The Struggle Is Real: Forgiving, but not Forgetting

The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I deal with them. Good news: you're not alone in your struggle. Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. :)
The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I respond to them. Good news: you’re not alone in your struggle! Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. 🙂

We were watching our favorite television show in the living room. Wanting to relax, I put my legs up and sit in an Indian sit position. She immediately slapped my legs repeatedly and whispered: “Ibaba mo yang paa mo! Ayaw nila nakataas ang paa!” (Put your feet down, they don’t like it when your feet are up on the couch)

The moment I recalled that scene, negative thoughts and irritation sunk in, and I felt vengeful again. Instantaneously I thought of hurtful words that I wanted to lash out at her in my defense. Who do you think you are? You’re not the owner of this house. Uncle H and Aunt G aren’t prohibiting me from putting my feet up; in fact, they want me to feel at home. If I were the owner of the house, I won’t tell that to my guests, especially not my relatives! Of course at that time, I didn’t tell her these. How could I? She’s my grandmother.

Hours owning up to that flashback moment, I chose to forgave my grandmother for her nasty habit of nagging me and being sweet to the hands that feed her and not so much to her “co-tenants” such as myself. I forgave her because I loved God and God loves her. Also, even if I don’t quite like her, deep down I still love her. I want her happiness and blessedness. However, every time I remembered that scene (and others like it) and the ill feelings and negative thoughts come back to me, I questioned my forgiveness. Was it real? Wasn’t I sincere enough? If it’s not real, how do I really forgive her, then? Is forgetting the sign of true forgiveness?

Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me hard lessons on forgiveness, humility, and love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not keep a record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4a,5b) Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) When Peter came up to Him and asked up to how many times must he forgive his brother who wronged him, Jesus trumps Peter’s seven-time comment with His own number: “No…but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Through the course of my study, the Lord asks me a question: Jenny, do you notice anything similar with these verses?

Being the grammarian that I was (and still am), I replied: “Yes Lord. All the main verbs of all the sentences are in present tense.”

“Very good observation. You see, true love is present tense. That’s how I love. It goes on and on as long as you have breath and life. The same goes for forgiveness. I commanded you to forgive as I forgave you. And how did I forgive you? Although all your deeds are written on My book, I do not hold it against you. I may not forget (as if I have amnesia), but I choose not to remember. You sin everyday, don’t you? Then guess what? I forgive you everyday! Every single day I still provide for you, teach you, guide you, and uphold you with My righteous right hand. That’s how I forgive you, and that’s how I want you to forgive your grandma.”

I learned that God commanded me to forgive, not to forget, and forgiveness is present tense. If I must forgive my grandma every day, I should. Forgiveness also applies to how I treat her. Even if I don’t feel like honoring her, I would. I would still obey her commands and hold her hand when we walk in the mall not only because she’s my grandmother, but because it’s what love would do. In the moments when I feel hate and dislike for her, I would remember the words of my Lord Jesus: “I forgave you, so forgive. Love, as I have loved you.” I can only fulfill this command because the Holy Spirit is in me, and He gives me the power to forgive. Jesus showered me tremendous amounts of grace, and through Him, I can do all things. Some situations and some people just require heavier doses of His love and mercy (myself included).

Is forgetting the sign of true forgiving? Not at all! God did not forget our sins, He chose not remember them. There’s a difference. Do we really think God actually forgets, as if He had amnesia? Of course not! He’s God. In fact, He has a book that records every single day of our lives (Psalm 139:16). I our good deeds and misdeeds are recorded there, too. However, He chooses not to hold a grudge against us. When we confess and repent, “He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I have grown so used to living by my feelings that I base the sincerity of my actions on whether I feel good about my present circumstance. We are not to love according to our feelings. I like how C.S. Lewis puts it: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” 

The day my Mom and I moved out to live with another aunt and uncle of mine, we had breakfast with my grandmother. She told stories of how she met my grandfather (Dad’s dad) and her colorful circumstances with difficult members of the family. In each one, I noticed how grandma always seemed to defend her loved ones–her sons, siblings, and her grandchildren. I realized she always wanted things in order, and for many years she fought her way to keep things in check. Maybe that’s why she slapped me on the legs. My Indian sit position was a threat to her order, and she wanted things to be in order because to her, that’s a sign that her family was okay. Nothing brings her greater joy than seeing her family in great condition and in good spirits. Remembering that, plus the many times I annoyed my own parents on purpose, humbled me and reminded me that I, too, was in dire need of forgiveness and mercy. I, too, ought to be forgiven. Did my parents ever forget the times I hurt them? Perhaps not. But did they ever hatch a plan to get back at me? Never. They still sent me to school and even let me graduate. They still let me eat at my favorite restaurants and give me gifts, sometimes even on ordinary days.

Whenever we remember the faults of others, let’s remember our own. How many times have we been on the receiving end of mercy? More importantly, let us remember how the Lord Jesus forgave us and how much He sacrificed to forgive us and save us from all our sins. We may not forget, but let’s choose not to remember. For the times when we do recall (especially on wayback Wednesdays and throwback Thursdays), let’s choose to forgive. Seventy times seven. Let’s choose to love in present tense. It’s hard, but it’s the golden ticket to eternity. Let us love and forgive in spite of our feelings. Let us love continually and forgive presently.

 

2016: The Year of Moving On

In a short while, we will kiss 2015 goodbye and say hello to 2016. How does this make you feel? Are you overcome by excitement, paralyzed by uncertainty and fear, or discouraged by last year’s performance? Personally, I feel all three. Somehow in my jungle heart, all three emotions found room.

 

describe 2015 in 1 phrase

 

How would you describe your 2015, in one phrase? Share it with me on the comments below! Here’s my phrase: breaking up. I broke up with the life I used to love.

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In April 2015, I entered the United States as a permanent resident. Although I did not stay permanently yet at that time, that move opened the door to a more permanent move later. This move wasn’t painful at all, as my family and I were on vacation. They say time flies quickly when you’re having fun, and I couldn’t agree more because those two months felt like one! (Check out this post for more details on that vacay)

When I returned to Manila two months later, I moved from high school degree-holder to a bachelor’s degree-holder. I actually graduated, can you believe it?! Graduation gave me mixed feelings: eager anticipation at all the hours I can spend on my hobbies; dread at not finding a job; and discouragement, if the job hunting would take too long and I’ll have to spend my days as a bum. Before I got my first job, I thought my days and weeks would be spent in nothingness; however they were actually productive! I volunteered to build our youth ministry’s marketing and host the weekly service. At home I developed my cleaning and cooking skills and mastered the ability to sleep two times a day. My lifestyle shifted from erratic to slow-paced and regimented. Again, it was mostly a positive move, a pleasurable change.

By late September, I landed my first job. The change from unemployed to employed brought about another lifestyle change: from active to sedentary, as my work was 95% desk work. Nonetheless, I felt useful again. The terms, processes, ideas, and information that I stressed over back in college, made sense and felt easier to me. The best part is, I earned money! My salary wasn’t large enough to make me financially independent, but enough to fund my weekend excursions and some wants. 😀

After I resigned from my first ad agency stint two months later, I only had five days left before I changed address permanently. Five days! Change happened so fast, I felt like my life was a movie on fast forward. My schedule during those five days revolved around two things: packing my whole life and saying goodbye. I ate out with friends, mostly from church, and spent my “last days” reminiscing, taking photos, and receiving prayers and advice. Fixing my room gave me a mild case of sepanx (separation anxiety), especially on the day of my departure when I saw it mostly bare. Surprisingly, I did not cry. Perhaps things happened too quickly, there was no time left to cry. Haha :p In retrospect, these changes prepared me for the greatest move of all.

sepanx because of these people (plus more who are not in these photos huhu), our house, and my room

In November 25, 2015, my grandmother and I changed our home addresses. We moved to the United States to live there (here) permanently. Because my brothers had to finish school requirements, they, together with our parents, delayed their trip here. Again, another change, another move for me: it was my first time to be away from my family for an extended period of time, and from my friends and the places I’m familiar for an even longer period of time.

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If you knew me well, you’d know that I’m a careful and organized planner–not necessarily OC, but I dislike change and abruptness. If you want me to attend your party or event, you have to let me know three to six days in advance because a) it takes my parents that long to make a decision and b) I plan my schedule in advance so if you tell me too soon, I mostly have something to do already. Prior to migrating to the US, I only changed address once and schools four times (from preschool to university). Permanence is my preferred option. If I’ve gotten used to something, I’d rather stay there. (With food and leisure travel as the only exceptions!) So when the Lord told me to not only leave my house, but my country, my continent, and the friends I made, I was dismayed. I grew despondent when I thought of the idea of starting from scratch: making new friends, looking for a new house, moving from one apartment to another, learning the new roads and landmarks, and everything else that goes with migration.

I was so in love with my life in the Philippines that when I got here to the United States, I had to break up with it. For about a month, it was quite a struggle especially since I spent a quarter of my day online where most of my friends post about the latest happenings. Fear gnawed my resolve to begin anew. What will people think of me here? What if I can’t blend in and make any friends? What if I can’t be as home as I was in Manila? I grew desperate over my “ex”, who, although it helped me become a better person, wasn’t “the one” for me (or at least, not now).

Moving on is terrifying. You’re probably moving on from a breakup or some other life change right now. I kinda know how you feel because I know what it’s like to love someone (or in my case, something), only to realize later on that you have to part with it. God usually does that to His best disciples. Do you know why? During one of my devotions, the Lord inspired me with a powerful truth: Jenny, do you love Me or your experience of Me? As I struggled with this question, major figures in the Bible came to mind: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself. What was their common denominator? They all migrated from someplace to someplace else! Moving to another place and moving on is a test of faith on so many levels; it challenges your beliefs about God, His reality in your life, and if your faith is really as strong as you say it is. Moving taught me that my salvation in Christ Jesus was and is the only permanence I can hold on to in this life; everything else is temporary.

Last year, God told me at the start of the year that He was writing my story and that it was beautiful. He continues to write the chapters as my story moves on. For 2016, I will let go of the fear of moving on, and by faith, earnestly expect God to “work and to will His good pleasure” as I “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” My greatest fear was to remain as I am without changing because I know I have so much left to improve! God is patient, gracious, and faithful. He will finish what He started.

This 2016, I pray that you, too, will continue to move forward; and if you must move on from something or someone that you held on to the past year, may you find the courage and the strength to do so. This next year will be a fresh start for all of us.

A blessed, joyful, and awesome 2016 to you, fellow earthling! 🙂

Don’t Follow Your Heart; Guard It!

June 17, 2015.

About 8 AM after I finished my daily quiet time and Bible meditation, I opened my planner and took out my pen. Instinctively, I began writing bullet points of the activities I planned on accomplishing that day. Cook lunch. Exercise. Cook dinner. Short prayer time. BLOG! Clean Mom’s bathroom. And a bunch of other activities. Activities I needed to do and ought to do; activities that honored my parents because I’m helping in the house; and above all, activities that gave me opportunities to glorify God with what I can.

When I got out of my room and went downstairs, my phone instantly connected to our home WiFi. (The WiFi range does not reach my room because the level where my room is is too high) Immediately, the notifications from my social media apps appeared: Facebook! Twitter! Instagram! Viber! Messenger! Instantly my mind forsook the plans I wrote and instinctively opened one app after another.

An hour later, I remembered I had to do even more important activities. I reluctantly put down my phone and hurriedly attended to my chores. However, when I heard my phone ring, I opened it to see the notifications. By the end of the day, I only ended up ticking three boxes of the 10 on my to-do list. As this practice turned into a habit, my activities turned into vain attempts at planning. I grew discouraged. At one point, I decided to just do whatever I felt like doing, since planning didn’t seem to work out for me. So I ditched my daily planning and went with the flow, doing whatever I felt like doing. At the end of each aimless day, I felt so discouraged and emotionally unstable.

Can you relate with what I went through? Perhaps you may not struggle with incontinent social media surfing as I do, but in other areas, you ditch self-control and do as you please, and realize you’re worse off than before. You watch a lot of TV even if you have so much work in your hands because you feel so drained from work. You know your body needs to be fit and healthy, but everyday you always feel the need to eat more than what is needed, or buy a tub of ice cream. You know you’re supposed to be kind to this person, but there is no emotional fiber of compassion in you for him or her, so you continually resist and respond in harshness. Whatever you struggle with, oftentimes it’s a result of misguided feelings. I feel you. Therein lies our problem. We feel so much, we forget how to think. We fully embrace one of this world’s defining philosophies: follow your heart.

I grew up watching movies and TV shows and listening to music that promotes this philosophy. Scripts and lyrics have a way of twisting reality in such a way that ‘following your heart’ looks desirable and worth doing. Disobey your parents so you can be with the girl/guy of your dreams? Go for it! Ditch school so that you can be a superstar? Sounds great! Party all night till you get drunk? Yaaasss all the way! I put these situations crudely, but I’m sure you can name several, even dozens, of songs, shows, and films that have these themes. Unfortunately for us who are exposed to it, our minds and worldviews are shaped by them, even in small doses. For us Christians, these doses, no matter how small, will weaken our desire to serve God wholeheartedly, Whose view of the heart is totally opposite.

To God, the heart is “deceitful above all things, and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9, emphases added). Our “hearts are full of evil,” and they are filled with insanity all our lives! (Ecclesiastes 9:3b, emphasis added) What comes out of our hearts are pure evil, according to the Lord Jesus: “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19, emphasis added)

If our hearts are deceitful above all things, desperately sick, and pure evil, why do we follow them so relentlessly?

Because when we follow our hearts, we serve ourselves. When we do what we want, at our time and our pace regardless of what others think and what God thinks, ultimately, we rob God of the glory that is due Him. Deep down, we desire our glory. Our comfort. Our happiness. The “follow-your-heart” philosophy that has pervaded our culture and society has produced a generation of self-serving, #selfieish individuals. Because we insist our own way, we pursue whatever makes us feel good, sometimes neglecting morality, leading us to following another fatal philosophy: hedonism.

Sadly, many Christians are guilty of this–including myself.

How many times have we said “I felt God called me to do this” to excuse our behavior and rationalize sin? God never called us to “feel” His will; He called us to know it, study it, discover it through His Word, and by walking in the Spirit. Being Spirit-filled is the Christian’s defense against the world’s follow-your-heart philosophy. When we are Spirit-filled, we obey God according to the rules He set out for us. Through the reading, meditation, and study of His Word, we discover what makes Him smile and what makes Him mad, and how we should live our lives. Even this is difficult for us sometimes, because we’re so used to following what we want to do and as a result, we loathe rules. We see rules as burdens to carry instead of channels of blessings. I know I do, until I learned the heart of God. God loves me, and He seeks after my good. He will never tell me to do anything that will harm me. Sure, some of the things He lets me do are uncomfortable (and in the future, some might even be dangerous), but He tells me not to fear because life on this planet is temporary. What I do here for Him reaps a hundredfold blessings for me in the life to come–which is eternal! So why should I worry?

I confess that the primary reason I failed to post here and share what God has been doing in my life was because I listened to my heart that told me a bunch of lies:

the timing is not perfect!

your intro sucks. Change it!

Don’t you want to see how many likes your photo on Instagram got? Stay at it. 

Feelings change, but the truth remains the same. If God calls you to do something, do it! By God’s grace, I am learning not to follow my heart, but to guard it, as Proverbs 4:23 instructs. We are commanded to “trust the LORD with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding….acknowledge Him in all our ways, and He shall direct our paths. Be not wise in our own eyes, fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) We are called to “be renewed in the spirit of our mind” (Ephesians 4:23) and not to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). Therein lies the practical solution: renewing the mind. I’ll talk about that in one of my upcoming posts. For now, it’s pretty clear: we are not to follow our hearts. We are to guard them–ABOVE ALL ELSE as Proverbs 4:23 said (emphasis mine). Make it your top priority. Guard it as if you were the Louvre Museum protecting Mona Lisa from thieves and robbers. Tighten security, otherwise, terror will strike and leave you broken.

Guarding your heart from outside influence is difficult; but don’t be discouraged, dearly beloved! We are all in this together. Our God who is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20) is faithful in keeping us faithful, so long as we keep on obeying Him. Don’t feel like doing what is right, good, and true? Do it anyway! It’s about time we regain control of our hearts. If we are to change this world for Jesus, let’s follow Him and guard our hearts with all our hearts! 🙂

You are Insignificant but Dearly Loved

What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Three weeks ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday in one of my favorite cities: New York City.

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My Dad, brothers, uncle, and I went to Liberty Island and paid Lady Liberty a visit. She was still as beautiful as when I first laid eyes on her three years ago. Actually, I thought she was even more beautiful that day when I saw her again. The weather was perfect–sunny but not hot, cool wind breezing through our faces, and just about the right levelof humidity, so we did not sweat. When you’re in New York, sweating concerned me because we walked a lot; I didn’t want to smell and look haggard in photos!

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During my birthday, I felt like I had the right to be treated specially; after all, it was my day. So when I did not get what I wanted exactly the way I wanted, I played bratinella inside. On our way back to Manhattan from Liberty Island, I told Dad I did not want to sit at the top of the boat because it was hot and I did not want to tan. Dad insisted we sit at the top since it was windy and the view was spectacular. I complained and tried to convince him out of it, but when his tone marked a sense of disappointment, I quit nagging and complied with his request. As I took my seat and saw the water around me, I realized my Dad was right. This was way better. I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong, so I shut up the rest of the trip . Strike one.

When we returned to Manhattan, we walked from Battery Park to Madame Tussaud’s near Times Square, where we waited for our bus that would take us to different key destinations. It was half past seven, and we were really hungry. The original plan was we would meet our other family members at Macy’s and then eat at a restaurant. However, Dad had to change the plan because he couldn’t walk anymore; his foot ached. Instead of meeting at Macy’s, we would just meet at Grand Central Terminal near our hotel.  The five of us went to Grand Central and bought dinner.

Below the main terminal, there was a food court. I wanted to eat something Asian–like rice or noodles–and have a small cake afterwards for my Dad and I to blow since it was his birthday the next day. However, Dad insisted we buy pizza. Pizza?! But I want Asian. Ugh, why doesn’t he let me get what I want? It’s so annoying. I just told myself I should be grateful I had food to eat. Strike two.

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The following day it was my Dad’s birthday. We explored other parts of Manhattan, and towards the evening we went to Koreatown and ate Korean food. My craving for Asian food was finally satisfied!

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That evening as I lay in bed, I realized my heart was full of spiritual toxins. Yes, I was having a great time exploring and enjoying the city, but inside I felt rotten. I complained a lot; I was very ungrateful, and not to mention, disrespectful. I hated myself. Frankly, the past few weeks during that month, I wasn’t doing my quiet time with the Lord consistently, and if I did, was really distracted. I’d rather log on Instagram and Facebook or hang out with my family. I lost intimacy with my Best Friend. It killed me inside. I cried that night, and before I closed my eyes and slept I told myself I’d spend my last day in New York with Jesus, even for just an hour or two. I set my alarm at 8:30 the next day, Mother’s Day, so that I can go off by myself.

The following morning, I woke up energized and prepared quickly to have my alone time. Our hotel was really near the New York Public Library along 5th Avenue at 42nd St, but the building I wanted to visit, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, opened at 1 PM, so I stayed at the Mid-Manhattan Library, just across the street from Schwarzman. Because the library opened at 10, I decided to go to Bryant Park first.

 As I was walking to Bryant Park, I prayed silently and asked God to speak to me. I wanted to hear Him and to help me change my stinky attitude. As usual, I saw a lot of people. Ever different, and some, ever weird. When I saw homeless people begging outside restaurants and shops, I told the Lord: “Lord, You must love them, too, don’t you?” He did not reply because I already knew the answer. I walked some more, and this time, I noticed the building towering above me.  I’ve never felt so small and so ‘1-in-a-million’ in my life. When I reached Bryant Park, God still wasn’t speaking. When I went inside the Mid-Manhattan Library, still n0 word from Him. Unfortunately, my solo adventure was cut short when my Mom called me to return to the hotel. She called at around 10:30 AM. I walked as briskly as I could because I thought the check-out time was at 12, and I still had to fix some things in our room!

When I got to the hotel, Mom told me the check-out time in our hotel was at 3 PM. Dang, I should have stayed longer. Then I had a better idea! “Mom, can I go to the NYPL at 1? The building I want to go to opens at 1. Pleeaaaase.”

“Sure, just be back quickly.” I felt so happy! I grabbed my backpack and zoomed out of the room. This time, I ran (when I could). I had to get inside the library no matter what.

When I got there, I was not disappointed. The place was so beautiful! I really wished our public libraries in Manila were just as beautiful and well-kept. I was amazed by the details of the architecture and the grandeur of the whole place! I didn’t have much time to look around much less read, so I feasted on whatever my eyes could lay on and took photos at the interesting spots. After 15 minutes, my Dad called me and told me to go back to the hotel. I was a bit dismayed, but at least I was happy.

As I walked hurriedly back to the hotel, that’s when God spoke to me. What He said was a slap on the face but a breath of fresh air at the same time. Only God can do that to me.

Jenny,

You are proud, and that is why you feel My disappointment. You’ve been focusing on yourself again, making yourself an idol. You rely on your feelings, choosing whatever you feel like doing, instead of obeying My commandments. My commandments are meant to protect you, not harm you! Your parents love you, and you should obey them because through your obedience, I will bless you. 

You want people to pay attention to you, so you get disappointed when your posts don’t get much likes or your friends don’t chat with you online. Well guess what: you are insignificant! Your existence does not make or break the world. Intelligent as you may be, you are puny. There are so many people around you, and your existence does not control theirs.

Yet, I love you. I love you so, so much.

I love you so much I consider you important and worth dying for. When I hung on the cross, I thought of you. I wanted you to be happy, to be intimate with Me, and to enjoy Me and the blessings that come with our relationship. I thought of this adventure of yours, and I wanted it to be as TALAMazing as possible–not because you’re good, but because I’m good. Yes, your existence does not make the world go round, but I am more than willing to risk My life just to save you–and I did.

Will you Trust Me? Will you stop running away from My plan and start running towards it? You made mistakes, and I forgive you. I do not condemn you.

I love you, child. Come home.

Love,

your Heavenly Father

I had no words for that response, only tears. As I walked back to the hotel, I couldn’t do anything but just confess my sin and weaknesses to God and humbly receive His love. What an awesome God! I began thanking Him for everything–that I existed, our family’s complete, we’re enjoying this vacation, our safety, the good weather, this dream come true…and so on! 🙂

This is what I truly loved about New York: I saw my smallness and insignificance. I realized how great, awesome, and loving God was. I started growing up. I fell in love with Jesus again. I learned that the antidote to pride is not denial or a change in behavior, but an inward transformation brought about by a deep conviction of one’s insignificance and need for surrender to the living God.

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Dear human being, you are highly insignificant, but you are dearly loved. God loves you and me! He wants all of us to experience our own amazing adventures because He is amazing! The first step we have to take is not to try to be good, but to humble ourselves and admit we can’t do it on our own. That we have messed up. That we want Him, and we trust Him because He knows best. Then He’ll come to our rescue. He’ll steal the show. He’ll set things straight. At the end of the day, all we’ll be able to say is: “God, thank You. Who am I, O sovereign LORD, that You care for me?” We will be grateful and not complain. We will praise the LORD and forget not all His benefits! 🙂

Take The Plunge!

The most thrilling part of my TALAMazing adventure happened exactly five weeks ago, when I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain–for the very first time!

With the squad! (L-R) Jared, Josh, me, Eivo, Sheliz, and Clarisse

I first heard of Six Flags Magic Mountain through my childhood best friend, Deuel. He and I absolutely loved roller coasters! After he let me watch his DVD about Six Flags, I knew I had to go there. So when my cousin, Jared, invited me to celebrate his 21st birthday there last April, I did not hesitate!

My brother, two of our friends from Manila, and their cousin joined the group, so there were six of us. Of the six in our group, I was the most nervous. Although I’m used to riding roller coasters, I always got nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. What if the screws weren’t in place? What if I throw up after? What if I can’t handle it? I asked the group if we can ride the not-so-extreme rides first for a “warm up.” Thankfully, they agreed, so the first ride we went on was the Revolution. (Yes, that’s the least extreme thrill ride there, at least in my opinion)

When we got out of Revolution, one of our friends, Sheliz, encouraged all of us to ride Tatsu next.

Flying at 62 miles per hour, the 263-feet high Tatsu made us feel like we were flying, and it wasn’t because of the speed. Once the belts on our upper body and feet were securely fastened , our seats moved so that we faced the ground. So throughout the ride, there was nothing between us and the ground! Before the ride started, I asked my friends, Sheliz and Eivo, who have been to the ride before, if anyone died as a result of falling from this ride. They laughed at me and told me to enjoy the ride. Gulp

When the ride started, I prayed and kept muttering “oh my God” while at the same time expecting that I’ll have the best time of my life. About five seconds after lift off, the ride zoomed, and all I can remember was me screaming like crazy with eyes half shut. Two minutes after the ride, I was so eager to do it all again.

I knew Tatsu wasn’t the craziest ride there. Unfortunately due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to ride all the thrill rides, but I rode the ride that stuck in my head when I first learned about Magic Mountain seven years ago: Superman.

13 wannabe superheroes were shot up 415 feet at 100 miles per hour–in reverse. I wasn’t so sure if Lois Lane had the same experience, but as for me, it was exhilarating! Out of all the rides I tried that day, it was the most surprising.

When it was our turn to take our seats, I sat next to Sheliz and two strangers. Behind me sat the other members of our squad. Eivo and I were comforting each other and expressing our nervousness. As the Six Flags crew were adjusting our seat belts, I talked to the girl beside me.  I asked her: “Is it your first time?”

“Yes it is. I’m so nervous—AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!”

While we were talking, the ride suddenly accelerated from 0 mph to 100 mph!! We were even faster than the allowed speed limit on the freeway! I felt as if my heart left the ground. When the ride finally reached the top, it stopped for about 3 seconds, then zoomed back down! Clearly there was no kryptonite around. Surprisingly, when we got back to the base, I felt really good and bitin (the ride could have been more thrilling, perhaps if it was longer). Nonetheless, after the ride, I was so proud of myself for conquering Superman!

But wait! There’s more!

Before closing time, my cousin pushed us all to go on the ride beside Superman–Lex Luthor’s Drop of Doom!

The ride to the top was the longest 90 seconds of my life. An up-and-down drop kind of ride thrills me even more than loops because of the butterflies it produces in my stomach–about 10,000o of them!!

After blast off, Luthor’s steel engines gradually lifted us up, up, up, up….waaay up. If I wasn’t so scared, I would have admired the gorgeous view of Valencia, California, but as the name of the ride, suggested , I prepared myself to face my doom. When we got to the top, the ride stopped, allowing us to enjoy the scene. I think my friends enjoyed the view–I was too busy closing my eyes and taking deep breaths–then ZOOOOM! We went down 400 feet at 85 mph!!

As our time in Magic Mountain came to a close, I felt adrenaline rushing through my veins. I felt like I could conquer anything! Space Mountain in Disneyland and Jurassic World in Universal Studios were nothing. Because I conquered my fears, I knew I had the courage to face even faster, higher, and more thrilling roller coasters (yes, there are more extreme rides. Crazy, I know!)

Days after our Magic Mountain experience, the thrill died down and I reflected on what I went through. Here’s what I realized: Faith plays a major role in our daily lives. Without faith, we won’t be able to really live because we’ll doubt everything! You’d always think twice: whether you should sit on your chair or not, eat the burger you bought from McDonald’s, drive your car, and so on. It takes a whole lot of faith to ride on a roller coaster. I remember asking my friends repeatedly throughout our trip: “Are these seat belts really fastened? Is this safe? Has anyone died from riding this ride?” When I lined up for the rides and took my seat, I placed my faith on the guys who built the ride, the screws, bars, and all the materials they used to build it, and the word of the crew that I was going to have one heck of a ride! My faith is only as strong as its object, and seeing the rides and reading about it, I figured, the steel supporting me were pretty sturdy.

Having a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus is very much like riding a roller coaster. You get nervous because you know there are so many exciting things to expect–both positive and negative–but you also know that this ride is going to be worth it. So worth it. He promised you: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) I will never leave you or forsake you! (Hebrews 13:5) If you believe in the LORD Jesus, you will be saved. You will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).” You have all these promises (and more), and then you trust that He will take care of you. Your faith is as strong as its object–the King of Kings and sovereign Creator of the universe. When you decided you’d take the ride, you hop on, fasten your seat belt, and wait to see what He will do.

In the nine years that I’ve been on this ride with Jesus, there are ups and downs–times of joy, times of grief, and times of just…meh. Even if I’ve been a Christian for a long time, God still invites me to take the plunge because as I advance, God places me in “more thrilling” rides, so to speak, that would require me to take another leap of faith. Sometimes God will take you places or allow you to undergo circumstances wherein you feel like you’re too inexperienced to face. Well guess what? That experience is training in itself! He wants you to exercise faith in Him through your obedience. Abraham did not have experience killing kids when God commanded Him to offer Isaac. I believe experience is not the best teacher; God is.

Are you experiencing difficulty right now? Do you feel as if God is making you ride a roller coaster with deep plunges and countless loops and you feel like backing out? Don’t worry! Jesus is beside you in this ride. He promised not only to help you, but to actually be with you (Joshua 1:9). To hold your hand (Isaiah 41:13). To never give up on you (Hosea 11:8). Above all, to love you forever and ever.

Once you’ve conquered this roller coaster, and you’d look back, you’d be able to say: “I conquered this, by God’s grace! What else can I not conquer through Him?!” As Romans 8:37 says: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” 

So once you’re on a ride, buckle up, take a deep breath filled with overflowing faith, and take the plunge!

Conqueror!
Conqueror!