The Fifth Juncture: Progeny
After marrying, one begins to raise the next generation. One has no say in how many and what kind of children one has; this too is determined by a person’s fate, predestined by the Creator. This is the fifth juncture through which a person must pass.
If one is born in order to fulfill the role of someone’s child, then one rears the next generation to fulfill the role of someone’s parent. This shift in roles makes one experience different phases of life from different perspectives. It also gives one different sets of life experience through which one comes to know the sovereignty of the Creator, which is always enacted in the same way, and through which one encounters the fact that no one can overstep or alter the predestination of the Creator.
1. One Has No Control Over What Becomes of One’s Offspring
Birth, growing up, and marriage all bring disappointment of various kinds and in different degrees. Some people are dissatisfied with their families or their own physical appearance; some dislike their parents; some resent or have complaints about the environment in which they grew up. And for most people, among all these disappointments, marriage is the most dissatisfactory. No matter how dissatisfied one is with one’s birth, maturation, or marriage, everyone who has gone through these things knows that one cannot choose where and when they were born, what they look like, who their parents are, and who their spouse is, but must simply accept the will of Heaven. Yet when it comes time for people to raise the next generation, they will project all the desires they failed to realize in the first half of their lives onto their descendants, hoping that their offspring will make up for all the disappointments of the first half of their own lives. So people indulge in all kinds of fantasies about their children: that their daughters will grow up to be stunning beauties, their sons dashing gentlemen; that their daughters will be cultured and talented and their sons brilliant students and star athletes; that their daughters will be gentle, virtuous, and sensible, and their sons intelligent, capable, and sensitive. They hope that their offspring, whether they be daughters or sons, will respect their elders, be considerate of their parents, be loved and praised by everyone…. At this point, hopes for life spring afresh, and new passions are kindled in people’s hearts. People know that they are powerless and hopeless in this life, that they will not have another chance or another hope to stand out from the crowd, and that they have no choice but to accept their fates. And so they project all their hopes, their unrealized desires and ideals, onto the next generation, hoping that their offspring can help them achieve their dreams and realize their desires; that their daughters and sons will bring glory to the family name, become important, rich, or famous. In short, they want to see their children’s fortunes soar. People’s plans and fantasies are perfect; do they not know that the number of children they have, their children’s appearance, abilities, and so forth, are not for them to decide, that not a bit of their children’s fates is in their hands? Humans are not the masters of their own fate, yet they hope to change the fates of the younger generation; they are powerless to escape their own fates, yet they try to control those of their sons and daughters. Are they not overestimating themselves? Is this not human foolishness and ignorance? People will go to any length for the sake of their offspring, but in the end, one’s plans and desires cannot dictate how many children one has or what those children are like. Some people are penniless but beget many children; some people are wealthy yet have not a single child. Some want a daughter but are denied that wish; some want a son but fail to produce a male child. For some, children are a blessing; for others, they are a curse. Some couples are intelligent, yet give birth to slow-witted children; some parents are industrious and honest, yet the children they raise are indolent. Some parents are kind and upright but have children who turn out to be sly and vicious. Some parents are sound in mind and body but give birth to handicapped children. Some parents are ordinary and unsuccessful yet have children who achieve great things. Some parents are of low status yet have children who rise to eminence. …
2. After Raising the Next Generation, People Gain a New Understanding of Fate
Most people who enter wedlock do so around age thirty, a time in life at which one does not yet have any understanding of human fate. But when people begin to raise children, and as their offspring grow, they watch the new generation repeat the life and all the experiences of the previous generation, and, seeing their own pasts reflected in them, they realize that the path walked by the younger generation, just like their own, cannot be planned and chosen. Faced with this fact, they have no choice but to admit that every person’s fate is predestined, and without quite realizing it, they gradually lay aside their own desires, and the passions in their hearts sputter and die out…. People in this period, having essentially passed the important waymarkers of life, have achieved a new understanding of life, adopted a new attitude. How much can a person of this age expect from the future and what prospects do they have to look forward to? What fifty-year-old woman is still dreaming of Prince Charming? What fifty-year-old man is still looking for his Snow White? What middle-aged woman is still hoping to turn from an ugly duckling into a swan? Do most older men have the same career drive as young men? In sum, regardless of whether one is a man or a woman, anyone who lives to this age is likely to have a relatively rational, practical attitude toward marriage, family, and children. Such a person has essentially no choices left, no urge to challenge fate. As far as human experience goes, as soon as one reaches this age, one naturally develops a certain attitude: “One must accept fate; one’s children have their own fortunes; human fate is ordained by Heaven.” Most people who do not understand the truth, after having weathered all the vicissitudes, frustrations, and hardships of this world, will summarize their insights into human life with two words: “That’s fate!” Though this phrase encapsulates worldly people’s realization of human fate and the conclusion to which they have come, and though it expresses humanity’s helplessness and could be described as incisive and accurate, it is a far cry from an understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty, and is simply no substitute for knowledge of the Creator’s authority.
3. Believing in Fate Is No Substitute for Knowledge of the Creator’s Sovereignty
Having followed God for so many years, is there a substantive difference between your knowledge of fate and that of the worldly people? Have you truly understood the predestination of the Creator and truly come to know the Creator’s sovereignty? Some people have a profound, deeply felt understanding of the phrase “that’s fate,” yet they do not believe in God’s sovereignty in the least; they do not believe that human fate is arranged and orchestrated by God, and are unwilling to submit to the sovereignty of God. Such people are as if adrift on the ocean, tossed by the waves, drifting with the current, with no choice but to wait passively and resign themselves to fate. Yet they do not recognize that human fate is subject to God’s sovereignty; they cannot on their own initiative come to know God’s sovereignty and thereby achieve knowledge of God’s authority, submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements, stop resisting fate, and live under God’s care, protection, and guidance. In other words, accepting fate is not the same thing as submitting to the Creator’s sovereignty; belief in fate does not mean that one accepts, recognizes, and knows the Creator’s sovereignty; belief in fate is mere recognition of its truth and its superficial manifestations. This is different from knowing how the Creator rules humanity’s fate, from recognizing the Creator is the source of dominion over the fates of all things, and certainly a far cry from submitting to the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements for humanity’s fate. If a person only believes in fate—even if they feel deeply about it—but is not thereby able to know and recognize the Creator’s sovereignty over the fate of humanity, to submit to it and accept it, then their life will nonetheless be a tragedy, a life lived in vain, a void; they will still be unable to come under the Creator’s dominion, to become a created human being in the truest sense of the term, and to enjoy the Creator’s approval. A person who truly knows and experiences the Creator’s sovereignty should be in an active state, not a state that is passive or helpless. While such a person would accept that all things are fated, they should possess an accurate definition of life and fate: Every life is subject to the Creator’s sovereignty. When one looks back on the road one has walked, when one recollects every phase of one’s journey, one sees that at every step, whether one’s journey was arduous or smooth, God was guiding one’s path, planning it out. It was God’s meticulous arrangements, His careful planning, that led one, unknowingly, to today. To be able to accept the Creator’s sovereignty, to receive His salvation—what great fortune that is! If a person has a negative attitude toward fate, it proves that they are resisting everything that God has arranged for them, that they do not have a submissive attitude. If one has a positive attitude toward God’s sovereignty over human fate, then when one looks back upon one’s journey, when one truly comes to grips with God’s sovereignty, one will more earnestly desire to submit to everything that God has arranged, will have more determination and confidence to let God orchestrate one’s fate and to stop rebelling against God. For one sees that when one does not comprehend fate, when one does not understand God’s sovereignty, when one gropes their way forward willfully, staggering and tottering through the fog, the journey is too difficult, too heartbreaking. So when people recognize God’s sovereignty over human fate, the clever ones choose to know it and accept it, to bid farewell to the painful days when they tried to build a good life with their own two hands, and to stop struggling against fate and pursuing their so-called “life goals” in their own way. When one does not have God, when one cannot see Him, when one cannot clearly recognize God’s sovereignty, every day is meaningless, worthless, miserable. Wherever one is, whatever one’s job is, one’s means of living and the pursuit of one’s goals bring one nothing but endless heartbreak and suffering without relief, such that one cannot bear to look back on one’s past. Only when one accepts the Creator’s sovereignty, submits to His orchestrations and arrangements, and seeks true human life will one gradually begin to break free from all heartbreak and suffering, and to be rid of all the emptiness of life.
4. Only Those Who Submit to the Creator’s Sovereignty Can Attain True Freedom
Because people do not recognize God’s orchestrations and God’s sovereignty, they always face fate defiantly and with a rebellious attitude, and they always want to cast off God’s authority and sovereignty and the things fate has in store, hoping in vain to change their current circumstances and alter their fate. But they can never succeed and are thwarted at every turn. This struggle, which takes place deep in one’s soul, brings profound pain of the sort that carves itself into one’s bones, as one fritters away their life all the while. What is the cause of this pain? Is it because of God’s sovereignty, or because a person was born unlucky? Obviously, neither is true. At bottom, it is caused by the paths people take, the ways they choose to live their lives. Some people may not have realized these things. But when you truly know, when you truly come to recognize that God has sovereignty over human fate, when you truly understand that everything God has planned for you and decided for you is a great benefit and protection, then you feel your pain begin to lighten, and your whole being becomes relaxed, free, liberated. Judging from the states of the majority of people, they objectively cannot truly come to terms with the practical value and meaning of the Creator’s sovereignty over human fate, even though on a subjective level, they do not want to keep on living as they did before and want relief from their pain; objectively, they cannot truly recognize and submit to the Creator’s sovereignty, and still less do they know how to seek out and accept the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements. So, if people cannot truly recognize the fact that the Creator has sovereignty over human fate and over all human matters, if they cannot truly submit to the Creator’s dominion, then it will be difficult for them not to be driven and fettered by the idea that “one’s fate is in one’s own hands.” It will be difficult for them to shake off the pain of their intense struggle against fate and the Creator’s authority, and, needless to say, it will also be hard for them to become truly liberated and free, to become people who worship God. But there is an exceedingly simple way to free oneself from this state, which is to bid farewell to one’s former way of living; to say goodbye to one’s previous goals in life; to summarize and analyze one’s previous lifestyle, view of life, pursuits, desires, and ideals; and then to compare them with God’s will and demands for man, and see whether any of them is consistent with God’s will and demands, whether any of them delivers the right values of life, leads one to a greater understanding of the truth, and allows one to live with humanity and the likeness of a human being. When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals that people pursue in life and their myriad ways of living, you will find not one of them conforms to the Creator’s original intention with which He created humanity. All of them draw people away from the Creator’s sovereignty and care; they are all pits into which humanity falls, and which lead them to hell. After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you; it is to try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to live without individual choice, and to become a person who worships God. This sounds easy, but is a hard thing to do. Some people can bear the pain of it, others cannot. Some are willing to comply, others are unwilling. Those who are unwilling lack the desire and the resolution to do so; they are clearly aware of God’s sovereignty, know perfectly well that it is God who plans out and arranges human fate, and yet they still kick and struggle and remain unreconciled to laying their fates in God’s palm and submitting to God’s sovereignty; moreover, they resent God’s orchestrations and arrangements. So there will always be some people who want to see for themselves what they are capable of; they want to change their fates with their own two hands, or to achieve happiness by their own power, to see whether they can overstep the bounds of God’s authority and rise above God’s sovereignty. The tragedy of man is not that he seeks a happy life, not that he pursues fame and fortune or struggles against his own fate through the fog, but that after he has seen the Creator’s existence, after he has learned the fact that the Creator has sovereignty over human fate, he still cannot mend his ways, cannot pull his feet out of the mire, but hardens his heart and persists in his errors. He would rather keep thrashing in the mud, vying obstinately against the Creator’s sovereignty, resisting it until the bitter end, all without the slightest shred of contrition. It is only when he lies broken and bleeding that he at last decides to give up and turn back. This is true human sorrow. So I say, those who choose to submit are wise, and those who choose to struggle and flee are foolish indeed.
Excerpted from “God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh