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Out of Darkness into Light: A Film Director’s Testimony

My name in Chinese means “light of sunrise,” depicting the breaking out of light from the darkest hour of the night. The first 23 years of my life were in the darkest hours of the night. Then I met the True Light who rescued me from doom and eternal death.

A Childhood of Darkness

As a child, I was a burden to my parents and an outlet for their abuse. Kicked around like a ball, I had to change schools often because they placed me in homes of different relatives, denying me the parental love that other kids enjoyed. I suffered scorn, bullying, and neglect, and I was a loner. Later, my parents divorced, and I was left to stay with my father. Though he would tell me he loved me, he had unstable jobs, was often broke, and left me with no money and no one to care for me.

Later, when I stayed with my mother, she vented her anger and bitterness on me, beating me sometimes, making my body bruised and bloodied. I was ashamed to go to school because my clothes were always torn or burned, and my shoes were worn out. My life was miserable and lonely. I was forced to do all the domestic chores in freezing weather, and my mother would scold me in front of people, so that I was scared all the time and deliberately stayed away from the looks and company of others.

I was in so much pain that the thought of dying was better for me than living. My father broke my heart when he told me he was going to abandon me after he married a new wife. I had no one to trust! When I was 10 years old, while staying with my mother, I did all the household chores while enduring her constant beating and swearing. One day, I accidentally smashed a bowl while washing dishes, and she—like a crazy person—began to smash all the bowls in the kitchen before driving me out of the house. Totally shaken and dumbfounded, I felt utter helplessness.

A Wish to Destroy Life

As a young person, I hated life and wanted to commit suicide because there seemed to be no purpose for me to live. The fighting and abuse of my parents left me feeling totally hated. One day, a wish suddenly fell into my heart like a seed: I want to be a film director to express my experiences of pain, doubt, and bitterness through a film. This desire brought a soberness to my mind that caused me to prefer living to dying. At this time, I was living with my grandmother, and with her urging, I was admitted into a reputable high school in Beijing to prepare for an eventual career in film and television editing and directing. I later graduated from Beijing Normal University with a degree in art.

At age 22, I wrote a script about my own experiences and was eager to film it before I might take my own life. During this time, the mother of my good friend from the university preached the gospel to me. Hearing it brought an indescribable peace and longing to my heart. She asked me to believe in this God of creation, and I said “yes” right away in response. I remembered that in my childhood and adolescent years, whenever I saw the symbol of a cross, I felt an inexplicable intimacy with it. So, I bought a cross pendant, and held this cross tightly in my palm on countless nights when I was tortured by my mother or had to walk down a dark corridor after doing laundry at night.

Success and Still in Darkness

After graduating from the university, I joined the film crew of the famous director Zhang Yimou, and film became my passion. With one film after another, I gradually grew into an independent director, winning several domestic and foreign awards. I was then not even a “Sunday Christian”—I was so busy that I didn’t think I had time to know and seek God. Outward success filled my life but did not fill my inner void, which I began to fill with drugs and gambling until I lost interest in both.

In 2008, I still had no faith in God, and the emptiness of my heart forced me to look for other things. I became a close disciple of Nan Huaijin, a master of sinology. Every day I made 108 kowtows, worshipped, and repented as a ritual to eliminate karma. One day, my master said to me: “Li Guang, you must know that the path of life is sad and confusing.” So, it turned out that my so-called master had no answer about the meaning of life either.

Turning Toward the Light

In 2009, my enthusiasm for films suddenly disappeared, and I seriously questioned what I was doing: Was movie-making worth pursuing? Was I producing some garbage that polluted people’s minds? At this point, I started thinking about the true meaning of life and was brought back to the gospel I had heard long ago. For many years I had been drifting in the world without a purpose. Now, seriously intending to find the real answer to life, I began listening to sermons and reading the Bible in earnest. The story of the prodigal son returning home after wandering for years touched my heart. The father stretched out his arms to hug and kiss him and gave him the best welcome to celebrate his return. My Heavenly Father did the same for me as I confessed my sins to him in prayer. He held me tightly in his arms, and with my repentance, my spiritual eyes were opened.

In the past, the movie “The Passion of the Christ” had seemed to me to be bloody and disgusting, but now I realized it was my sin that made him suffer the most horrible punishment in the world! It broke my heart to ponder this verse: “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, ESVUK). Understanding that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive my sins was a true turning point in my life. I understood that God so loved the world that He gave His only sinless Son, Jesus, to redeem all who believe (John 3:16). Jesus was nailed to the cross, died, and resurrected—and his blood washes away our sins. He rose again on the third day to conquer death. Because of this, we have the promise and hope of eternal life. God’s love is beyond human comprehension, and I long for my heart to be filled with it.

New Birth and New Light

In 2010, I uttered this prayer to God: “Father God, I feel that everything I have been doing has no value and meaning. Now, I only long for you because you are the eternal God who created Heaven and Earth. Please let me know you better, get close to you, and experience you!” Then I added: “Now, I really do like film directing. It’s my major. Would you let me know you better through my major study?”

On the second day after this prayer, I was offered a job as stage documentary director in Israel. The core members of the team were all Christians. Everyone prayed together every day and followed God’s leading step by step. When the documentary was broadcast, the then Israeli president, government officials, and an audience of over 2,000 Israelis watched the performance. President Peres gave it high praises.

To better film this documentary, I read lots of books on the cultural history of Israel and compared them with the Bible. I began to realize that God is omnipresent, transcendental, omniscient, and omnipotent. He created all things in the universe, and He loves me in the smallest detail. Despite my miserable childhood, his love has always been in my life. He sowed the seed of movie dreams in my heart, taking me through the darkness of life. His will and ways for me are the best! I was deeply moved and made a promise from the bottom of my heart: “God, I am willing to submit to your leadership in everything I do, and I surrender the sovereignty of my life to you!”

On October 1, 2010, I was baptized in the Jordan River as a life-changed Christian. The Bible says: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV). Before knowing Christ, I had very low self-esteem. I was sensitive, weak, and emotionally unstable. My relationship with friends fluctuated, and the atmosphere in my family made me upset and irritable. I even felt nauseous when my mother touched me. But with Christ as my Lord, my heart softened, and my hatred toward my mother disappeared. I have truly forgiven her and even love her with hugs and kisses. In 2016, my mother, who was also a victim of abuse, believed in Jesus and was baptized. She became a completely softened and loving person, like an innocent child.

In the past, I hated birthdays, hated my life, had no hope, and lived like a dry skeleton. Today, I am a living testimony that the power of God can change anyone into a clean and beautiful person, made in his image. He rekindled in me my passion for movie production, and I make movies to show forth God’s glory, to help people understand that the Lord—Jesus Christ—is God, the Creator and Savior of mankind. He is the merciful God, full of grace and truth, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, renews our lives, opens our hearts, and turns us from darkness to light!

Li Guang received a Master of Fine Arts in Film Directing at Beijing Film Academy. She has filmed and produced numerous commercial, promotional, and short story films, MVs, documentaries, etc. Her productions have received a number of internationally prestigious awards. This article was adapted from a story originally published in Chinese in Chinese Today (February 2022 issue) and translated by Philip Yu.

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