In 1923 seven of us worked together as co-workers. Two of us took the lead, a co-worker who was five years my senior and myself. We had a co-workers’ meeting every Friday in which the other five were often forced to listen to the arguing between the leading two. We were all young then, and each had his own way of thinking. I often charged the elder co-worker with being wrong, and vice versa. Since my temperament had not been dealt with, I frequently lost my temper. Today in 1936 I do sometimes laugh, but I seldom laughed at that time. In our controversies I admit that many times I was wrong, but he was also at times in the wrong. It was easy for me to forgive my own faults, but not easy to forgive others. After having a dispute on Friday, I would go to Sister Barber on Saturday and accuse the other co-worker. I would say, "I told that co-worker that he should act in a certain way, but he would not listen. You should speak to him." Sister Barber replied, "He is five years older than you; you should listen to him and obey him." I answered, "Am I to listen to him whether he is reasonable or not?" She said, "Yes! The Scriptures say that the younger should obey the elder." I replied, "I cannot possibly do this. A Christian should act according to reason." She answered, "Whether there is reason or not, you need not care. The Scriptures say that the younger should obey the elder." I was angry at heart that the Bible would say such a thing. I wanted to give vent to my indignation, but I could not.
Each time following the controversy on Friday, I would go to her to state my grievances, but she would again quote the Scriptures, demanding that I obey the elder. Sometimes I wept Friday evening after the dispute on Friday afternoon. Then I would go to Sister Barber the next day to state my grievances, hoping that she would vindicate me. But I would weep again after coming home Saturday evening. I wished I had been born a few years earlier. In one controversy I had very good arguments. I felt that when I pointed them out, she would see how my co-worker was wrong and would support me. But she said, "Whether that co-worker is wrong or not is another matter. While you are accusing your brother before me, are you like one who is bearing the cross? Are you like a lamb?" When she questioned me in this way, I felt very ashamed and I could never forget it. My speech and my attitude that day revealed that I was indeed not like one bearing the cross, nor like a lamb.
In such circumstances I learned to obey an elder co-worker. In that year and a half, I learned the most precious lesson in my life. My head was filled with ideas, but God wanted to see me enter into spiritual reality. In that year and a half, I came to realize what it is to bear the cross. Today in 1936 we have some fifty co-workers. Had it not been for the lesson of obedience which I learned in that year and a half, I fear that I could not work together with anyone. God put me in those circumstances that I might learn to be under the restraint of the Holy Spirit. In those eighteen months I had no opportunity to put forward my proposals. I could only weep and painfully suffer. But had it not been for this, I would never have realized how difficult it was for me to be dealt with. God wanted to polish me and to remove all my sharp, projecting edges. This has been a difficult thing to accomplish. How I thank and praise God, whose grace has brought me through!
Now I must speak a word to the young co-workers. If you cannot stand the trials of the cross, you cannot become a useful instrument. It is only the spirit of a lamb that God takes delight in: the gentleness, the humility, and the peace. Your ambition, lofty purpose, and ability are all useless in the sight of God. I have been down this path and must often confess my shortcomings. All that pertains to me is in the hand of God. It is not a question of right or wrong; it is a question of whether or not one is like the bearer of the cross. In the church, right and wrong have no place; all that counts is bearing the cross and accepting its breaking. This produces the overflowing of God’s life and accomplishes His will.
(Watchman Nee's Testimony, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)