Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When blah becomes the point of reference

This week, so far, has been going by in a blur. What day is it already? All I know is that another cycle of day and night has already passed because I spent yet another sleepless night bugging Him for answers (which, I might add, have all been given, but yeah... Stubborn me), and eventually just drifting off to weird and disturbing dreams.

I would probably get flak for being where I am at the moment. Nosy know-it-alls would probably say what an irresponsible person I am being because I have left my charge alone for the moment. Typical kind of mentality in this part of the world... The eldest always gives way. I am not complaining, nor am I resentful. I'm just... trying to breathe. Because no matter how strong we panganays are (or look like we are), we are human, too, and we have limits. Most people seem to forget that, though. 

I don't care about the possible names I will be called, or the insults that will be thrown my way, because I do not answer to any of those hearsayers who know nothing. I don't owe them any explanations. The only One I am accountable to has given me clearance to rest, and His word is the only one that matters to me. I am not forsaking my responsibility, I just need a few days, or maybe a few weeks, to step back and regain perspective, because right now, I really really want to smash stuff in anger. 

I don't know why I even have to ask permission to be not okay. It's like it's been my default setting to be "okay" for so long that people sometimes forget that I have a breaking point, too. I am a very tolerant person, and surprisingly, I have been finding out that I am patient, too, but this does not mean that I am a doormat, nor is it a license for people to take advantage of me. And so even when I am no longer, I have to put on my masks and look like I am okay, because it's expected of me. 

I actually had to ask for time to be not okay. It's tiring to be so darned strong and together all the time. I told God, "Can I take a leave of absence? I'm not going to quit (although I am sorely tempted to). I just need time to be not okay for a while. I am tired, and I need to rest."

"Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name"

It's so easy to do that when everything is going well. Try it when your heart is breaking, when the tears won't stop flowing, and you are at your wit's end already and you are this close to throwing in the towel. Try it when you have tried everything possible, when you followed all His instructions, but still, nothing seems to work. You pray consistently and constantly, but the answer you're waiting for is still somewhere beyond the horizon. It seems to work best, I've found, when you are down on your knees already because you are just about ready to give up and you are crying for a way out.

So yes. I am not okay, nor do I want to pretend to be okay. For those who can't deal with that, and who insist on me being "where I should be, doing what I should do" and to do anything otherwise is just plain selfishness, I will plug my ears and sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" because you really have no idea what you're talking about. If it is selfish to think about yourself once in a while, if it is selfish to give time for yourself and attend to your own needs, then so be it. When you have walked in my shoes and know what it is to be here, then tell me that. You may be trying to encourage me, but it is not going to work that way. You'd do better to just stand with me, give me a hug and let me cry (eating ice cream with me would be a good idea, too). If God Himself told His servants to rest, then who are you to argue with that?

So for now, no matter what others may think, I am taking a temporary leave of absence. And despite the hurt piercing my heart right now, this is what I sing:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shine Your light and let the whole world see

God's arm is never too short to save. Just like the song says, HE IS MIGHTY TO SAVE. If He was able to forgive a thief who was hanging beside Him on the cross at the last minute and that thief was promised paradise; if He was able to forgive David, the man the Bible calls a man after God'd own heart for his transgression; if He was able to forgive Peter for denying Him; if He was able to forgive Paul for persecuting the early church; if He was able to forgive Jacob for being such a deceptive person; if He was able to forgive the prostitute who was about to be stoned to death by the so-called righteous people; if He was able to grant redemption to that woman who went through five husbands; if He was able to call the most unlikely people and unworthy people - the least among us, those who were living a life of blatant sin, those who we used to think were beyond forgiveness or redemption - and use these people and their circumstances in life to advance His kingdom, then who are you to think that you are beyond His reach of forgiveness?

I can hear you arguing, if not loudly, then at least debating with yourself. "But God could not possibly want me. I've done this... and that... and I'm this... and that..." I hear you, brother/sister. I hear you loud and clear, because not too long ago, I was saying those words, too. Grant me a few minutes of your time by reading on, and I pray that God speaks to your heart through my words.

I grew up in a very religious family, but I never had a personal relationship with Him. Growing up, I remember questioning just about every practice in the religion I grew up in. It never really sat well with me why I could never go directly to God and pray to Him. I remember asking when I was young, "Is God's line busy that I have to use operator assistance to get to talk to Him?" I could not understand how an omnipresent and all-knowing God could not listen to a little girl's prayers.

I began to rebel. Not just because of the religion, but because my entire life was, in a word, a very huge MESS. I used the excuse that I came from a broken family, that I never knew my father, that I had every right to go against rules because it was my way of showing the world that I was in control of my own life. Thus began the downward spiral. At 16, I was already smoking a pack a day, drinking until I passed out, cutting myself and experimenting with marijuana. I disrespected my mother - I was willful, insisted on doing things my own way, and then I would blame her when things went wrong. I was mean, dark, and hurtful, especially to the people who loved me the most. I pushed them away and retreated into a world full of darkness, misery, and just about everything negative. I was an angsty teenager, and I thought I was cool. I thought it was cool to do what you wanted, when you wanted. I did not care about consequences because I thought I would live forever and I was invincible.

Fast forward to the year 2003. I was 18, and I was burnt out. I was tired of a life that went nowhere. I was drinking regularly then. I would sneak out every chance I get to drunk. Being drunk numbed me, and I welcomed that. And then I met people who showed me that there was another way to fill that emptiness that compelled me to keep destroying myself, and instead of destruction, I would find life and everlasting satisfaction, the kind that the world could never give. I know now that these people were sent by God, and I cannot stop thanking Him for the day our paths crossed, because it was through their testimonies that I am able to share my own today.

I gave my life back to Him in 2003. It was all smooth sailing at first. I was on fire. I was reading the Word everyday, I was praying, singing His praises, sharing the good news to everyone. And then just as quickly as it came, I burnt out. AGAIN. And so began the very long backsliding incident.

It was not just one thing that made me grow cold. It was many things, but mostly, it was my prideful and rebellious heart, insisting that I knew better, that I could do things better than Him. And so I went my own way. And I broke His heart countless times. I turned to every source of "comfort" I could think of except Him.

FLASH FORWARD TO 2008: That was when I hit rock bottom. I was getting drunk all the time. I was so angry at my mom for leaving. I was so self destructive that I have to wonder why God did not strike me with lightning right then and there. But in His infinite mercy and wisdom, He allowed me go through that darkness and still come out alive. He did not let the darkness and its evil consume me to the point that I could no longer cry out to Him for deliverance. Even when I was resolutely holding on to my own rebellion, He was slowly and patiently setting the stage for my coming home. Once again, He put people in my life who were, and still are, very much instrumental in getting me back on track.

Finally, I had had enough. Or rather, God decided I had had enough. I was on my knees, crying out that I had nowhere else to go. I was this close to slitting my wrists, or drinking an entire bottle of NSAID meds (I'm deathly allergic to those, see, taking one could give me a heart attack) - I was that devoid of hope. And right then and there, He met me. Oh, I wallowed in my depression and hopelessness for a while, but it is very hard to ignore the light and hope of His love when he persistently shows you time and again how much He loves you and how much He wants to give you the best life possible.

And by the best life, I do not mean that in this world's definition of what the best is. The best life according to my God, at least from what I am now beginning to discern, is not one that is free from suffering or persecution. Rather, the best life, I am learning, is one that is lived right there with Him, DESPITE THE SUFFERING AND PERSECUTION (because these are sure things to come when you live for Him). Sitting at His feet, listening to Him, crying in His arms when the world breaks your heart (as it always will), sharing your joys with Him, telling Him how your day went (even if He knows everything that happened already), lifting up the frustrations of being in the battlefield, and sometimes, simply being a kid and ranting to your Father and allowing Him to soothe you... that is what a good life on this earth means to me now.

So you, dearest brother/sister, you are never too lost for God to run to you and save you. John 3:16 said it best: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

If you're feeling tired, and you feel like this world has nothing left to offer you, remember my story, and remember the mercy and love that He showed, and continues to show. If you are feeling too tired and exhausted to stand, kneel, dear friend. Kneel down, ask Jesus to come into your heart. We are all sinners, and not one of us can ever atone for that by anything we do. Acknowledge that you are a sinner, and that the sacrifice He made by dying on the cross and shedding His blood is the only way for you to be free...  Only then will you know peace. I should know... I've been there. That is why I can tell you my story. Even the messiest and darkest circumstances, those intended for our destruction by the enemy, God can and will use for our betterment, and to bless others, too, only if we allow Him to.

I pray that you find what you seek. Whoever you are, I am praying for you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On silence

In the chaos of today's world, silence is a luxury that most of us cannot afford anymore, or we avoid for reasons I cannot fathom. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like a lot of people avoid silence. Whether it is silence in the company of other people, or silence when you are alone, most people just don't seem to be comfortable with it. 

Why do most people feel the need to fill the silent gaps with conversation, no matter how inane? What is it about silence that makes us so uncomfortable, anyway? Is it because in silence, we have no other choice except to confront ourselves? Or is it because in silence, everything else you want to ignore becomes more pronounced?

When it comes to friends, I think one of the marks of a strong friendship is when you can be silent with one another and not have to feel like you have to fill the silence. You are as comfortable with the silence as you are with the conversation. The person's presence is enough to assure you. 

Bearing the silence is a challenge in itself already. When we don't hear from the people we love, we worry. When we feel like God is silent, we worry. When a place is silent, we worry. When silence abounds, we worry. We would rather deal with the noise, the frantic sounds of a world in a hurry than to deal with the silence.

I have learned over the years that silence is not always a bad thing. You learn a lot that you just won't learn when you keep trying to fill in the silence with noise. You learn more about people by staying quiet and listening. You learn more by sitting quietly at God's feet than. 

Sometimes silence is deafening, too. But that is another story already. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Through it all

Frustration has a name, and its name is Regina. 

Seriously, when you give up almost everything you have gotten used to for the sake of being there for someone who truly needs you, only to have that person backfire right in your face, that, my friends, would truly suck.

And suck does not even begin to describe it. 

How do you go about helping this person? You are all but a personal nanny already. Everything, and I mean everything, is laid out on a silver platter, ready to be picked up. All that is needed is some effort to actually pick up the stuff, and pick up after yourself. Everything else is taken care of. Does it take so much effort to do that? Would it kill you to reach out and actually try it?

How do you help someone who does not even exert any effort to help himself? Sure, rant about your difficulties. Lament the fact that the whole world is so harsh on you and that you can't help it because you're just wired that way. You know that I will always be here, I will always listen, and in any way that I can, I will always try to make things better for you. But at what cost?

So your present mode of therapy does not help. You do not trust the person who is supposed to be helping you. What do you do? Complain? Of course you do. But should it stop there? Shouldn't you at least try to find someone who can work with you better? Or does that fall to me, too? Does your getting better depend on everyone else except you?

I am at my wit's end. For now, I am. I need a vacation. I need to be somewhere far away where all this responsibility does not have to weigh down on me. I need to go somewhere and recharge, because in all honesty, I am starting to resent the cross that I carry, and I do not like that. If I am going to carry my cross, I want to do it with joy in my heart and have His peace envelope me. I do not want to be dragging on, resentful of this, because that is not how it is supposed to be. 

I think many people are under the mistaken notion that when you walk with God, it is going to be a walk in the park. Many people think that when you belong to God, everything becomes bright and shiny and easy. That's what I thought at first. But then, I came to know, as I walked with Him more, and as my relationship with Him deepened, that the exact opposite is true. Walking with God is not all sunshine and rainbows. The more I walk with Him, the more challenging it gets. The more I walk with Him, the more I am tested. Why? Because everyone who walks with Him has the privilege of being pruned, molded and refined by the Master Himself, until we become more like His Son. 

Only He knows why this particular cross is mine to carry. He gave it to me, and I trust that He will see me through this. And for that reason alone, I do not want to get to the point where I resent my responsibility, or Him, for that matter. That is why I need to vent, and vent to Him. He knows my rants, He knows these things that break me. And He knows how my heart aches, and how tiring it gets. But at the end of the day, He makes me realize that through it all, I have Him. He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He will always be there to comfort me and give me strength. Everyone and everything else may fail, but He won't. That I am sure of. 

So for tonight, and maybe until the rest of the week, let me rant. Let me complain, let me air out the bad vibes of frustration. Because I am giving myself a deadline. I am allowing myself to be frustrated, I am allowing myself to wallow in hurt that this frustration brings with it. But after that, I will let it go, and I will ask Him again to lead me where exactly I should be. Because if this is where He wants me to be, then I am sure He will renew my strength. But if He wants me to be somewhere else, then I know He will make it happen, too, one way or another. Either way, I trust that He will give me the strength I need, and in the end, He will be glorified.