Lu Daoming welcomes you on a journey of friendship and hope. Together, let's learn new ideas: how to live with real meaning and joy.
My name seal was made for me by Kosho, a master calligrapher and seal carver from Shanghai, who now lives in Canada near my city. He put the three characters of my Chinese name 陆道明 together in yin-script, and then carved the 4th character in yang-script — do you recognize it? It’s a stylized 山, “the mountain.” Please don’t call me by that name as a 小名. Some friends say that this would mean that I’m like a mountain, that everyone depends on me. That’s not why I asked Kosho to put it in the seal … please allow me to tell you about a recent conversation with a friend, and then share with you a beautiful word-picture from The Library. Then you’ll know why it means so much to me that I want it in my 印章.
Recently I sat outside on a beautiful evening with one of my good friends talking about life, about 神, about what it’s been like growing up in the different cultures that we experienced — he’s from China, and I’m from the West. What a fascinating conversation for me — I learned so much!
We talked about how in his experience in China, school was so demanding, discipline was so severe, competition for places at university was so harsh. “If you don’t make it into university, you’re nothing!” He told me of how hard everyone worked, all the time, with no time for themselves. I told him of my experience growing up in the West — mostly a very relaxed, free environment full of easy opportunity — and a lot of trouble. We talked about many other things, comparing our life experience, and then we talked about 神 and His heart — how different He is from the way our environments were, in both the East and the West. We talked about how 神’s ideas for how to live are so different from both East and West — and about how there is so much real wisdom is in His ways.
Very often people from the East think that the West is better — especially when they’ve never lived here. Then they move here, and for the first little while they’re sure that the West is wonderful, heaven on earth. After awhile, though, Eastern people begin to see that a lot of Western people, with all their freedom and wealth, often really don’t know how to care for anyone but themselves. All the freedom and opportunity creates selfishness and disorder, laziness and a demanding spirit. Eastern people often start out with great admiration for the West’s achievements, but they sometimes end with a sour taste in their mouths when they see where it’s going — and especially when they begin to hear Western criticism of China.
However, after they’ve been here awhile, Eastern people go back to China to see how everyone’s doing — and they discover, to their surprise, that some things in China are changing, too — and not always for the better! My friend suggested that in some ways China was being “Westernized” — in some of the worst ways, in his opinion. Maybe he’s right — I don’t know. China is a big, complex, deep country — what 老外 could ever fully understand it? I’ll let Chinese people talk about that!
Here’s what’s really interesting to me: as my friend and I talked and shared stories from our life experience, we both realized that our life stories were imperfect, flawed, incomplete. We also both realized that the answer is not in bring East and West together to mix the qualities of our cultures. We might get some of the good from each other, but we’d also get a lot of the worst, too! What could bring us together in a way that would bring out the best in both of us, and help both of us overcome the trouble from our cultures’ weaknesses?
In the Library, there’s a collection of sayings and writings from a man named 依撒意亚, Isaiah. In the 2nd chapter of his writings, he shares a word picture of the home of 神, high up on a mountain. It’s not up on a mountain to keep everyone away — not at all! It’s up on a mountain so that everyone can see it, no matter how far away. 神 has invited people from “all nations” to come stay with Him! And the word-picture is one of rivers of people from every nation, flowing uphill to the top of the mountain, where He lives! Here’s a simple adaptation of Isaiah’s words:
“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s house will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be made great, high above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. People from many cultures will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of 神. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.’”
Even though my friend and I are from opposite sides of the world — from cultures that have been in conflict for hundreds of years — from societies that sometimes really don’t like each other — we found ourselves coming much closer to each other. We could understand each other, appreciate each other, learn from each other, encourage each other — because both of us are trying to learn from 神. The closer we get to Him, the closer we get to each other!
My Chinese friend will never be fully Westernized — he’s middle-aged now, lived in China most of his life, still has all the marks and manners of a Chinese man. I will never be Chinese, either! I will never speak Mandarin as well as my friend speaks English. I can’t change my appearance or my cultural habits very much, either. I suspect that though many of us try to change, to cross to the other side, it’s very difficult. Truthfully, if we depended on the ways of this world, we would never be able to be friends. We might tolerate each other, or compete, or we might even fight — but we would never be able to understand each other and encourage each other deeply.
But the word-picture of Isaiah 2’s 山 tells us some very important truths: 神 is not Western!! The Library is not a Western book! 神 is not Eastern, either! He’s not even in the middle, between us. He is above us all — and He invites us all not to change each other, nor to challenge each other, nor to be changed by each other — but to be changed by Him — by flowing up the mountain of friendship with Him! Then, as we find more of Him, we will come closer to each other, and help each other.
Yes, I know, the word-picture is a little strange: streams do not flow uphill! But under the influence of 神 who invites us all to His house, He makes us able to do things we could never do by the power of this world. It’s His heart and His hand that bring us together as we come up to Him. I like this very much. Going back in time to 30 years ago, who among us would have ever guessed that someday you and I would be sharing our thoughts in this way? Who would have ever guessed that you and I would have cared about it?! When we begin to look for 神 and His ways, He can do amazing things to bring us together!
So please, don’t call me “山.” That’s a name that is too big for me, bigger than I deserve. But do enjoy the word-picture, and think deeply about how it might work for your life.