The spiritual world exists and the spiritual battle is real.
My mother-in-law worshiped Buddha for over a decade, always burning incense at home. You could smell the strong odor at the entrance to our courtyard.
When I got married and moved to live with my husband's family, my faith was not firm so that I didn't regard my mother-in-law's worshiping idols as a serious issue. Though I was a bit uncomfortable with the house being filled with incense, I seldom paid attention to it.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
However, my husband and I realized that idolatry was an extremely serious sin after attending Bible studies in an urban church for two years when we worked in a city -- the first of the Ten Commandments reads, "You shall have no other gods before me" and the second, "You shall not bow down to idols."
I felt ill when I caught the smell of incense at the door of my mother-in-law's home. One night I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. My mother's warning two years ago came to my mind: there might be a spiritual battle in the family because my mother-in-law was an idolater and I couldn't overcome the sin by myself but must banish the work of Satan through God. At that time, I was determined to help her turn her back on Buddha and have the correct faith.
However, it was not easy. She was as pious as a Christian in idol worship --- the first thing when she got up every morning was to put new incense in the idol's altar; she wiped clean the shelf for idols with water every week; she often knelt down before the incense to "read sutras, pray, and meditate." My father-in-law said that she had been like this for the past over ten years. At first, he couldn't adapt, but he gradually got used to it.
This was completely wrong to me. My mother-in-law babbled as a result of her idolatry. Several times my father-in-law or husband had to interrupt her "prayer" to talk with her, but her face looked as if she could eat people when she "woke up". She seemed dizzy, not understanding their words. After some minutes, she slowly became aware and was able to talk with others.
Church pastor claimed that God's word was more effective to purify filth than human striving.
I was astonished and frightened at the sight of her condition. I had never experienced a spiritual battle, and I didn't know the specific circumstance of an idolater. I believed that my prayer just produced limited power, so I went to my mother's home one day and told her about it. I asked her to request her congregation to pray for my mother-in-law's faith. My mother suggested that I remove the idols my mother-in-law worshiped. Otherwise it would be hard for her to stay away from them. My mother's suggestion made sense, but I had no idea how to remove them. Neither hiding them nor throwing them away worked.
Then I prayed to God, "How could I get the idols my mother-in-law worships out of the house? " There came an opportunity two days later --- I suffered from such severe morning sickness that it almost blew my mind. Seeing my pale face, my husband advised his mother to remove all the idols. In the beginning, she refused, but later my father-in-law said with anger, "Do your idols or your grandson matter?" Hearing this, she didn't how to reply and compromised.
I thought that it worked, but she just moved the idols into her bedroom. Then I talked with my husband and decided to take her to church. A few villages gather in a church in the town about twenty minutes' walk from our house. At first my mother-in-law refused to go there, but unable to bear the pressure from my husband and me she eventually agreed.
I also asked my father-in-law to go with us. Seeing the church so close, she suddenly jumped up and cried, "I'm not going, I'm not going!" A look of fear passed across her face. She turned around and hurried to run back, unable to be stopped. I was stunned and couldn't follow her, but watched my husband chase after her. Standing by the road, I sighed.
I thought she might become better in the church. I did not expect a turn midway. After my husband and father-in-law caught up to her, my father-in-law stayed home. My husband told me that she locked herself in the room, muttering to herself on her knees before the idols' altar. She looked as if she would eat them when they pulled her. I sighed and said helplessly, "Never mind. Next time I will find a way to take her." Though I said this, I knew it would be really difficult for her to go to church.
After the church service that day, I asked the congregation to pray for her. Back home that evening, her situation was difficult for me to handle --- she became muddle-headed and kept speaking in gibberish after coming out of her room. Whether my father-in-law or my husband talked to her, she didn't listen. After a while, she said that a person stood outside the window and later claimed that someone came in. However, she had no memory of what happened when she woke the next day.
I asked the church pastor for advice. The pastor answered, "Maybe you should drive out demons." It struck me dumb. The pastor told me that her problem was not obvious because my unfirm faith was not a threat to her. Now that my faith was strengthened and my husband was a Christian, it had a huge impact on the spiritual atmosphere of the family, resulting in a battle. I should use God's word to overcome the battle if I wanted to completely remove the idols. The pastor taught me to read the Bible, pray, and play hymns loudly because no human striving was more effective than God's word.
I obeyed the pastor. I prayed for her with my husband. My father-in-law was not a Christian, but he was willing to join in our prayer. I bought an audio Bible player. It played recordings of the Bible and hymns every day. Sometimes I read the Bible near her when she was busy doing things. At first, she was bothered and told me to be quiet; I didn't listen to her sometimes, so she got enraged and wanted to push me, saying that she had never seen an undutiful daughter-in-law like me. Later when I read the Bible to her, she didn't blame me despite her ghastly face ---vI wasn't even sure if she surrendered because she simply couldn't resist anymore.
She finally knew the true God and confessed he was good after worshiping false gods for over a decade.
It took a long time after our family started to pray for my mother-in-law and read the Bible to her in turns before she knew the true God. During the period, she was never crotchety like that night when she ran back home from the church. She still resisted our Christian practices. For example, she knelt down before the altar and read sutras when we read the Bible and she "prayed" when we prayed. But our voices were usually louder than hers and it was so "noisy" that she had to sit aside and sulk, saying that we disturbed her "worship."
She didn't understand why I had to let my God drown out her "god" other than we shared different beliefs and persuade her to convert to my God. I guessed that maybe the Bible attracted her when we read the Scriptures or a verse touched her. One day, she came to ask me some Bible questions. I was relieved at that time. It was better to be questionable than have no question.
I read some verses to her and told her, "The world was created by Jehovah, the only God. There is no other god but him." I asked if it would be a waste for her if she worshiped gods so devoutly but failed to worship the true God. I suggested her to worship the largest and true God since she wanted to be a worshiper.
It was the first time that she didn't contradict or jump up to scold me. Instead, she meditated for a while. Controlling my impatience, I also waited for her response. Before long, she asked me, "How can I worship the true God?" At that instant, I felt that the shadow clouded upon my head was dispelled and my heart brightened. I knew that her question was not just a simple question, but also the first step to knowing the true God and Christ.
On the Sunday of that week, I gingerly invited her to the church. She hesitated and nodded her head. She walked with my father-in-law and husband before me. When we were about to arrive in the church, my fear was that the same scene would be repeated. Thanked for God's protection that she walked into the church without hesitation. Moreover, her mood remained the same until she left the church. After worshiping "gods" for over a decade, she stepped into the temple of the true God the first time and had a close encounter with him. The church pastor knew her coming. After the service, he gave a brief introduction of Christian faith to her and encouraged her to believe because God watched her worship in the heaven and remembered it. In the moment, I saw joy and tears in her eyes --- she never thought or heard that the god she worshiped would remember her worship; for the past over decade, she worshiped gods for peace of mind. She was moved and happy.
On the way back home, she said to me happily, "Your God is really good... I heard them (the church's sisters) saying that someone heard God's reply in prayer... The God is really good, really good..." She didn't know how to express the best praise but repeated saying that the God was really good. It was her most true and happiest expression.
- Translated by Karen Luo