The faith chronicles
Monday, August 22, 2011
Vanity, all vanity!
Vanity, all vanity!
One of the things I dread in life is attending a class reunion. Last week, my college classmate Nena messaged me, and that’s what exactly what we’re having on the 24th. Gina, it turned out, had been home recently, back from the United States after 15 years, and she’d like to meet up at a Shangri-la Mall restaurant with everybody. Would I be able to come? I hate it, but my instinctive reaction was to panic. It’s just like I was going to die.
I had to immediately launch into my usual silent conversations with myself, my way of saying What’s the matter? Why stress over it and have a nervous breakdown?
Well, for sure I was afraid. I didn’t have to admit it – it’s obvious. Why was I afraid? Because it’s Gina, who’s a doctor living the good life in the States, having a lifestyle miles away from mine? Because it’s Gina, whom I got a little crush on (which I fantasize to be mutual)? Because it’s Gina, and Nena who’s a doctor too, and Ritchie who’s another doctor, and who knows which accomplished personality would turn up?
I told Nena via Facebook chat, I am too ashamed to come. I’m still single and still poor. It turns out I presumed I was a shameful failure, and it would be a torture for me to be told that in so many ways in my face. This means I value, even worship, what they’d think of me, for why I’d dread of them judging me?
This means even worse things. Other than having such a low regard for myself and whatever I have accomplished in life, this little incident is revelatory of my hidden God issues. If I truly believe that God loves me, why then am I ashamed of who I’ve become? Didn’t God bless me overabundantly, although in His usual roundabout, illogical, unexpected way? How do I regard all that wisdom, knowledge and understanding He graced/bestowed/gifted/lavished/favored me with? The healing of bad memories, healing of my relationship with my father, mother, brother, other people whom I thought had rejected me? How about the innumerable self-realizations on top of these, especially the revelations of secret sins/defects I didn’t even know I had? What do I make of these spiritual treasures? Why do I seem to take them lightly after all these years? What about the many interests I have that others are not fortunate to enjoy? Don’t I see how the rich and famous would kill just to have what I have, even as I obsess about what I don’t have? Don’t I remember that award-winning actor who said he wasn’t happy after snagging a grand slam of acting awards, the superstar foreign heartthrob who went through a clinical depression because he thought he’s just a pretty (but empty) vase?
“Ah!” I could almost hear God bewail through my incredible myopia.
What a horrible mess I am in, I realize, with the latest idolatry in my heart uncovered. After all these years, I still value human respect, honor, prestige, name, status. I am still dependent on human approval/affirmation. Why am I still obsessed with looking good? Who know what negative thoughts they have been thinking about me? I will be judged by anybody anyway, so who cares?
Worst thing of all, I still don’t believe and trust that God put me through the wringer that’s my life out of His love for me. He made me fall down from my high horse, my ivory tower, because I am too proud. He made me poor because I’m too obsessed with lucre, with material things. he gave me lots of defects because I am too perfectionist, as though I were God. He made me sick because everything I’ve been doing in my life is to further puff up an already bloated ego. God is giving me a lesson here, but I keep on missing it, so I keep on whining.
This punishment is really a blessing. God is giving me a favor by withdrawing all the favors I desire because my heart is not in the right place. (And that is why I am so full of myself (as though everything is about me)).
I’m still thinking whether I am going to the reunion or not. Nena sort of reprimanded me for my insecurities by saying you don’t go to a reunion to brag about your accomplishment. Of course not, she’s right, but I understand her reaction. I know better than to react that way; I instead forgive myself for I know where I am coming from, given the worldly logic I have internalized as gospel truth. But whether or not I’d go, I am glad to have arrived at myself deeper. I have sort of come home with God inside of me. Keeping on trusting Him is hard, said another friend (Cynthia), but it is a hard choice that is doable. The key is me – the one who’s going to do the act of choosing.
My wishes to God have outed me
I pray for my own place but never get it because I don’t pray that I be at home first with God, choosing instead to feel secured in my own accomplished place in the sun.
I pray for fabulous friends but never get them because I don’t pray that I’d be friends with God first, choosing instead to be affirmed and accepted by mere creatures.
I pray for my own family (wife and kids) but never get them because I don’t pray that I’d belong to God first, wishing instead to appear normal (and acceptable) and service my lust and accommodate my desire for warmth and innocent affection (which I felt I was deprived of growing up).
I pray for my dream job but never get it because I don’t pray for God’s dream task for me, praying instead to land a cushy job that will give me prestige and comfort.
I pray for much wealth but never get it because I don’t pray for money to be an instrument of God’s love, wishing instead for wealth to bring me a sense of stability and good family standing.
I pray for a perfect body and health but never get it because I don’t pray that every single breath of mine be of service to God, wishing instead for wellness to be indulged in the service of sensuality and all my selfish needs for love, approval, acceptance, affirmation, respect, prestige, stability, warmth, innocent affection.
My prayers show the true state of my heart, my wrong priorities in life, my preference of my own will over God’s will.
Forgive me, Lord, and thank You for showing me my new great hidden faults.
This is what I heard the Lord say, in response to me:
You're not doing that bad, My son. In fact, I've been watching you, and I appreciate your mere struggle to be good. I know your heart, and I understand you more than you understand yourself. Don’t forget that you went through a lot of traumas and experiences of rejection as a child. Those are affecting how you think and feel and react to life. Those are the fruit of men's sins against you, but I allowed them for a purpose.
Know that I have suffered every blow you have suffered. I was there with you each and every time, taking the pain with you.
But you are not your struggles!
Rest assured I will bring everything to good. You've known how I love writing straight with crooked lines. What looks like a curse and punishment to you now are actually divine favors, as you'll later see.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Rick and Dick Hoyt: Story of a father's great love
I once dismissed this hit inspirational video as corny, but only because I was too dumb to see the metaphor of the father and son as a symbol of God's love for His children.
If I may spell out its beautiful message: We win in life -- gaining the true liberty/freedom that we long for -- if we freely allow Him to run our lives.
Savor God's fatherly love in this video:
RICK and DICK HOYT - The story of GREAT LOVE
Thursday, August 18, 2011
"Life and death always go together"
Life and death always go together
When we are ready to die at any moment, we are also ready
to live at any moment. – Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen on poverty
Our Poverty, God's Dwelling Place
How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: "What is my poverty?" Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That's the place where God wants to dwell! "How blessed are the poor," Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.
We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let's dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.
- Bread for the Journey
Why do they hate us Catholics so much?
There were quite a number of times in my life when I was liked by many people. Maybe it’s because I looked so harmless. (I was in fact shy and retiring.) In high school, I gravitated towards the nerds and nonjocks, but I was popular enough to be voted as class president and later on as chairman of a good number of clubs. In college, I had enough friends, so I was never a loner.
Like perhaps any other human being, I do seek solitude at times, especially when thinking hard and thinking about life, but I know how it feels to be liked. It felt so good to me, so addictive, that I think I eventually learned how to be a people-pleaser.
Since I was also familiar with the other side –- after all, I knew how dreadful it was to feel rejected by my own folks –- I learned that it was a fearsome thing to lose other people’s estimation of me. As I matured, though, I experienced the inevitable: I had enemies, was resented and hated, and it sure felt like I had leprosy.
As a freshman in college, ironically during a welcome night sponsored by the upperclassmen, someone from the thick audience crowd flicked his cigarette butt at me. The temerity! Who could be that filthy animal, and how did he ever get into the University of the Philippines System? I had no idea, but I was forced to ask myself whether I had done anything to offend someone so much as to do that, when I was the reclusive, reticent type. I asked myself whether I came off as annoying or arrogant somewhat. (It didn’t occur to me that I might have done no wrong at all, and that some people simply choose to be offensive.)
Another time I felt similar animosity was when an APO fratman (I still remember his evil face) passed by me while my friends and I were laughing over a green joke. You’d never guess how some people could be so mean-spirited –- he suddenly made fun of me by mocking my laughter. He audibly shot back with poker face, "Very funny, ha-ha-ha." He was with his fellow frat members, so maybe that’s why he had the gumption to do what he did. The same line of self-questioning ensued. Was I obnoxious and unlikeable that I would be treated that way? Could it be that I was talking to some girls that the bugger liked (a lot of my female classmates looked adorable)? Could it be that his girlfriend once told him she got a crush on me? Did I ever remind him of somebody he loathed? Could it be that he was envious of me in some way? Was there something or anything (wussiness? a jerk's look?) that pissed him off? I could be endlessly paranoid.
I got the surprise of my life when I discovered that even religion could be a cause for such an amount of animus. I took it for granted that my religion could be a target of rejection just for being the dominant religion. (Even though I had studied in a public school, encounters with kids with a different religion were few and always civil, even friendly.) The first-ever incident, also in college, was traumatic enough, I guess, for why do I still recall it vividly?
I was at the library with a classmate then who I felt a bit close to, having come from the same part of the country. Having just read a news article about the Marian apparition in Medjugorje, I whispered to her something about the pressing messages the "seers" or "visionaries" allegedly got from the Virgin Mary, but my classmate flatly rebuked what I said at once as though I just quoted Satan. Poor stupid me -– I assumed she was a fellow Catholic and, if not, had a diplomat’s sense of saying alternatives to “Nonsense!” and “Rubbish!”, at least in deference to the majority faith. (Side note: the Vatican has no official approval of the Medjugorje apparitions.)
I learned later that my classmate was a devoted born-again Christian (a "fundamentalist" who hated Catholicism so much), so that explained the reaction. From then on, I learned to be cautious in being vocal about my faith especially in a school where people from every possible religion in town gathered together (I had a class in which the 10 or 15 of us each had a different religion). I don’t know if she was aware that I automatically blocked any thought of religion or faith whenever I talked to her, but that’s how I regarded her and ‘her kind’ ever since. I put on an invisible automatic screen or filter.
It was to become some kind of a baptism of fire for me. When I saw that being vocal about my faith in public could be a cause of instant rejection, I sort of began to accept that some people would think of me as misled or mistaken, unfortunate and blinded. (I had yet to discover the retort, "So what?!") So to avoid being thought of as any or all of these, I chose to keep mum on matters I needed not disclose so casually.
Someone said I should NEVER expect to be liked when it comes to private yet strongly held and divisive matters such as faith. The person is, of course, right. (After all, one in the interim will have enemies, be resented and hated, and will sure feel like a leper, but one has to hold his ground, to fight for the right to claim one's own space in the sun.) But I must admit that I still have this desire to be right, accepted, (in other words, loved), and in case that’s a form of unhealthy neediness, a kind of juvenile longing, I don’t understand why I should be hated for it. After all, I do not even proselytize, aware of the need to respect space and allow the freedom to say yes or no. I tend to merely witness to what I strongly believe in, and who doesn’t have any opinion or thought that’s as strongly held? I simply am vocal without trying to convert anyone to my dominant faith (even though, strictly speaking, evangelization is a command of the faith).
Besides, is it my fault that my faith is the dominant faith? I think that’s where most of the hostility is coming from. Since it is the dominant one, it is easy to think of it as having caused all the bad things in today’s society. That jump to conclusion is obviously unfair, but will they ever listen to us explain, given such a presumption? People, I guess, have the right to defraud themselves of the truth.
What may be a more valid observation is that dominance easily spells a feeling of 'oppression' of minority faiths. It’s natural for people at the margins to resent other people they don’t share beliefs with proudly parading a series of ‘idolatrous’ statues down the road, dictating religious feast days as official holidays, and so on.
Sometimes, however, I wonder whether the dislike or antagonism is more about being against Catholicism and Christianity itself (at least the Catholic interpretation of it). I raise this, because that’s what certain people who call themselves atheists and ‘freethinkers’ say out loud. That’s what even some of those who consider themselves fellow believers say between the lines. Some people insist on seeing Christianity as a hindrance to modernity, science, rationality, etc., never mind the many Christian scientists’ contribution to science and modernity.
That is a terrible blinder to wear, from where I am hunched, but where is that blinder coming from? Could it be that some people hate Catholicism and Catholics because they are guilty? Could it be that they hate Catholic precepts because they couldn’t stand the thought that they might be wrong and thus are “living in sin” (in Catholic terminology) and therefore are “outside the grace of God” and therefore they would look bad (to us) and worth rejecting to nonexistence? I figure that’s a thought anyone can find a reason to kill for, or at least be violent for, and wear bishop miters and habits in mockery, or depict priests in a stereotype of a sex-molesting gay guy or a lecherous pedophile,, or attach erect phalluses on crucifixes. But the anger is valid only if our opponents/detractors actually believe what we believe in, because if not, then they couldn't have cared less.
It is sad for things to come to this when we both know there are more things that unite us as human beings than divide. Who among us don’t want peace, love, respect, unity, human progress? (I've met atheists I am actually fond of because we share a lot of intellectual interests.) And who is so perfect as to claim having no frailty, no sin, no thorn in the flesh? All these noisy protestations from both sides, correct me if I’m wrong, can be viewed not only as a cry of “I am the one who’s right,” but also the presumptive, “I am angry at you because you don’t like me!” It could also be interpreted as a mutually fearful, “I am afraid of you because you are a threat to my cherished perception of how I and my life should be.” (In short, we are somewhat afraid of each other.)
Could the shared animosity, and/or mutual fear, be also an opposing cry to be loved and accepted? Could it be that we are both insecure and egocentric in varoius degrees, or why are we so vehement about our need to be right, our desire to be on the winning side of the argument?
But if I get the Catholic side right (and I can only speak for this side, I being decidedly ‘biased,’ (i.e., by choice)), the answer to the question is, “Maybe, but not necessarily.” Catholic protesters, if I am reading them right, come from this belief that they had to proclaim (their version of) God’s truth and conception of right and wrong whether or not they long to be accepted by fellow human beings, because what matters to them the most is the love and acceptance of God. These are people who will die fighting for their credo (in charity, of course) –- and with the unspoken message “to heck with what you think of me,” not because they hate their opponents, nor because they have an intense need to make an ‘other’ of them and an exclusive 'us' of themselves, but because they “hate the sin and not the sinner,” because they love God so much that they are willing to love Him above all else.
Frankly I feel so silly explaining this, because if one lives in a Catholic country (as my target audience is), it’s so easy to absorb this line of thought. It should be kid’s stuff discerning all the other sub-statements because the Catholic protesters are very transparent anyway, not given to resorting to dirty tactics (which naturally are not 'kosher'). You’ll know it when they say between the lines:
- “We’re not enjoying this, but we have to do it, not because we want to win or earn God's love and approval (He loved us first, and we can't bribe Him anyway), but because we choose to love/serve/believe/trust God above all.”
- “God knows we wish no one ill, but we have to do this if we are to call ourselves Christian and be able to look at ourselves in the mirror again.”
- “We have to do this even if you don’t like it or even if you won’t like us because our God deserves it, not only because when God loved us He gave us the best, but also because He wishes it so (or it is His will).”
- “Hate us if you will, but we can’t hate you back. Oh, well, we’re just human like you -– we may hate you for a time, but we know we can’t be hate-filled for long.”
- “You know we won’t ever resort to 'a tooth for a tooth.' We’re not necessarily better. We just choose to do what we believe is right, no matter the consequences.”
The other side may or may not have the last word in this unending fight, but if we have to have the last word, then this is it: “I think we know why you hate us so much, and you know what? It’s okay. We understand, and we wish you'll understand us too, but if we're not so lucky, then tough luck.”
My conversion story
Everyone has his or her own conversion story. This is mine.
I always begin with coral reefs. Why? Because I found God in a coral reef.
Maybe I found Him earlier than that but the coral reef my Ecology class took to Balaoan in Luna town, La Union one blessed day once and for all made me stop doubting and denying there was a God.
Forgive my ego trips
Forgive me, Lord, for my ego trips, for the times I:
Desire to be famous
Want to be in control, always thinking like a scientist, relying on my own intellect alone instead of uniting it with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration or entrusting it to you
Am passive instead of causing positive change, because of fear of failure and rejection
Am ambitious in any way
Desire financial/economic success foremost, because of prestige, status, estimation, respect, and the like
Am status-conscious, unknowingly looking down on others I deem inferior to me in any way
Want to be unique and special, rising above the crowd
Want to prove myself, enslaved by others' high expectations of me
Want to please, even impress, mere creatures by wanting to be right and look good because of fear of not being loved and accepted
Want to be needed, be useful, and be relevant and be noticed for it
Am infantile by trying to get what I want right here right now
Hunger for more recognition, more achievements even if I practically grew up with them
Want to be the best for my own personal glory
Lack zeal in you, too shy or timid in defending You or initiating things for You
Do not believe and trust enough in Your love for me
Compensate for my insecurities through study, associations, friendships, substances/food, things I used to lack, things I think I need for my lifestyle, and other things that might give me the high
Rush things because I feel they are very important when they are not (they are merely meant to fill my empty ego)
Do any other forms of idolatry I am not even aware of.
Even lie and kill reputes for all this
Then neglect you in favor of all of the above
Thank You, Lord. I claim Your loving forgiveness of all these sins.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Virtue is its own reward, sin its own punishment.
Two kinds of sorrow
That sorrow which is the harbinger of joy is preferable to the joy which is followed by sorrow. -Saadi, poet (c. 1213-1291)
To believe what you don't see is to see what you believe
Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of is to see what you believe. - St Augustine
"Unless you believe, you shall not understand."
"sometimes the dangers of failing to affirm truth is far greater than the dangers of wrongly affirming falsehoods"
Monday, August 15, 2011
Bible study notes - 3
Bible study notes - 3
It's amazing what new things we keep on learning from the Bible through our Bible study.
I, for one, have learned that, through the process of noting the subtle parallels and unexpected reversals, we can unlock new meanings and interpretations from the text even if we have encountered them a hundred times. Here are the old and new symbolisms I've been reminded of and learned lately. Truly the Bible is a rich mine of the thoughts of God:
In the murder of Abel by Cain (the world's first murder case)...
Cain's offering is rejected by God because unlike Abel's offering, which was taken from the best crop/livestock, Cain's offering was merely perfunctory and not from a thankful heart.
Cain = symbol of wickedness, prefiguring the enduring evil in man's heart through the millennia
Abel = symbol of hope of God for a good "seed" that will save the world from Adam and Eve's (man's) fall from grace; prefigurement of Jesus Christ
In the story of the tower of Babel...
Tower of Babel = symbol of man's pride, i.e., of man's self-reliance in place of faith in God
Note how the Babel of linguistic confusion and division led to a beautiful but surprising reversal during the Pentecost, with various people from all over being united through the Holy Spirit despite their Babel of tongues.
Self-reflection: What is my tower of Babel? Have I contributed to any division because of my pride? How has the Holy Spirit worked in me to promote peace and unity in my home, work, community?
In the story of Noah's ark...
Noah's ark = a preview of man's salvation through Jesus Christ and his Church
(An aside from Ate Agnes P.: Note how Protestants, in Fr. Jun Lingad's interpretation, have built numerous small boats instead of joining the Ark.)
Flood = preview of baptism
Seven days = recalls the seven days of creation; this means God was recreating the world after the Great Flood
Rainbow = symbol of hope and renewal after the storm and the flood
Dove = represents and previews the coming of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the faithful
Self-reflection: Have I joined Noah in the ark? In what ways do I create little boats that capsize during a massive flood? How do I assure my own salvation through the Ark of Christ?
Other parallels and reversals through the Genesis portion of the Biblical timeline:
In the various Genesis stories we've read, man is always the same. Man keeps on falling into concupicence (the tendency to sin), especially the sin of idolatry.
However, God always offers a way out, even through our sinfulness. He saw how curses, flood, and confusion didn't work, so tried a new tack.
The time came when He thought of a final solution. His redeeming work for mankind reaches its height in the supreme sacrifice of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
What a beautiful story! And we're just getting started. I'm excited for the next installment, aren't you? ;P
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Time as kairos (instead of chronos)
"Chew your food well." I learned that from my mother. As a Bio major, I am aware of the chemical and clinical implications: acid in my stomach, or worse, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder). Why am I always rushing anyway, like eating has some deadline? Oh, but it does have. I will be late in my appointment if I relished what I was doing. If I will be late, I will not give a good impression; I might even lose the deal. But if I win the deal, will it be worth it if I have ulcer? What is life if I don't enjoy chewing every bit of it?
I rush almost everything else that I do. I wash my own clothes with a mental timer, with advanced or ridiculously premature thoughts. I don't play chess, but I often have the foresight of chess when it isn't needed. Barely have I started washing when I immediately launch into imagining when to rinse, dry, and air the clothes out in the sun.
The rush is making me crazy. I feel like a newborn baby who bawls if he is not given his milk right now. iWhat has become of me when, at 40, I haven't perfected that thing I should have learned in grade school?
There are books and other readng materials whose conclusion or ending I am always tempted to read first whenever I get stuck by tiredness or boredom in the middle. It ruins the pleasure of reading, I know, but many times, I can't resist. If rushing is sickness, then I am ill of something, right? Maybe ADHD? Or just plain boredom? Thankfully, ADHD is now seen as somewhat a badge of honor if you display so much as a kindergarten impatience over something.
One of the things I don't like very much, I've found, is meditating, unless it is forced as in a religious retreat. In my idle moments, I am given to either revisiting the past or fast-forwarding to the future. If only I grew like this, I tend to think back. If only I was like him or her. Or: What will happen from hereon in? What will I become?
These thoughts often end up being morbid, if I allow them to fester: How will I be when I grow up (read: grow old)? Will I end up alone? How will I die, and when? Will I be alone? Will it hurt? Will it be scary? Will it be debilitating and humiliating?
Luckily in recent years, I've learned to get in touch with my feelings, but I think I have overdone it. The chess player's foresight I have is a curse, together with whatever artistic sensibility that I think I harbor inside of me. ...For I tend to get in touch with my inner whatever and get stuck there. Nothing wrong with being honest with oneself, I know, but I tend to imprison myself in the cell of my own fears and anxieties. Instead of transcending all of them by not denying them but facing them squarely, then offering them to the love and mercy of God, or at least facing the other cold side of reality (where or what is the future? can I control or extend a single second of it?), I get stuck in my own self-created blocks.
I remember my ever-nervy mother from whom I suspect I got all these nervousness about the future. She often lived in the future. She used to collect all these exotic recipes she saw in magazines but never got to cook any of them. She often cut out a lot of promo coupons, but some of them never get to be dropped in drop boxes, so she never wins the jackpot. Whenever she sees something in the grocery or shop that she really likes but can't afford, she always says I'll buy it sometime if I will have enough savings. It turned out she never had any because things weren't always enough, so she was never able to buy anything she liked. (She's much improved now.) She also has this habit of keeping all the wonderful dining ware locked up in a cabinet, to be reserved for special occasions, and for everyday use, we are limited to the old and ugly and shopworn.
The one hobby I have in life that I fail to pursue is birdwatching. I always say I'll do it if I will have time. But it turns out I never have enough time, so I am never able to pursue my passion. I am like my mother that way, the way she deals with a nonexistent future by NOT taking action on it.
Why be nervous about the future when I know fully well that I can only control so much, and I can only do that in the present too, limited by what is real in the here and now? Laughably enough, I know the answer as well, but am not keen to heed its warnings: Because I am trying to repair something in the past, making me a slave to my future with the thought that "I can only be happy iff. (that's the symbol used in math for 'if and only if') I get to repair the past.
What went wrong in the past that I am hell-bent of repairing so I'll be happy in the future? Well, maybe that's for a separate time, but I guess there's no better time than now. (Haha.) Maybe I am afraid of failure. Maybe I am afraid of loneliness and being alone. Maybe I am afraid of sadness and pain, especially horrible pain. Maybe I am afraid of existential death -- the thought that I will be no more.
(serviceability), of gamit
(usage)? I am a human being, not a human doing, am I not (to steal a statement from my Evangelical friends)?
Might I even be harboring a secret anger or resentment at God for being so fearsome that way, for taking away lives like that? Have I ever harbored the secret resentment of atheists, such as, "What kind of God would take away life just like that?"
I think I resent it that I'm more afraid and angry at Him and doubtful than loving and trusting Him. But what can I do? That's how I feel; these are my reflex emotions. But I choose to surrender completely anyway, for I have no control anyway. I choose to trust that God's love and understanding for me is far greater than all my fears and hatreds and greater than my understanding of self.
It's embarrassing to admit this, but the underlying truth is shouting from the rooftops: I am deeply insecure, that's why. I am so insecure that's why I am still so full of myself even at this embarrassingly late stage in life. That's the truth I keep on escaping from, that's why I can't live in the now, that's why I always live in the past and the future. I guess the pain is too much for me to bear. (But thank God I came to these realizations at all!)
I can think of a lot of early childhood traumas as possible causes, but the real question is how on earth did I get to carry over all those well into adulthood, when I am fully conscious and have a full choice in my course of action, when I have already ceased to be that traumatized child long ago?
They say that forgiveness does not mean forgetting the past or erasing the past, but forgetting it only because you have seen in it a new, more perfect light and have no longer a desire to keep on reviewing it in the old light. Maybe I keep on going back because I haven't made complete peace with it. That means I will also keep on repairing it into some future of wholeness. I can expect the vicious cycle to keep on going then.
Ah what folly. Let me enjoy each and every moment of my life then, and without any adjustments for the future except for what's reasonable; let me live life to the fullest in the now.
Kairos. I think I am now slowly getting it. It doesn't mean being irresponsible and singing "Que sera sera" each time a problem comes up. It means chewing my food well, giving my best at work in the task at hand, reading each word with relish, using the best cup and plate (with other bests reserved for special ocassion), enjoying life like a game, not because of any other motive whatsoever apart from the desire to chew my food well, give my best at work, read each word with relish, use the best cup and plate, and enjoy life like a game. It means living in the now with no regard for what happened or what will happen next, knowing what happened is what happened and what will happen next is not for me to think about; now is the only thing that's real and mine for the taking. This apartment I am renting right now is my own place in the sun for now. The rare bright bird that just flew by my window is mine to appreciate for now. I will grab hold of it, nay clutch it, possess it, until it becomes the past and I am fully ready to move on to the next now, if it comes, in a future with no regrets.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
I fear death because...
I have what they call thanatophobia, also known as fear of death.
Why do I fear death so much? Is it because I don't trust in God? Is it because I am afraid of Him, afraid of how I'm going to die, afraid that He might take my life all so suddenly the way he took my friend Malou's and Cesar's at the prime of their lives, afraid that it would be horrible and painful and embarassing, afraid that He might not save me after all the trouble? Might I even be harboring a secret anger or resentment at God for being so fearsome that way, for taking away lives like that? I think I resent it that I'm more afraid and angry at Him and doubtful than loving and trusting Him. But what can I do. That's how I feel; those are my reflex emotions. I choose to surrender completely anyway, for I have no control anyway. I choose to trust that God's love and understanding for me is far greater than all my fears and hates and greater than my understanding of self.
Friday, August 05, 2011
This is a kingdom matter
The usual whys and how-comes come attacking again. Why am I here? Why am I doing this? I took a taxi ride worth Php 140 because I wasn't feeling well and afraid of commuting alone. But for what? Why do I have to make an extra effort to be on time at 6 PM, only to find no one there, only to find myself eating alone, with everybody late by one hour. How come I even endure this?
How come I need to suffer other people's foibles, look past their imperfections and inadequacies?
When I caught myself telling all these things, I questioned myself: Why am I complaining? Isn't our friend L. worth all these troubles? Is it because he's not a famous or wealthy or highly educated or high-stationed personality? Is his contribution in my life and the community's life too low in my view as to be deserving of my toil and energy, which is actually too little a sacrifice compared to his? Am I giving something because I was getting something in return? Am I annoyed because I thought I wouldn't get something equal in return, measure for measure? Am I not guilty of conditional love once again (because that's how I learned to love)?
What was I waiting for? What kind of work? Was I expecting evangelizing big people, or Muslims, or catechisizing the urban poor, preaching like Bo Sanchez or Mike Velarde?
When I was through detoxifying myself from such evil thoughts, I heard a gentle whisper say, "This is what the kingdom all about. This is the heart of the matter." This is what all you've heard and learned all about. This is the test, the test of real life.
After I nodded in quiet understanding and agreement, I told myself, "This is it! Give it your best shot! It's all worth it!"
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Fwdd email on Aging
As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.
I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it, if I choose to read, or play, on the computer, until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I will walk the beach, in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.
They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But, broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore.
I've even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).
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