don't feel like it.
You go home earlier than expected, but once you get there, you feel like doing something again. You drop off your things and lay down on the couch. You haven't exercised in a while. With a sudden burst of motivation, you put your shorts on and grab some water.
You go to the park down the street from your house and warm up your muscles. As soon as you start running, you feel tired, but you keep on going. Soon, you are in the mode and your body feels light.
Every lap feels the same as the last. You feel healthy, strong and free in the night breeze. Suddenly, out of thin air, you hear a voice speaking to your heart.
'How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! '
You stop in your tracks and turn around. People start running past you. No one notices your reaction. Everyone else keeps moving along with their same routine.
You take a breathe and wipe the sweat off your face. You wonder if you just had a spiritual moment, but you don't think too much about it. Your body starts feeling tired and you decide to run one last lap before stopping.
You take a shower right when you get home. You collapse on your bed, completely tired and quickly fall asleep. In a dream, you see a crowd of people too numerous to count. Everyone is screaming out with passionate cries. You can't understand anything, but recognize the sounds of certain languages. Everyone is on their knees facing the same direction.
Finally you pick up on someone speaking your own language.
"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."
You look over to see who's speaking. You're amazed. It's unbelievable. Right before your eyes you can see yourself, on your knees and filled with passion.
The sound of your alarm startles you awake.
Your morning starts the same as any other day. Nothing changes. Your father is focused on getting to his work and your mother has her own list of things to do. Your dream still flickers in your mind, but all interest in it disappears. You aren't so easily affected by those types of things. It's so far from reality you can't believe you thought it might have been real.
On your way to work, everything feels especially busy, or maybe you're just more aware, or more irritable. Life seems so mundane at times. You have everything figured out. You might know that you are just one small person on a small island in a big world, but this is who you are.
You eat your usual lunch and talk to your co-workers about all the hard things at work. You never really feel valued and you wish you had more authority and a higher position.
You're exhausted after work today, maybe because of yesterday's run. You decide to go to the spa for a massage. That will put your mind right. The massage is soothing and relaxing. It's worth every dollar you spent on it, and you're alive again.
You call your friends up and see if they have any free time, but there are no answers. You stop by the park to rest for a bit and you strike up a conversation with a young father playing with his son. You talk about the weather, your jobs, and new restaurants that opened, and soon you decide to make your way home. Before you walk away, he blesses you.
“Jesus loves you.”
You don't actually understand it, but take it as his way of being nice. It quickly leaves your mind as you focus on your route home and your phone starts ringing. Your friend is free and wants to grab some sweet tofu with you.
The place is full, but several people quickly finish and leave their seats for you. You both take a seat and wait for your food to arrive. Before you have time to say a word, it's already on the table.
You start chatting and get lost in the conversation. Soon enough, you're both finished and the place is almost empty. It's late already and you both need to get back home. You walk out together and right before you part ways, your friend grabs your arm.
“Hey, do you remember that Christian event we went to in college? I thought about that again for some reason when I looked at you. I have to go. Let's talk tomorrow. Goodnight.”
Your friend walks off with ease, but you're stopped in your tracks. Why would your friend remember that event from so long ago?
You slowly make your way back, but you still can't believe the coincidences that have been happening to you.
Once you enter your house, your routine is re-established and your world comes back together again. You take a shower and the next thing you know, you're on your bed and another day is finished.
Your alarm brings you into the next morning. You feel great as you wake up. All your family and job worries are masked behind a joy to be alive. You have a great life, and there are too many positive things in your life to let anything bring you down.
Your day at work starts out tough, but that just makes you more hard working to put yourself in control again. With just a little extra effort, everything is smooth again. You can do this. Today, you're not letting anything put you down.
At lunch time, you feel like eating your favorite food. You choose your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant and relax. All the stress you collected from the day disappears. Bite by bite, you enjoy your meal, taking your time before you have to go back to work.
When you're finished, you get up to pay your bill and the boss takes your money kindly, then stares right into your eyes. With a determination to say something desperately important, he speaks out of his heart.
“This word just came to me suddenly, but I believe it's something you need to hear. God is the only one who gives you dignity, value, and worth. He will put a new message in your mouth. Have a blessed rest of the day.”
Your heart pounds from those simple words. You walk away, speechless once again. You feel warm inside, knowing there is something taking care of your steps.
Once work comes again, the busyness of life takes you away and you soon forget about words from strangers. You have your life to live. That's the most important thing right now. After work, you run around the city, trying to cross off as much as possible from your to-do-list.
Without finishing half of what you wanted to, your friends are beckoning you to come out to dinner with them. They want to have hot pot, and you can't resist the invitation.
You scan the restaurant when you get there, but there's no sign of your friends yet. You decide to walk to the nearby bookstore and see if anything exciting came out recently. All the new releases feel predictable or just too expensive.
From the corner of your eye, you see a small book across three aisles. You slowly strut over and glance at the title before picking it up.
'Finding Freedom in Taiwan: Why we're not as free as we think.'
With enough of your interest perked, you pick it up and look at the back cover. '… and why it's only Jesus that can set us free from our insecurities, need for control, and sin.'
You swallow hard and quickly put the book back. The concept doesn't even fit in your worldview. You've wasted enough time already. You decide to head back to the restaurant and see if your friends arrived yet.
When you get back, there's still no sign of them. You reach into your pocket and all your missed messages start popping up.
'Sorry, can't make it tonight after all...'
There's no point in having hot pot by yourself. You go home.
Every fish is trapped in the circular tank. The salt from the water builds up on the top. Orange, blue, and yellow fish circle about, searching for food.
A dolphin flips out of the water, echoing its voice off the rough waves. Its long narrow beak pierces back into the water again as a penguin leaps off a block of ice into frigid waters.
A shy koala seeks shelter in the shade of a tree. It carries its young with it: newborns warming themselves in the fur of their mother. The koala lands down on the frozen ice, throwing fish into the tree. The tree is a penguin: the audience for the large fish-like mammal, flipping in and out of solid ice.
You're in the middle of an ancient courtyard surrounded by endless fields, rivers, and mountains. There are several houses and pavilions, all bearing ancient markings of butterflies, bottles, trees, fruit, and special designs. There's no running water, electricity, flushing toilets, televisions, heaters, air-conditioning, or shopping malls.
Everything you use is in and around this courtyard. Everything you have is built from your own hands or traded from merchants. Everything you know is from your family. There's no internet, or radio, or long distance communication.
Your land is the center of your life. Your family is the source of all your beliefs. Your morality comes from your experiences and a deeper connection to something you can't explain.
This is your life.
Your deceased ancestors are your guideposts, pointing you back to their generation and forward into the next one. You see their pictures everyday, enshrined in the little temple in your courtyard. You burn incense to them, and offer them the fruit of your labors. They are the source of your blessings and the reason for your curses.
Your lack of commitment to them and the life you ought to live is felt in the famines and diseases that plague you. Your obedience and dedication is felt in the big harvests and healthy life you have. Every result in your life stems from your hard work or lack of obedience.
You see a traveler coming in the distance. He is on foot and alone. You get nervous and excited. These few travelers, coming from distant places, are the only means for you to know about new ideas, new trading opportunities, new peoples, new technology, and news of distant lands and kings and wars.
You anticipate what the message could be, how it will affect your life, and whether it will be good or bad.
The stranger is within your land. Your family comes out together to meet him. You can tell he is wearied from his long journey. His feet are worn out and dirty. His hair and beard are unkempt and messy. His body looks strong yet hunched over from the rough and harsh terrain. You're unsure of where he came from, what language he speaks, and where he's trying to go.
You feel sorry for one such as he, having to face such difficulties alone, without the means for a hot meal or clean clothes, but there is something off about the whole picture.
There is a smile across this man's face, hidden under wrinkles, dust, dirt, and hair. The man is not wounded or without fortune. Actually, he looks blessed. Before any of you can react or speak, the stranger opens his mouth.
“Peace to this house.”
Your father bows to the stranger and invites him into your home. The stranger washes his feet and his face and sits down to the tea you've prepared for him.
Again, he speaks first.
“I come with good news. I see you have a shrine and are devoted to worshiping your ancestors. No doubt, you have spent countless hours preparing meals for them and asking for blessings and healing. You're not sure where you stand compared to the great figures you learned about in stories and teachings. You try your best to keep following all the ordinances and rituals your family put in place, but you know it will never be enough. There will always be more curses to break, more land to heal, and more wrongs to undo.
“But now, the time of endless sacrificing and ritual worship is over. Your ancestors can do no more to help you than you them. But there is one alone who is worthy to receive your worship and sacrifice, and one alone who can forever heal your land and clear your conscience. He is Jesus, and he lived a life without spot or blemish. He taught us to love the one true God and love each other.
“Unfortunately, many religious leaders were jealous of his influence and couldn't accept the forgiveness he offered to poor peasants and sick people. They murdered him by crucifixion, but even this Jesus submitted to willingly because he knew he had to take our place on that cross, dying for us. Jesus took our wrong-doing and gave us his righteous life. Not only this, but Jesus was buried in a tomb, and on the third day, he rose again in victory over death, showing he really is the messiah that we were waiting for to save us all.
“I'm here to tell you that this Jesus lives and he wants to dwell in you all through the power of his Holy Spirit, if you're willing to repent and accept this free gift of grace. This is the good news: You are forgiven in Jesus. You no longer have to go through endless rituals and sacrifices. You no longer have to worry about curses or famines or plagues. You no longer have to worry about the wrongs you committed, because Jesus paid for all of it. You are forgiven. You are free. You are healed. And you are loved as children of the Father in heaven.”
Your whole family is taken aback. A silence fills the room. The reality of his words fills your heart and mind. The truth behind his logic hits deep into your soul. The reality of what this means starts playing out. You whisper the truth to yourself.
“I'm forgiven. I'm new.” Instantly, the power of the Holy Spirit fills you. You embrace its grasp and get lost in its warmth. This is love. This whole time you were known, sought after, and finally found.
Something too great to even imagine is here. No need to worry or sacrifice or work your way to forgiveness. Here in the love of God, you are free, you are purposed, and you are in right standing.
The power jolts you awake and you pick yourself off the ground outside your house. The same power continues to reside over you and you know it wasn't a mere dream you experienced. God loves you and wants you to have an intimate relationship with him.
For the first time in your life, you know Jesus, and you believe what he did so many years ago was also for you and your people. You are born-again, and everything is changed. Your family is no longer to be worshiped because someone more worthy has come. You understand it now. It's only through worshiping the true God that you can connect into the family line of God and offer help for your family. In Jesus, you have new life! It's amazing!
Through your inner-spirit, you can hear the call, clear and loud.
“Go. As I have sent others for you, go. Tell all that they have a free gift of forgiveness in the Son of God: Jesus the Messiah. Go, and behold, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”