A Purpose Amidst the Uncertainties

I was scrolling through Facebook one day, when I saw this article about the “blah” we’ve been feeling through this pandemic. That “blah“—as defined by psychologists—is this sense of stagnation and emptiness. I’ve been feeling that way for quite some time now, and it honestly never went away. If people personally knew me, I was this person who was optimistic and excited about living; I’ve always been so enthusiastic about what life was about to offer me. But perhaps due to this senseless routine of waking up, logging into my computer to work, complying with requirements, and other monotonous tasks, I have definitely lost that excitement. And I couldn’t bring it back.

Psychologists had a term for it; they coined this feeling “languishing“. This languishing fell on the extreme side of the mental health spectrum, opposite to “flourishing,” according to psychologist, Corey Keyes.1 As written in the New York Times, 2 languishing felt like the “neglected middle child of mental health; the void between depression and flourishing.” Flourishing, on the other hand, referred to this state of positive experiences with delightful emotions and social functioning most of the time. And sadly to say, I was in no place nearing the flourishing side of the spectrum. I felt like every day was just this attempt of getting through the week without purpose; it was a kind of grief that made me worried I wouldn’t get back to my usual self.

One way I try to cope with these sorts of emotions was by reading. I recalled a close friend of mine highly recommending this book by a psychologist who had experiences in a concentration camp in Auschwitz during the Second World War, and these experiences led to life-changing realizations about the human condition in the perspective of prisoners at the concentration camps. The book is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

I read this book because I thought it could have helped me become more aware of myself. I also felt like I wanted non-secular3 advice on these struggles of mine, because I was just simply curious how Frankl would analyze the human condition through traumatic experiences in concentration camps. So I decided to pick it up and take it seriously. With an open mind, I knew I was ready to rediscover and learn so much.

I. Languishing can be some sort of existential vacuum.

The existential vacuum, as defined by Frankl, is “the void within people; a lack of awareness of a meaning worth living for“. I couldn’t help but notice how similar this can be to languishing. And maybe the majority of us, in a sense, have this existential vacuum in our hearts that we just can’t simply relieve.

Maybe it’s the fact that there’s still too much to cross off our daily schedules or we’re too caught up with being productive that when we’re actually sitting down and doing nothing, there’s this guilt embedded within us that we’re doing something wrong. What makes me so overwhelmed is that it seemed like the world was running too fast despite a pandemic that seemed to never end, and I was hardly given enough time to stop and ponder about my life.

II. Life is a personal seeking of the essence of our existence.

The main gist of Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is this: “Our motivation in life is to search for a meaning.” That’s why we keep going—we have goals to accomplish and we would eventually want to see the bigger picture. But this is where we often struggle the most. We’re always being asked—What is the meaning of life?—expecting that life is the same for everybody, demanding life to give us an answer. It made me realize that I had to stop asking life the hard questions; let life question us. What is life expecting from us, anyway?

According to him, meaning can be experienced in at least three ways, (1) in creating a work or a deed, (2) experiencing something or encountering someone, and (3) having the right attitude towards unavoidable suffering.

We find meaning by creating a work or doing a deed.

I remember having a striking conversation with one of my high school best friends. We were catching up, talking about our degrees and how we would like to push through with it in the future. This was all too memorable to me because it was in this conversation that I shared to him that I really wanted to push through with my degree despite its difficulties. I had this epiphany of knowing this will be worth it.

He’s a Computer Science major, and he told me about how he was sure of his degree because right from the start he knew he wanted to develop his own games. But things started to change when he heard the talk of another CS graduate who was initially a game developer too. This CS graduate was invited to be part of a research company that used software to detect cancer cells in the body. He was hesitant at first, but this CS graduate joined. This is where my friend realized that there were still so many things to do with a Computer Science degree—it’s not just about game, phone, or web development—we had this freedom to explore the possibilities of our degrees. It’s not always about what the majority thinks it’s for. My friend then realized that “Passion is nothing without purpose,” and that made me think a lot.

I’m still not sure what I’ll be capable of doing in the near future after my degree,4 but one thing’s clear, I want to be part of some solution. I want to contribute something to help others in need, and I think that would be a respectable purpose for my engineering hardships right now.

We find meaning by experiencing someone or something.

Another way of finding meaning is to experience, according to Frankl. And if there was one breathtaking realization that came to mind while reading this segment of the book, it was this. I was genuinely surprised, because as I said earlier, I was trying to look for non-secular arguments within this book. But I couldn’t help but think about God in my scenario, and how experiencing God is my most central purpose in this life I have right now. It may be different for others, but in a Christian’s perspective, I was reminded that God is the center of it all, and especially my life.

I can’t speak for the rest of the people reading this, but to experience something in its entirety—such as goodness, truth, and beauty—is indeed a meaning in itself. I remember watching Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and it was in these final moments that the ring bearer Frodo was on the verge of giving up. His companion and best friend, Sam, had this whole, tear-jerking speech5 about how characters from different stories had these opportunities to turn back, only they didn’t, because they were holding on to something. And hearing those lines sort of stuck to me.

“What are we holding on to, Sam?”

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

We find meaning by finding the right attitude towards suffering.

This sounds like a more sophisticated version of “Everything happens for a reason,” but it can also be deeper than that, in my opinion. Suffering in itself is meaningless, but we can give it meaning with the way we respond to suffering. I was reminded that if we don’t have absolute control of a situation in our life, remember that we can control how we feel and respond to it. There will always be room for personal growth. It’s in these moments we are given the opportunity to rise above one’s self. Frankl put it up like this,

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

I’d also like to point out that not every suffering is indeed necessary. Frankl speaks of those unavoidable circumstances of suffering. And if it is possible to remove the cause of suffering, then that must immediately be done so, since unnecessary suffering is “masochistic instead of heroic“.

III. We must be tragically optimistic about our circumstances.

If there’s one thing I am trying my best to avoid talking about, it’s the case of toxic positivity. And I’m not trying to advocate for toxic positivity in these circumstances. We know that happiness and optimism cannot be forced into a person. They must have a reason for their happiness. Generally, then, we aren’t in search of happiness in itself, we’re actually in search of a reason to become happy. Frankl explains that happiness must be ensued. Happiness comes after realizing a sense of purpose, and so, the first step to finding authentic happiness is to remind yourself of the why of your living.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

It is in fact called “a tragic optimism“—an optimism in the face of tragedy—because it raises the question, “Is it possible to say yes to life in spite of all the pain, guilt, and death in this world?” Frankl notes that what matters is to make the best out of any given situation. Turn the suffering into a future achievement, because I am also a firm believer that one day we would look back and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I managed to push through that.” As of now, we’re at this point that we just have to take responsibility and make the best out of these experiences.

All of this is easier said than done, I know. There will be days where we will feel the weight of our burdens and it will feel like we will continuously carry it on our shoulders, but I’m hoping that we take some time for ourselves to rethink the most important questions in life. Let introspective thoughts come, accommodate them, process the pain, and give ourselves time to find meaning in our life—one day at a time.

Hang in there, and I truly hope for the best of all our well-beings. We will flourish eventually.

“You have to live to see the day on which it may happen, so you have to survive in order to see that day dawn, and from now on the responsibility for survival does not leave you.”


Footnotes:

1 Read more about the psychology of languishing and flourishing here

2 New York Times article here

3 A little context, Frankl, in fact, was a practicing Jew, but he was very careful not to impose his beliefs on others. He was this sort of psychologist who believed that people have different meanings in life, and it’s only through themselves that they can be responsible for their own lives.

4 I have a lot of things in mind, but then again, I’m still not absolutely sure how I can contribute something. But as of now, I want to widen my knowledge more on coding for data analysis/visualization and audio signal processing.

5 Watch my favorite LOTR scene here

A Christian’s Reflections on Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested,” Francis Bacon suggests on his essay Of Studies. I deeply agree. It is such a memorable experience for me when I discover a book worthy of being digested. For Women’s Month, I’d like to shift my focus on one of the best books I’ve read by a renowned woman author and share to you some of my realizations after reading this classic. I love stories and narratives—I root for characters and their development, I look for quotes to talk about—I read to feel. It’s just a very few times that I put down a book and exhale so deeply and think, ‘Wow, what a read.’ What book am I talking about, exactly? It’s Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

First of all, I’ll put this out there: this isn’t going to be a book review. It’s more of a set of realizations upon reading it. Before I delve in deeper into my personal reflections on this well-loved classic, let me tell you a little ‘bit of what the book is about. Jane Eyre is a coming-of-age story about an orphan—alone and bitter—who grows up to be a woman with estimable beliefs and a high respect for herself. We get to understand more of her development as a character when she embarks on to take a governess job in the mysterious Thornfield Hall, where she also gets to meet her employer, Mr. Edward Rochester.

On that occasion, he again, with a full heart, acknowledged that God had tempered judgment with mercy. 

If I had to summarize what happened with the whole book, spoiler-free, I think I would pick this quote. I think it just suited the book so much with its themes of both faith and passion. I admire it when a book gives me insights on my spirituality, and that was why I fell in love with this book in the first place. A lot of readers might not like religion incorporated in books, but for the classics, it must be expected. Christianity played a huge role in the character development in classic books.

Here are a few of my pure and honest takeaways from the book. [Also, massive spoilers ahead.]

See in the perspective and likeness of eternity—have some faith.

“But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?”
“I believe; I have faith: I am going to God.”
“Where is God? What is God?”
“My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I count the ours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to Him, reveal Him to me.”

Charlotte Brontë was a daughter of a clergyman, so I think it’s no surprise that she ends up writing a book with religion as its prevalent themes. Personally, it is a delight when a book (especially a fiction one) presents a refreshing take on my beliefs as a Christian; in this book, I just really felt represented in a way — and I’ve never much connected with a character as Jane’s.

Helen and Jane. in Jane Eyre (2011)

In Jane’s childhood years at Lowood, the boarding school she studied in, she meets a girl of faith, Helen Burns. Jane and Helen becomes friends real quick, and for the first few chapters they have insightful conversations about confronting Jane’s past and Helen’s faith and spirituality. These, for me, were the most important chapters of the book because I think this is where Jane truly hears the truth about God. As she grows up, we will see how her faith changed the way she saw and treated herself.

I don’t blame Jane for having such bitter and melancholic beliefs in the first place. She had a rough past—having both of her parents dead with no sincere relatives who were there for her—I have a feeling that if I were Jane, I’d have such a similar reaction, too.

There was this part in the book where Jane tried to defend her bitter beliefs with her depressing backstory. Jane tells Helen about Gateshead and her aunt Mrs. Reed. Helen listens intently. Then she replied like this,

“We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the spirit will remain—the impalpable principle of light and thought… I hold another creed: which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest—a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss.

Honestly I aspired to have Helen’s faith. And the fact that she was indeed a child when she all figured it out! These were the instances in the book where I was reminded of that verse from Luke that ‘Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.’ This is perhaps what Jesus meant when He wanted us to receive Him—with pure and childlike wonder and innocence.

This is a good reminder that we could also be a light to this world that we live in. Things here are temporal, and there is still something to look forward to that is not of this world. Let’s have some faith like Helen Burns—a faith in God and His power and majesty. We never know what we can do to a person. It won’t be obvious, but we may implant a seed in someone’s heart and change their life in the long run. It will never be worth it to live a life of bitterness; it’s time that we replace it with love and forgiveness.

God ordains the end, as well as the means.

I only present two of some of the most profound truths I’ve learned, but I definitely say this is my favorite. Let me explain plot-wise first. In the mid chapters, we have Jane and Mr. Rochester having very sincere conversations… until he proposes to Jane. They’re happy for awhile. She accepts, until their wedding wherein she discovers that Mr. Rochester is married to Bertha Mason, a woman whom he kept inside an attic in Thornfield Hall. (Absolutely crazy, I know.) Jane—realizing all this—is surprisingly calm. We don’t realize that there’s a storm inside her head right now, thinking of the right thing to do. There is definitely conflict in her head.

Jane, being true to her beliefs and valuing her integrity, rejects Mr. Rochester. She wouldn’t simply be a mistress. This is where she realizes her marriage with Mr. Rochester wouldn’t be the most beneficial one, especially in God’s eyes. Personally, I see the battle between Spirit and Flesh here. I believed this was such a heart-wrenching decision for Jane. She finally finds a family inside Thornfield Hall, and the only people who’d welcome her were also the ones to wound her so hurtfully. It’s true what they said, the ones you love the most are the also the ones who can hurt you the most.

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.”

So, to cut a long story short, she fled Thornfield Hall. I will always never not cry when I read Jane’s perspective on what was happening to her,

Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips;

Again, we were back to lonely and orphan Jane. It’s like she was 10 years old all over again. She had to find and rebuild herself. It was also in this saddening but hopeful journey that she would also get to meet St. John, Diana, and Mary. She also got the opportunity to teach students who were less privileged (courtesy of St. John), and if you asked me, that was such a noble act to do! Coincidentally, we soon discover that these people who saved Jane were her cousins all this time! (Oh, and one of Jane’s distant uncle dies and gives her a surprising sum of twenty thousand pounds.) I thought, wow, she may not be blessed with the man of her dreams, but at least she’s rich with blood relations to share it with!

“Glorious discovery to a lonely wretch! This was wealth indeed!—wealth to the heart!—a mine of pure, genial affections.”

But that wasn’t all. One day she supernaturally hears Rochester’s groans, “Jane, Jane, Jane!” And it was in those moments she was entranced. She, again, is reminded of Mr. Rochester. She decides to go look for him. She takes a carriage to Thornfield Hall only to see that it has burned down, killing Bertha Mason in the fires. This is where Jane discovers also [from a servant] that Rochester lives somewhere in a small town wherein his servants take care of him. He is crippled and blind. (At least he’s not dead, Jane thinks.)

Jane rushes to look for Mr. Rochester, still excited as ever. She discovers where he resides. She pretends to be a servant giving him a glass of water. Mr. Rochester is unsure if it’s the servant or not. He touches her, thinking, Is this my Jane? He’s thinking he’s being delusional all over again. Jane reassures him, “Sir, it’s me.”

“HIS chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane—only—only of late—I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker.”

They talk for hours, they catch up on everything they’ve missed on each other’s lives. Mr. Rochester is humbled by Jane’s love for him. He then rambles into a reflective speech on what came upon him when he became crippled and blind.

This, the ending, was definitely worth reading. (Also, the film didn’t give it much justice.) I was so happy for them. It was in those moments that Mr. Rochester realizes that he was actually humbled by God; he was made blind and crippled so that he would depend more in Him.

It was just so beautiful, how this story was woven together, honestly. Sometimes I definitely feel like Jane—emotional and questioning—‘Why is this happening to me?’, I think. Little do we know what God is really doing in our lives. We may not understand what and why are things happening in the current state of our lives, but I’m sure that God won’t be wasting these struggles on us if it weren’t for something more eternal. Like Helen, let’s fix our eyes on God and hope with reverence.

On Being Political and Submissive

It is day n of quarantine. (I am honestly not keeping count.) The first few days of quarantine were extremely boring for me. As of the moment, though, I’ve been trying to have my own daily routine. It’s been quite surprising how some of my friends (and other people from the internet) are doing with the time they have so much in their hands. I’ve never expected people to get past binge-worthy Netflix shows like CLOY or the like, but it seems like people have been tired of that, too! I am a witness of people participating in Twitter and Instagram games, playing  Bingo on Instagram, joining in the TikTok craze, and haha-reacting to trashtalkan and rambulan posts on Facebook. There have been so much trends on the internet nowadays, and perhaps sometimes we can find a way of escape through the media and its comedic influence.

But life goes on and reality hits us all. News from all around the world about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has been taking its toll on economies and businesses are reported worldwide. Additionally, local news are surprising us all with the national government’s poor and incompetent response to the health crisis. Along with the comedic posts on Twitter and Facebook are also the spiteful comments and criticisms of citizens expectant of a better and progressive government. We see that along with the funny (and quite offensive/disrespectful) jokes are also the overly critical (and just plain mean) comments that we see online.

I am writing this perhaps to call out and gently rebuke the Christians who have been participating in some way to these kinds of mean and disrespectful posts and comments. I understand that the government has been quite a mess with how they’re handling this situation, but have you seen His Big Picture? Have you ever wondered why God would allow such things to happen in the first place?

Before I try to address my sentiments on those difficult questions, let me tell you a personal story. Just a week ago, my mom and I were talking about Vico (our mayor) and some of the things that he were implementing for a safer Pasig. Of course, I was praising him for such medical solutions (such as the sanitation drones and stuff), comparing this feat to that of the national government (with the military and police guarding the checkpoints and imposing curfew). Yes, I am an advocate of #SerbisyongMedikalHindiMilitar. My mom, however, sees my comment as something negative. She tells me, “Hindi ba pwedeng sumunod na lang tayo at ‘wag nang kumontra?” I was surprised to hear such a familiar comment (but coming from my mom?!). This can’t be, obviously, so I ended up talking about how the people can’t just blindly follow rules that are imposed to us. There’s nothing wrong with following the rules and also criticizing it. And the government is supposed to serve the people of the country, not serve themselves. Let’s just say I also added quite negative and personal comments towards the VIP senators and the president. But then my mom rebukes me with this verse, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1” And after this, I am shushed. For this, I began to ponder.

I haven’t had my own personal quiet time with God that day, so I quickly went to a solitary place and opened my Bible. Lo and behold, another verse that addressed my sentiments quite fairly. I read, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. — Exodus 14:14” And of course, my prideful self didn’t want to be silenced! As I prayed that day, I was really asking God if (1) Is it biblical to fight back? and (2) Is it biblical to complain and rant about an incompetent government? (I literally wrote those two questions in my journal.)

Going back to my mom’s rebuke with Romans 13 about submitting to authorities, I began to think deeper. What is the context of this verse, anyway? Does this refer to blind obedience? I liked how Joshua Steele (2013), an Anglican priest, puts it:

His (referring to Paul, the author of Romans) audience then (and readers of the epistle today) would not, therefore, be expected to never challenge the government or abstain from promoting or participating in its practices, as Romans 13:1-7 has often been used to argue. Instead, they were (and are) to wisely interact with human governments, not seeking to cause any trouble in society that would damage their testimony, but not hesitating to stand firm in the cause of Christ their King when human governments do things contrary to the kingdom of God. (emphasis and italics mine)

How do we make sense of all these, then? Well, here are some of the key questions to consider before you speak of the government. Here is my attempt to reconcile the issue of incompetent leaders and God’s command to submit to authority.

#1: Does this comment reflect negatively on my testimony?

If it does, it’s better to delete the post altogether. Always put in mind that as Christians, we are expected to rebuke, correct, or argue with gentleness and respect. I pray that in our anger towards this government, we do not sin against them [because we also sin against God]. Remember that one of God’s greatest commandments is to bring others to Him, but how can Christians attract more followers of Jesus if we are not known by His love that we share to everyone?

#2: Is there any other ill-natured motive of why I speak?

I believe that the primary motive of people as they post and correct the government is to educate people who are quite unaware of the situation or blinded by their own privilege. We educate people because we love them enough to let them know that they’re seeing it wrongly. If there is any other motive (e.g. pride) that is in your heart, then repent. Is it because you want to sound smart? Is it for the clout? Whatever it is, we are always susceptible to that of the sin of pride. Remember, you are already a victim of pride when you think that your way is always better (or right) than the others. This is what C.S. Lewis said about pride in his book Mere Christianity: “For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

#3: Am I reminded of God’s sovereignty as I speak?

If you could’ve observed, the past two questions were merely questions about ourselves and how we respond rightly. I’d like to shift my focus now on the One who is in control of everything and is amidst all the disasters that may come our way. You’ve heard this a lot of times now, but God is in control. He allowed this to happen—-and we may not fully understand why—but it is in these times that we can get to be closer to our family, friends, or even to the Lord God Himself. “He must increase, and I must decrease” is one of the most profound verses of the Bible. It is a simple statement of humility. It’s a realization that the moment we give our life to God, we allow more of Him to be in control and not us. Humility is not merely looking down on yourself; true humility is when we see who we truly are in the light of a holy and perfect God. I think it is when we realize that we really can’t do anything that we discover that it is only God who can and who will deliver us from the suffering that we have.

 If I were to sum these all up into one verse, I would always think like this: ““Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is edifying. — 1 Corinthians 10:23” We may have all the autonomy and freedom to speak our minds, but I just hope that we put what we say or what we do in light of the name that we bring with us which is Jesus Christ our Lord.

Onwards & Forward: Life Lessons from High School

I can still remember how my relatives were convincing me to try applying for Pasig City Science High School. “I-mamaintain ‘yang grade mo diyan,” “Advanced ‘yang mga lessons niyo kaysa sa iba,” and “Naku, may allowance diyan!” were probably some of the lines I’ve always heard. As for me, being the gullible [and indecisive] person that I am, went for it.

So I applied. Got interviewed. Passed the entrance exam [unexpectedly]. (I can still remember the day I took the entrance exam and I was absolutely sure I flunked it. I wasn’t even able to finish the Math subtest!) How the hell did I pass? Check out Life Lesson #1.

Life Lesson #1: If it’s meant to be, it will be.

As I was saying, I had no assurance that I was passing the entrance test. Yes, I know I did well on the interviews; but with the written exams, I’m not so sure. The Math subtest was 40 items and I only managed to answer 18 of them! Sometimes, all it takes is enough courage to actually try. I believe that life is as simple as that. If it’s for you, then it will be given to you. If it’s not, then there are many alternatives.

As I look back, I realized that I couldn’t think of a better high school for me other than Pasig City Science High School. At first, I may not be so sure about what I was getting into; but as I got out, I realized that it has been such a journey.

Summer classes came so when my mother and I attended orientations, they were suggesting the students to take summer classes so that they’ll be much more prepared for the seventh grade lessons. So again, I took advanced English, Math, and Science lessons. And by that time, my newbie Pascian self learned Life Lesson #2.

Life Lesson #2: If you want it, you’ve got to work hard for it.

Summer classes were exciting, really. Section C was great, since it consisted of the usual fun class—the noisy and funniest students, the smart kids, the quiet/geeky ones (I think this was where I belonged), and students you can’t simply categorize.

It didn’t really get exciting by Math, though. I can remember myself not understanding anything that our Math teacher explained when he was talking about the operations on integers? And the FOIL method? Dang, I found those the most confusing. Conversion of basic units was a pain in the ass, too. I can still remember myself memorizing every unit from distances, areas, and volumes… my little brain almost popped!

If you’ve been given the chance to study in such a great school like PCSHS, then, you’ve got to learn how to survive. So I did. Even if there were fundamental concepts and ideas that were quite confusing to grasp, I managed to learned them.

I remember in my first quarter of seventh grade, I was devastated to have an average of 88. (My elementary self knew I could score 90 or higher!) I didn’t use my devastation to make myself feel low, though, but I used it to actually become better. On the second quarter, I managed to be part of the Top Ten of my class (which was an achievement for me)! Let’s go, G7 Galileo!

Life Lesson #3: When doing tasks, do not settle for less.

I’ve always been tired of procrastinating the things that I had to do. Whether it may be writing [or revising] a thesis paper, outlining a report, or studying for an upcoming test, I learned that it was important not to settle for less. I know this tip is going to be hard—especially for crammers—but it’s true. When I attempt to do my chores at home, my mom always says to me, “Ginawa mo na nga eh. Gawin mo na ‘yung best mo.” And I think that quote doesn’t just apply in household chores, but also in real life situations.

On an academic context, I recalled this subject I was really struggling with in twelfth grade, and that was CPAR (Contemporary Philippine Arts from the Regions). It’s not that I was struggling to grasp concepts and ideas creatively, but I was just quite lazy to memorize all the works by Filipino artists. Little did I know our teacher would be giving us objective-based quizzes that involved memorization and mastery of the Filipino/National artists. To make a long story short, I almost failed. I got a flat 80 on my third quarter grade, and that really dragged the other subjects down. I was traumatized, so I studied real hard in the next quarter. I copied and rewrote my notes if possible. I recorded some of my teacher’s discussions so that I wouldn’t miss anything important. I made sure I memorized all the facts I needed to know. Thankfully, I managed to have a higher grade than before for the fourth grade. To be honest, this has always been my favorite story to tell people, because I know that I always had the capacity to do greater things… it’s just that sometimes I don’t allow myself to do it.

Life Lesson #4: Always look for opportunities for you to grow.

This is quite related to the life lesson wherein you have to work hard for it. Along with working hard, you have to look out for the opportunities that would be offered to you, too. Don’t limit or restrict yourself to only one destination, there are a lot of options to choose from.

Let’s talk about my college applications, for example. FEU Institute of Technology used to offer Science High school students elite scholarships for people who aced their entrance exams. It was actually a walk-in entrance test, so honestly, I wasn’t really ready. We also had to pick the degree program on-the-spot, so I was really confused. (I didn’t really have a dream course, back then. But please do, guys. It is SO important to know what you really want.) I remember taking up Electronics & Communications Engineering, though. And up until now, I still believe that it was the best, impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decision I’ve made. (Don’t get me wrong—after the exam, I learned more about what ECE was about, and I was convinced that this could be quite practical and interesting for me!) If it weren’t for FEU Tech’s walk-in examinations, I wouldn’t get to know what priority program I’d be picking for my later college applications in UST and DLSU. Anyway, the point is—sometimes it’s okay to be spontaneous in life, especially if spontaneity leads you to once in a lifetime opportunities.

Life Lesson #5: If everything turns out unexpectedly, trust the Lord that He has a plan… even if it doesn’t seem like it.

I can still remember last year when I was starting to prepare for college applications. It was the beginning of August, I think, when I realized that I was really going to take Electronics & Communications Engineering. One of the earliest applications I was preparing for was DLSU. Personally, it was also the easiest one, because they didn’t require payment (for public school students), and it was done online. I didn’t have to physically bring my requirements in, which was less hassle for me, especially. I also attempted to be part of the first batch of incoming freshmen to apply in UST, so as early as mid-August, I was also preparing for that. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to get into the first batch of examinees, though. My mom was just insisting that I take the first batch just to show my interest in getting into the university.

By the second week of September, I was already taking my first serious entrance exam—and it was traumatic. I can remember how I was having a montage of my not-so promising future flashing before my eyes while I was taking the USTET. I was super nervous, so I really didn’t have time to actually focus on the test. Plus, the English part was literally a what the hell?! moment for me. The next day, while I was showering as I prepare for school, I found myself crying because I was positive I wasn’t going to qualify for UST.

I’ll fast forward to 2019 when universities were releasing their results. The first entrance exam results that came out were DLSU’s. If I had any great ambitions in life, though, it was getting into DLSU. I recall being quite confident that I’ll pass their entrance exam, because I studied and recalled some Stat, too! So I was delighted when I saw that I passed. I was thinking, “Okay. Nakapasa na. Scholarship na lang kailangan ko dito.” I decided that I should check out scholarships that DLSU offered for people who’ve passed their entrance exams. So I passed my requirements there, too. I was also expecting to qualify for the DOST SEI scholarship, if that could help in any way. Anyway, by the third week of January, I saw the USTET results next. And I got qualified! Little did I know this was the university for me.

When the DOST Scholarship results came out—March 31st—I was broken. I remember scrolling thrice through the webpage to miraculously see my name. Things dawned at me; I did not qualify. Worries kicked in, because it would be the first time in six years I’d be paying for tuition. It looks like I’ll be enrolling in UST, then. Words couldn’t express how disappointed I was with myself.

Anyway, enough with the drama. I still have hurts about that specific failure in my life, but I decided not to let it ruin how things are now. After months of grieving that painful circumstance, I’ve finally learned to trust more in the Lord. His ways are not my ways. I’m holding on to the promise that he has far greater plans for me. There is a time for everything, and maybe it isn’t now.

I am currently enrolled in University of Santo Tomas to take up a degree in Electronics Engineering. I know that things aren’t that happily ever after-ish yet (Dang! I haven’t even started school!), but I’m standing firm in the Lord and running the race He has marked out for me.

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭24‬:‭16‬ ESV)

So before I end this, here’s a warning: you will face missed opportunities, frustrations, disappointments; but let me remind you that there is a God bigger than those. Take courage and have heart. Everything is as planned. Go with God’s flow, and remember that it’s all a matter of putting your utter and complete faith in the Lord.

It’s Time: To Know the Truth.

The month of January has been a great start for me as I begin 2019 with a humbling prayer & fasting week that followed a three-day conference at the CCF Center called the Intentional Discipleship Conference. It is my second time to attend such a conference like this. The conference usually caters to adults ranging from young singles to married couples. This didn’t stop me from going, though, since I appreciate how deep, mature, and sensitive the topics were as the conference not only dealt with the Gospel and the faith as usual for a church event, but it also provided profound philosophies and intellectually-teasing bits of information that will make you amazed by how true Christianity really is.

Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts, learnings, and reflections—condensed—in one list type of a blog article:

1. Relationships and connections are everything.

A leader whose goal is to pass on the faith is someone who is intentional and relational with that person. As Dr. Josh McDowell explains, “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” This just means that without a proper relationship, a child, no matter how good leaders educate them, will not obey if they don’t have a connection with the person. So first, always seek to become closer to people because as you do, you can become much more of an impact to them.

2. It’s effective to train up with the conviction system.

A lot have been passing on the faith with a belief system in mind. A child may probably grow up in a Christian family attending all the Sunday School classes and church programs—believing the Gospel without knowing why. Honestly, sometimes I’d think, the Gospel is too good (to be true?). A majority of believers today may call themselves “Christians” without having a logical explanation for its background and history. (And yes, maybe I’m one of them… but this is why I’m interested in theology and apologetics in the first place!) There will be times that a lot of infidels and atheists will question your faith, giving you convincing arguments to make you doubt what you believe in. How will you put a defense to that? This is why it’s not enough that you believe, but also equally important to stand confidently tall and give the reason why you believe—in the most humbling and gentlest way of all.

3. Depending on the external factors that keep you going in your walk with the Lord is wrong.

Francis Chan gave us a precise illustration of what I’m talking about here. Imagine yourself—floating—on a 6-foot deep swimming pool. Since you are just afloat, you are basically dependent on your lifejacket. The question is, what if I asked you to remove your lifejacket? Do you know how to swim?

As simple as this illustration may sound, I was quite alarmed by how he explains this vision of his. The lifejacket you’re wearing represents the external or artificial factors that keep you going for the Lord. It may be a youth camp, a small group, accountability partners/Christian friends, a good worship band, or the emotions that you feel during those spiritually-filling events—it may be anything that keeps you spiritually high, but how about your private worship? How is it when it’s you and the Lord, alone? What happens if everything that keeps you afloat is stripped away from you? How will you respond? Maybe it’s time for you to take off your lifejacket and see it for yourself.

4. The Holy Spirit is supposed to change you slowly.

One thing to determine if you are saved is when you observe the Seed of the Lord (or the Holy Spirit) in your actions and desires. Francis goes on preaching that you just can’t simply go back sinning again if you truly have Jesus in you. Also, it’s not right to blame the “externals” when things go wrong with you. It’s not that you haven’t been coming to small group and being accountable with them, the root of the problem is your relationship with the Lord—and you are the only one that could fix that up. The secret to a joyful and fulfilled life is to become spirit-filled. So maybe it’s time to empty yourself of the world and its fleshly desires and fill yourself with God’s treasures. As God’s Spirit fills you, His desires will become the desires of your heart. As our senior pastor once said, “Obey first, then the feelings will come after.

5. Jesus is the truth.

This is actually a verse from John 14:6, but Josh McDowell gave me another perspective on this famous verse of the Bible. First of all, what is truth? Can you define truth? As Josh would define it, truth is the fidelity to the original. Fidelity in a definition that means a conformity to the standard, an exactness, sameness, and equal to. What Jesus meant in John 14:6 then, is that Jesus is the same and exact as the original. And who do you think is Jesus referring to as the original? God the Father, unquestionably.

6. You will never be ready for a lifelong commitment if you are not complete in the Lord.

Truth be told, the first thing that any single person must be doing is to enjoy the Lord’s presence before anyone (or anything) else. There are too many people who walk around with an empty cup expecting to find someone who can fill theirs. That is definitely not the case. Love, relationships, and marriages is not supposed to work like this. Be someone who abounds in love for Him and commit to someone who has their own overflowing cup that loves Him, too. A good marriage starts with the joy in the Lord and being spirit-filled, as well. “Marriage is just a byproduct of following Jesus,” as Francis Chan says.

7. Morality is not a subjective claim.

Sean McDowell dedicated his whole plenary session talking about the truth and its absolutes and the perception of a claim as subjective or objective. I appreciated his plenary session because he was explaining things in a much more philosophical way—something that would probably cater to a non-Christian’s mind. One thing for sure, though. The issue on morality is not a personal preference. As soon as we were born into this world, we always knew what was morally wrong and morally right. We just know because we base it by how we would want to be treated. We cry out for justice because it is rooted deep within our hearts. If everyone, then, has finally agreed that there is a moral law and ethic that is the same and absolute, then there must also be some moral lawgiver who incorporated these things in us; that must be leading us to God.

8. It’s better to understand than to be understood.

This was perhaps one of the greatest takeaways I’ve had during this three-day conference. This was actually a quotation from Josh McDowell. It is, indeed, a very simple statement, but what makes this statement straightforward is the point that we all know this but still don’t end up doing it. This statement just speaks at how naturally selfish we are as a person. No matter how unconscious of ourselves we try to be, in the end, it is us that we think of all the time—our well-being, our feelings, our preferences, our possessions, and ourselves. This was perhaps the hardest-to-swallow pill in the conference.

These were just some of my best takeaways from the 2019 Intentional Discipleship Conference. Maybe it’s time for you to have that personal check-up with the Lord. I don’t know in what spiritual level you are at right now, but I hope that this post becomes an eye-opener for you that you don’t need someone to help you come back in your relationship with Him. How are you spiritually? Are you filled by the Holy Spirit that you are hungry and thirsty for His magnificence and glory? Or are you allowing yourself to become lukewarm again?

It’s time to take off that lifejacket. See for yourself. Have a swim, and dive in with the vastness of the Lord’s love for you.