Eating Bitterness: My Culture Helps Me Persevere. The Bible Helps Me Hope. - Living Strong Television Network
Eating Bitterness: My Culture Helps Me Persevere. The Bible Helps Me Hope.

Both talk about endurance in suffering, but only Scripture encourages me to boast in my weakness.

I was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding this summer. The night before the big day, I ransacked my kitchen to concoct a welcome drink for the groom and his groomsmen. As I stirred oyster sauce, vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice, honey, ginger, matcha powder, and Sichuan pepper together in a big bowl, I forced myself to taste the unpleasant-looking mixture and realized that one flavor was lacking: bitterness.

This welcome drink was part of a Chinese wedding custom we call “door games” or “gatecrashing,” where bridesmaids give the groom and his groomsmen a series of challenges before the groom can meet his beloved face to face. The tradition arises from the belief that the bride is a precious daughter whose family will not let her be taken easily. (To be clear, this custom is performed with good-humored intent.)

In the game suan tian ku la ( ), the bridesmaids serve the groom and groomsmen food or drinks in four specific flavors—sour, sweet, bitter, spicy—to signify the various difficulties and challenges that the new couple will face in the future. (Typically, these flavors are consumed separately rather than mixed together, but we were short on time.) If the groom and groomsmen are able to imbibe everything, no matter how horrid-tasting, it’s a sign that the new couple will be able to stomach anything that comes their way.

But bitterness isn’t just one component in a Chinese wedding tradition. It’s a flavor that’s permeated our cultural consciousness and way of life through the words chi ku (吃苦), which translates to “eat bitterness.” This term has a deeper symbolic meaning than consuming bitter gourd or herbs like mugwort, though; it primarily refers …

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