BY SHIWEN YAO
This piece is part of syndicated series in collaboration with Yale Logos for Lent 2021. You can read the original piece at https://www.yalelogos.com/home/simple-truths-to-cling-to.
I grew up in a convent. People often joke that I seem nothing like a convent girl and are genuinely surprised whenever I say that I didn’t go to elementary school. And while I was not raised Catholic, I think that my convent years had a profound impact on my spiritual life, in little ways that really add up.
I remember that a big part of convent life was prayer. Every day, everyone would get together before classes started in a huge, massive hall and sing a devotional hymn and pray together. After every lunch break, we would together sing a prayer of thanks for the food we just ate. We would pray before we got dismissed from school. On special occasions, like field trips, we always prayed for safety and good weather. Of course, before exams, we would pray for wisdom. Prayer became an integral part of my life, and I never once wondered why we had to pray. We just did.
Some might call this foolish submission. But I think of it as beautiful simplicity. Of course, wrestling with theological questions and thinking about your own beliefs are mental heuristics that any good Christian must have at all times. They help strengthen our faith and make it more robust and meaningful. What I am advocating here is not a type of Christianity that is unthinking but more so one that sometimes takes a break from the cerebralness of it all. Only then, I think, can we access a more emotional, more simple form of powerful devotion.
Two summers ago, I travelled with a few church friends in the highlands. With its cool climate balanced sweetly against the tropical heat, those mountains were home to dozens of tea plantations. I remember huddling up in a hotel lobby with these friends, making these small bracelets with only five beads—green, black, red, white and yellow. We called them gospel bracelets because they signified the greenness of Eden, then the blackness of Man’s sin, the red of Christ’s blood, the white of purification and then the yellow of God’s radiant glory.
On that same trip, we would sometimes break out into song. One of our favourites was the song “Jesus Loves Me,” which goes “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so! Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.” These lyrics are nowhere as complicated as those of other hymns or modern worship songs that are dearly loved by many in Christian communities, but they are a staple of most Sunday school classes. When I heard these words echoing across the deep valleys and hills, I couldn’t help but take a deep breath and realise how simple yet how true this all was.
And so if I were to leave you with one simple truth to cling to this season of Lent, let it be this verse from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In a world of complicated philosophies and confounding theories, it is easy to lose our way. But I invite you to hold this one truth close to your heart. God loves you and through the death and resurrection of Christ has given you eternal life in Him.
Shi Wen is a sophomore studying English and Economics & Mathematics at Yale.