Mommy finally got her new car! A few weeks later, the license plate came. Normally it’s not a big deal since it’s not a customized plate, but for some reason we were excited and opened the envelope together as a family.
California license plate numbering is very systematic. Nowadays, it starts with a number, which is “7” at the time when we got our new car, followed by three letters, and then finally by three numbers. Anyone who did not order a customized plate would get such a license plate numbering and that’s what we were expecting.
And the license plate number is “7GKG628”. Isn’t it interesting that this is Mommy’s car and the last three numbers are also the first three numbers of Mommy’s phone number? What a coincidence! Then Mommy said “628” is a good number in Chinese because it sounds like “smooth and prosperous” (“順又發”) in Mandarin Chinese. That’s definitely a sign of good luck.
But wait, there’s more. I noticed that “GKG” are the first initials of me, my daughter, and my son in the right sequence. And “7” is the exact same sound as the word “wife” (“妻”) in Chinese. So “7GKG” is a perfect representation of our family! So this license plate from California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) actually says my family and “smooth and prosperous”. Wow, does God works through the DMV too? This license plate is too meaningful to be a random happenstance. God must be sending us a message.
(In case you are wondering: Chinese people are very superstitious. Because the Chinese language has individual characters that combine into words, and many characters have the same or similar sounds, it’s fun to associate numbers with characters. For instance, “8” (ba) sound like “發” (fa) which could is the first character of “striking it rich” (“發財”) or “prosperous/successful” (“發達”); “9” (jiu) has the same sound as “久” (jiu) which means “lasting”, etc. The single-digit license plate of “9” sold for $1.7 million in Hong Kong. The rich guy who paid for it hoped his wealth would be “long-lasting” (“9”) because of that special license plate.)
A few days later, I was thinking about our “lucky” license plate as I drove to work in the morning. I believe it was a sign from God and was grinning about it. Then a whisper in Chinese came to me: “You have it wrong. It’s not ‘smooth and prosperous’ (‘順又發’). It’s ‘obey and therefore prosperous’ (‘順而發’).”
The number “6” sounds like the first character of both “smooth (in terms of events)” (“順利”) and “obey” (“順服”). The number “2” comes close to the sound for “and furthermore” and “and also” (“又”) but is the exact sound for “then therefore” (“而”) which strongly implies causality or at the very least, an exact sequence.
That was a shock to me, but it makes perfect sense. The Bible never promised us a “smooth” life, nor is a smooth life really good for learning valuable lessons about life and God. But the Bible does promise rewards for obedience to God and His principles. His blessings may or may not be monetary in nature. True blessings can come in many forms, and what’s most important to Christians are closeness to God, spiritual maturity, good relationships with others, salvation of the loved ones, etc. Those are the eternal things we should strive for instead of temporary material wealth.
In the months since then, God led me into a ministry to serve the growing Chinese population in my community. It would go through a turbulent time with the sudden departure of my ministry partner and attendance dropping to zero for several weeks. Throughout that time, however, I felt the ministry was started by God and I should obey and persevere. Then God moved in and brought in new people and ministry partners, and people are now coming to and growing in Christ. Looking back, it truly was not “smooth and prosperous” but “obey then prosperous”. Aside from my family, my ministry now brings me more joy than anything else I do.
Do you pray for a “smooth and prosperous” life? Maybe that’s not God’s plan at all. You learn far more from turbulence, difficulties, and failures. Maybe you should pray for a “obey then prosperous” life instead and let God show you His amazing plans and the things He wants you to learn.