“Even if we’re running a hundred kilometers per hour in the wrong direction, God chases after us.” – Nick Vujicic
As I am writing this down, I still feel the unworthiness but then, if I wait until I’m worthy before writing this down then I would have passed up on the chance of helping other people.
It took me a while to write about this for several reasons. First, I felt like it was too personal. Second, I felt like I still had so much work to do with myself to feel worthy of talking about faith and spirituality. I was scared about being judged by the people around me– by the people who knew me. I did not want to be seen as self-righteous, preachy or hypocritical.
There are a million things going through my mind right now, things I’m still trying to figure out, thoughts I have difficulty putting into words. Nevertheless, I feel the need to write this down because I want to encourage other people. If I could let a single soul realize what I have realized and fall in love with the Lord then it would serve its purpose well.
Spirituality was something I was always struggling with. I was raised as a Catholic, studied in a Catholic school from pre-school up until college. I was one of those Catholics who prayed everyday, went to church on Sundays, did charity works but didn’t go to confession regularly. I didn’t really take my religion seriously. I never gave much thought about hell or the devil or about the after-life. They were mere stories and concepts. Yes, I prayed sincerely, I thanked Him everyday, I prayed for my loved ones, I seldom asked for anything for myself. I felt I was a good Christian but somehow I still fell into sin day in and day out.
About 6 years ago, I felt the thing they called “spiritual hunger”. Below is a transcript from a journal entry I wrote during that time.
“It was only a few days ago that I was confronted with what they call “spiritual hunger”. I never really understood what it meant. I always thought that I was living a spiritual life since I believe in God, I prayed to Him, I went to church and I know what is morally upright. But I knew deep inside that even if I do these things and believe in God’s existence, I was feeling empty. I felt God was out of reach. I was experiencing spiritual hunger.
I have always envied people who have so much faith in God and I know you’ve heard this “putting Him at the center of their lives”. I envy the people who can be optimistic in the face of adversity. I envied them because they were happy. And sad as it may, we only envy people who have what we don’t and that leaves me to be the girl who is not happy. I envy a lot of people. I even envy the man who pushes the cart along Edsa because he looks happy. In short, I envied the happy people because I was not happy. But my other self tells me “is envying other people all you can do?”
I don’t know how long I have felt so empty…maybe two years. Looking back, the last time I prayed so hard to God was when I took my board exams because I knew that passing it was the one thing I can give back to my parents for all the things they have endured. It was a rough year for my family and I wanted it so badly for my father. The smile I saw on my father’s face when he found out I made it was priceless. As a father, the greatest pride he has is his children’s achievements and I wanted to make him happy. My faith and gratitude in God was teeming at that time. But slowly it was taken away.
When I started to work, I was surprised by how much pessimism there was in the workplace. I came in wanting to change everything. But the positive energy was taken away with the copious problems we were facing everyday at work. I felt frustration in my job and in the people who ran the company. It was difficult to remain optimistic while being surrounded by glum. I let them beat me. I was eaten up by this manhole of destructive pessimism. I became so negative and this energy was like an infectious disease. Soon enough, everybody was talking the way I was….pessimistic, desperate, frustrated, disheartened, etc. Nobody believed something positive will happen. We were working so hard but still we remained to be disappointed. We were tired and I was miserable.
I became distant from God. I still prayed, mumbling words I’ve known for years, asking for the same things over and over. The prayer felt empty, though. It was like reciting from memory and not from the heart.
The work has really gotten into me. Work was demanding enough and with my pathological people-pleaser personality, I got drained. And with this exhaustion my faith also dwindled.
I was able to rest for a few days and this helped me renew my energy. It gave me time to reflect. Right now, I am working on my new visions. I am better. Not extremely happy but Happy. I am positive and I want to inspire people the same way I was inspired by this girl who said she’s happy because God is at the center of her life. I am feeding on my spiritual hunger with prayer and inspirational truths. I am still scared that this can be taken away the same way it was before but I know that as long as God is with me, my faith will remain. “
Alleluia right? But, no. I can’t even remember how long I felt the happiness or believed what I wrote. Scanning through my old journal, I saw sadness, depression and sin resurface just when I thought God was my ally. I was already there but it was so easy to slide back. My spirituality was not so stable.
About 2 years ago, I got an invitation by a close friend to join a retreat. I can’t even remember what reason I had for declining the invite. I was invited over and over by him and our other friends who began serving in their ministry after attending the retreat but somehow, I always found a reason not to go. Either I was busy during those dates or that I didn’t feel like I needed the retreat. And I guess a lot of people feel the same way about the invitation to let God into their lives. In some way, people view these opportunities as too preachy for their taste, too overwhelming, too religious,etc. and I admit, there were times I felt that way. I was proud. I felt like I could have a good relationship with God on my own. I didn’t need help.
Over a year ago, I got myself into a big rut. Isang malaking batok galing kay Lord. So, after months of tears, self-pity, confusion, depression, etc. I woke up and took a one big look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw and so I decided to change. As the saying goes, “be the person you want to meet”. It was a struggle. I had to start from the very small things about my habits and attitude. From simple things like trying not to be annoyed or curse while driving, trying not to roll my eyes at my boss, being patient with my sister, etc. I had to pray everyday for the grace and strength to be better. It was a test of my patience and temperance. I had to work on forgiving the person who hurt me. Slowly, I was becoming the person I wanted to be but somehow sin always found its way in me. There were still times when I questioned my worth and I still found it difficult to fight off temptations.
Alas, it was time. Three months ago, I got another invitation to join the retreat. I had the weekend free so I finally agreed to go even though I had no healing concerns nor did I feel like I needed it. Nevertheless, I decided to go because I was starting to feel bad about repeatedly turning down my friend’s invitation. Anyway, on the few days leading to the retreat, I recognized that I needed a solid sense of faith. I went to the retreat with a goal of deepening my faith in God and I wanted badly to go to confession. In 12 years, I only went to confession once.
I couldn’t have been more blessed to have been there during that weekend. I saw things I’ve never seen before, I experienced fear like I’ve never experienced before, I witnessed the pain and suffering of other people but more importantly, I got the validation of love that I needed from Jesus Himself. I got more than what I was looking for. And just when I thought the retreat has served its purpose on me, it opened yet another door for bridging the gap between me and my mom that I wasn’t even aware of. Two months after I attended the retreat, I was able to bring my mom there too. She has been carrying guilt over abandoning me (something I can’t even remember and something I wasn’t aware of) for so many years and it was only that time that she got it out of her system. If it wasn’t for the retreat, she would’ve carried that until her deathbed and I wouldn’t have known. It was God’s work for me and for her to be there.
I believe one day it will all come into full circle. Everything happens just the way God has planned it. Remember the scene from Ironman 3 where Ironman saved all the passengers of the blown out plane? Each one was saved because somebody else caught them. Catching your own monkey as Ironman put it. I think we work in the same way. There is a reason that I met the person who brought me to that retreat, there is a reason I was able to bring my mom there and there is a reason for the specificity of who brought who. It could have been someone else but it was us for a reason. Everything is perfectly orchestrated according to God’s own timing.
It took me more than a year to give the retreat a chance and I believe it was God’s perfect timing. I think I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I did if I went earlier.
There are so many things that I have realized and learned and I still continue to learn. It was through this that I’ve learned how to really please God. Before all this, I didn’t completely understand the idea of giving myself to Him or of loving Him. When you learn to love the Lord and realize that He loves you, you will never doubt yourself and you will not question your self worth. His love, not of anybody else, is the only validation that we need.
Last night, I was listening to a candidate talk. She was thanking God for the opportunity of being healed and being delivered from all her heartaches. Sometimes I look at these old people and can’t help thinking “ Sayang naman -they spent more than half of their lives missing out on God’s love”. I just felt blessed for having been called now and I feel blessed for witnessing God’s work on people. It is truly amazing.
The retreat opened a door of many possibilities but it is really up to me to work on it. You only really learn when you apply what you have been taught. Everyone who gets invited to that retreat is given the same push to become a better Christian but it is solely up to each individual to do the job and progress. The words below are from the song that I first heard during a special moment in the retreat and I still feel emotional everytime I hear this song. It always had the ‘mirror’ effect.
Do they see Jesus in me?
Do they recognize your face?
Do I communicate your love and your grace?
Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be?
Do they see Jesus, Jesus in me?
I, myself, still has a long way to go. I am a work in progress and I will always be. Everyday is still a spiritual warfare but I have learned to trust in the Lord, He who has armored me with a stronger faith. I’ve learned to let go of my worries and I’m now seeing life in a different perspective. And yes, now, I can finally say that I am happy because God is in the center of my life. I am aware that embracing this faith and talking about it gives me the responsibility to practice what I preach. I will make mistakes. I am not preaching because I am perfect. I can never be perfect. I am sharing my story because I’m hoping that through this I will be able to inspire other people to take at least one step in renewing their relationship with God. Just one step.
“Jer 29:13 ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 ‘And I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD …”
The Healing Missionaries of the Holy Spirit was the instrument in fulfilling a step towards my spiritual journey and I will be forever grateful to them, most especially to Papa Dads. If you are interested about the work of the ministry, please send me a message. Retreats are held monthly. if you are interested in attending, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to hook you up with the Lord.