“Big Face” & Following Jesus | A Guest Post from Natalie Han

Today’s post is from my dear friend Natalie. She currently works as a post-doctorate at Stanford University in the radiology department. She happens to be the smartest person I know (and I know a lot of smart people) and I had the privilege of wading through her intellectual arguments against God and introducing her to Jesus Christ. Today, she writes an incredible piece on the idea of boasting in our weaknesses, so that Christ may be made strong from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. If you missed either part of her story you can read about her here and here.

I accomplished what I only dreamed of as a child.

When my professor walked out of the classroom in which I just presented my PhD dissertation and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Han” I could not contain my excitement (I acted poised until he left-then I cheered, jumped up and down with my friends, took 100 pictures, and eventually cried).  Everything I’d ever thought of accomplishing, came with his words. I  received my PhD in America and had job offers to Harvard & Stanford.

Chinese culture has a lot to do with “face”, as our society is based on the shame/honor dichotomy. Big house, good jobs, kids’ school performances, all bring “big face”, while anything embarrassing will make us lose face. We try to rise to the top, to out perform others, and do anything we can (right or wrong) to make ourselves & especially our families have face.

Before I knew Jesus, I didn’t care what it took for me to accomplish my dreams-all that mattered was my ‘big face’. I was prideful and living for myself. If you saw me then, you would think I was very happy & smart, but underneath appearances I lived in the dark.  My life was a mess, I was lost and totally didn’t know what is right and what is wrong. As long as I had good grades, came to the US, have publications, other things behind the scenes seemed to be not that important. After all, big faces are all that mattered. That was how people judge you. I arrived in America, accomplished my childhood dream and gave my parents ‘big face’, but the darkness still lingered.

The world has not changed, but I found Hope and ironically weakness. Five years ago, on Halloween, instead of dressing up like a sexy girl (we think all Americans dress too sexy on Halloween) to attend a consume party, an American girl Ruthie was crying with me and witnessing how I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Indeed, I was weak, I was broken, I was hopeless, I was sinful, I knew that I could not continue one more day without this hope and new life she has been sharing with me over the past two months. Of course, I didn’t have time to read the whole Bible, but I knew this Jesus she spoke of could forgive my sins. He could give me a new life when I accepted him, I could live differently. Ridiculous sounding from my communist party background, but I felt the peace and healing that I have never experienced before, overflowing in my trembling body in a little white car outside of Starbucks on 21st Avenue. This was real. This was not like I filling up a form and paying for the communist party membership fee. I felt the peace knowing Jesus has forgiven all my sins and my life is in his control. I was fragile (and admitted it for probably the first time in my life) but trusted God that this new life will go differently forevermore. For the first time, I couldn’t ‘fix’ my weakness or forgive my sins myself-I needed a Savior.

I like to joke with Ruthie that she “ruined my life” because after I accepted Christ as my Savior, I felt weaker than every before-because I wasn’t relying on my own abilities or seeking to bring praise to myself. My life would look so different if I had not met Jesus…

Truth is that I’m not perfect, the way I do things, things I say are not all constructive, ask my friends you will find out more how many times I’m “bengkui”, meaning “totally falling into pieces” over the past five years. But God never fails. God promised us to complete the work in us (Phil.1:6). We are not finished yet.

The Bible says Paul boasts in his weaknesses, so that Christ may be shown strong.  How different from what I grew up believing! But even after my accepting Jesus, I still try to hide my weakness and pretend to be a “good” Christian, because of my Chinese gene wishing to have “big” face. What a lie! If we could gain to go to heaven by what we do, Christ died for nothing (Gal 2:21).

Even the verse “when you are weak, you are strong” was hanging on my wall for years, but I still struggle to apply it. One of my weaknesses is I cannot take other people’s negative comments about me, no matter truths or lies. I hide. Though I’m not the person that I used to be, my tendency was to avoid losing face more by hiding. The spiritual journey is not a easy road-many struggles, tears, prayers it took to have even a little bit of change in each one’s life. But thanks God for His grace to change me, though I’m limping along the way, I’m not alone. I boast in my weakness in light of encouraging myself and you to boast in our weakness, stop pretending to live a perfect life, stop relying on our own strengths, embrace our weakness and let Jesus work in our lives. We should not be afraid, because “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Christ is strong and we want others to see His strength in us not get lost looking at our own “big face”.

What do you think about covering up your sins or struggles to make yourself look better? Do you find it difficult to rejoice in weaknesses?