My Spiritual Pilgrimage / 生命見證 成長軌跡

A Christian’s born-again life narrative

by Mu-tien Chiou

Born in a devout Christian family, I was blessed with a childhood greatly influenced by the believers’ culture. Saturated with Christian testimonies, Bible stories, and Scriptural wisdom, I can hardly fault my life with the lack of knowledge of God in the first place.

From very early on I was convinced that a human being life must be oriented toward God’s creative purpose for each individual. I made my childish vow publicly known that I want to be a pastor in the future.  I envisage this futuristic « Me » being the personification of the Messianic figure: charming, glowing, erudite, comforting and compassionate toward the wandering, wayward and the brokenhearted. I was at the age of eight then— and ‘super 8’.

In my pursuit for a vocational ministry my mother has always played a major role. She has been in the leading position in the Christian media profession for the most of her career. I benefited a lot from the privilege of even just being a little sidekick onlooking the issues and people she engaged with.

But on the other hand, those public moments and my personal spirituality started to generate internal conflicts. As she stayed well-connected with many church leaders across different denominations, this “ministry of God” had kept her busy throughout the years. Going into the adolescence, that Godly dream no longer looked attractive to me because I had my immediate little cosmos to manage.

I was all on my own. I tried hard to achieve academic excellence, but my mother always seemed so unimpressed, as she always told me that all gifts come from God and there is nothing in me that we should be proud of.  And worse, I felt a strong identity crisis. I was socially awkward, because I did not learn how not to be so.

My mother always took my perfection for granted, and would push me even harder if I tried and happened to make it to the next level. She blindly thought her industriousness as a Christian media worker will automatically translate into a perfectly harmonious family, albeit this work has rendered her extremely moody and edgy all the time at home and robbed the quality time that she should have spent with her three children.

Since then, my adolescent life s are characterized by unrestfulness and turbulence, and it was only until very late on in my youth that I realized how far this distorted version of Calvinistic theology has taken her and could figure out how to respond in ways that are not mutually destructive.

Tired at talking (arguing) against my mom, at the age of 14 I was transformed into a raging kid and shut the communicative door to her. For 4 and half years, I refused to look at her and did not speak a single word to her. At school, I was the  troublemaker who not only skipped classes, but fought with teachers and was involved in gangster activities. I no longer thought that church is relevant, either. It is an ideological concentration camp that goes hand-in-hand with our education systems in suppressing young student’s individuality and creative thinking.

At the beginning of my senior year, eventually, I was kicked out by the school and was mentally prepared to live a real gangster life. But my mother managed to bridge my study by inserting me into a less-known high school as I strove to vindicate myself by getting myself a seat in a decent public university.

However, after the transfer I soon started indulging myself in online games with newly-met classmates. Lonely and disillusioned, I feel the gaming extremely healing and fulfilling, for there I can control my avatar without having to obey old-fashioned and unreasonable rules (such as dress codes, tight day-to-day class schedule, and forced learning).  Violent killing, voluntary association, free friendships, and instant reward mechanism (for acts performed and instructions followed in the game), all make this fantasy world irresistible.

It was one of the most serious types of internet addiction. Playing games 24/7 has soon pushed me onto the verge of dropping out again in my freshman year.

But I had a glimpse of thought that I might have a real future only if I stayed in at college- gaming isn’t a viable career when it is mostly about my own satisfaction rather than about making contributions to the larger world, this I know.

Ultimately, it was God who convinced me that He has a plan for my life and my true identity shall be found in Him. Upon the invitation of my Christian classmates, I joined our campus fellowship in my sophomore year. It was both the desire to stay afloat at college and the impracticality of online games that I became willing to listen to advice and receive help.

It was also after the freshman year that I found that college life can be interesting by itself too. Basketball and rock music have my all-time hobbies since high school, and college opens itself before me a larger talent pool, naturally. I found the study of history, philosophy, and sociology quite fascinating as well. At the same time, my family ties were also amending. By God’s healing the game’s lure gradually faded away from my life, while the meaning of life is to be found again in Him.

Psalm 23:1-3 « The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. »

Albeit a church kid I was finally baptized at Easter in 2004.

Three months after the baptism at my home church, I set out to Central France as an international volunteer. The organization I volunteered for, ‘L’Emmanuel’, is a Catholic monastic order that holds nationwide camping retreat each year for the renewal of spirituality and growth of faith in Christ.

It was a remarkable experience for me. Indeed, the beauty of the nature, the grandeur of the cathedral, the solemnity of the sacraments, the wonderful life stories behind the smiles of my francophone buddies of all ethnicities and ages, have once for all changed my conviction of how life should be lived. And not just that—

It is to see how Christ as the Lord unifies us in all the diversities through which He created us and the universe that eventually gets me so excited and really amazed at this Great God.

Job 42:5 « I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. »

Along with this revelation is my first personal experience of the Holy Spirit. The experience could only be characterized by joy and eudaimonia. It has certainly planted a seed for ecumenicalism in my Christian formation, as now I know God is beyond our comprehension and surely beyond the religious institutionalization of Christianity (Act 13).

It is on this basis that God has further called me to dedicate my life to Him as a living sacrifice that pleases Him (Rom 8:28). In the course of my search for specific guidance for vocational ministry, God’s work on my personality and spirituality continues.

Recalling my childhood ambition, I truly believe that God is in control of my life. He has a marvelous plan for me, and I shall never be faint in faith or strength, as I will stand rock-firm in His unfailing promise.

Calling to ministry/seminary:

Upon graduation from college in the end of year 2005, I chose to join a Christian newspaper as part-time editor and journalist. It incorporates my gifts in writing and gives me a perfect opportunity to explore our society in its multifaceted nature from a deliberate Christian perspective. At the same time, I had to battle a rare disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), which has increasingly plagued my health since 2003. I had to check in the hospital regularly and accommodate my work in my irregular biological schedule, which is the reason why I wasn’t working full-time and hindered my plan for graduate studies then.

Alternatively, I spent the weekday evenings taking two courses at the extension site of China Evangelical Seminary, so I will also be equipped in the knowledge of His Word. This post-graduate gap year spent being a part-time worker, student, and « patient” has crystallized my calling, allowing me to choose the life course I really want.

In the summer of 2007, thanks to the improved health condition over ITP, I was enrolled by China Evangelical Seminary as a full-time master student. Starting from October, I also worked part-time at Studio Classroom of Oversea Radio & Television Inc. (ORTV) in Taipei.

At ORTV I met a team of foreign missionaries and mission-minded Christian media professionals. It is an invaluable learning experience for me to explore the ways to serve God’ kingdom on a global, cross-cultural parachurch level.  Gradually seeded in my mind is an aspiration to pursuit theological education abroad, to learn God’s work and word in a different context.

Easier said than done.

From the car accident that broke my right forearm during the critical final exam week, the annoyance during the post-surgery rehab process, to the worries about finance that got miraculously pacified by what was in human’s eyes extremely hurtful and harmful in my mother’s ministry career, God has worked out wonders in ways that are worthy of His own glory and name, in particular through the love and support from my parents.

Now God has healed my wound and through real life lessons to teach me to rely solely on Him. Bidding farewell to all of friends and family, I headed toward the Divinity School of Trinity International University in August, 2007. I have embarked a new journey as His disciple.

Other Things About Me:

1. Vision and Vocation

Today one of the greatest struggles of our generation is the lack of serious understanding of God’s word— a sort of knowledge that can be lived out as a worldview to account for the vicissitude of world whiling circumventing tendencies oversimplification and dualistic reductionism. The efforts required to meet this need therefore must be both missiological and apologetic, both pedagogical and formational, both intellectual and practical, both contextual and ecumenical, for we are in a secularizing society that is postmodern in its consumers’ collective behavior which is characterized by short-sightedness and dominated by pragmatic desires.

I hope to be able to lead spiritual formation and discipleship of young intellectuals based on college classroom while keeping constructive and ecumenical dialogue with the best of orthodox theologians of our day. I will also try to include many other contemporary philosophers of continental school of thoughts as intellectual conversation partners. The goal is to develop a theological framework (in cooperation with Christian professionals from different contexts and expertise) to help Christians unite their efforts and live out a radical discipleship of Jesus Christ.

2. Family

I was born in a Christian family with two of my two younger sisters. My father was a businessman in the auto industry for the majority of his early careers until a major policy change stroke down his business. My mother devoted all her career prime to evangelical mass media ministry. For these many years we have been experiencing God’s blessings in great measure. Our family members love each other and support each other. Two years ago, my mother retired from Christian Tribune, the news press company where she served for eighteen years, only to start a new evangelical outreach news media “Awakening Taiwan (awakeningtw.com), which has become now our family’s common ministry focus. My family also sponsors my education without reservation. Without their support, it is impossible for me to be at Trinity.

3. Hobbies

I benefit spiritually, mentally, and physically from my hobbies.  In terms of physical exercises, I enjoy basketball and weight training the most. Naturally, I am also a lover of salubrious and healthy food.

I enjoy thinking. Reading, writing, and researching on the broader humanities are of great interest to me. I know playing bass, guitar, and violin and used to be a vocal and bassist for student and semi-professional rock bands. Classical, opera, metal, rock, and alternative are my favorite music genres. I always get exited to discover Christian songs composed in these music genres. Enchanted by the combination of technology and arts, I am also an amateur photographer that shoots with Pentax DSLRs and some of their finely-made glasses.

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5 réflexions sur « My Spiritual Pilgrimage / 生命見證 成長軌跡 »

  1. I’m fascinated by your research on post-liberal studies. I wish you all the best in your study as the Chinese church needs more people studying that area. I also thank you for analyzing my article on biblical counseling. To be honest, I don’t think their method has any merit at all. Some of it is useful in pastoral situation when dealing with real sins or personal problems, but I can’t see any use for their method in real world situation.

    1. My deep thanks for your reading of my posts and your message of encouragement, Dr. Tsang! I recently got a chance to read a portion of the newly released « The Jesus Community: New Perspective on Acts » and really enjoyed the clarity of it, among other great themes that are also praiseworthy.

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