HAVE YOU ever reached a point in your life when you wished the ground beneath your feet would just open and swallow you alive? Have you been so overwhelmed with shame that you wanted to just vanish from the face of the earth? Well, you are not alone.
While munching a donut and talking about the future, my friend Neil threw me this question: “What are the things you want to be associated with your name?”
Dumbfounded, all I could do was smile. But Neil explained, “It could be things you are not an expert at but love to do.”
Hesitant at first but knowing that one is free to dream without limit, I answered: “A writer, screenplay writer, photographer, artist, development worker, businesswoman—a preacher like Bo Sanchez, but I don’t think I can be like him. If I do, perhaps people will mock me because I don’t deserve to preach.”
The next day was Palm Sunday so I listened to Christian songs while reading the Inquirer, one of the ways I try to keep myself updated on what is happening in our country. I came across an inspiring article, “A season of grace—and a time to be whole again,” by Fr. Tito Caluag. As I read it, Hillsong music filled the air and I recalled my last answer to Neil’s question: a preacher.
All of a sudden, I found myself thinking of the first time I spoke on “Faith, Repentance, Healing and Forgiveness” in a Youth for Christ camp in Leyte. I said the first time, because I later served as a speaker on the same topic at various youth camps. Yes, I used to preach!
Before the session started, I prayed that God would use me to proclaim His words and that it would be He, not me, who would speak before other young men and women. While giving the talk, I didn’t even notice the reactions of the participants. It was as if I had lost myself in the topic and only realized it when the session was over.
A fellow YFC member approached me. He said he was struck by how the participants had listened intently to my talk. Another told me he saw someone crying during my talk, even if the so-called “crying moment” usually happens in the evening during reflection.
A few days after the camp, I came across another YFC member who asked me if I could share with her the talk I gave since she had heard those who were in attendance describing it as inspiring. I never expected my talk to inspire YFC members, but I was very happy to know that somehow I was able to serve Him through it. After all, it wasn’t me who spoke but He.
Some years later, I found myself taking a very different path. I committed of lot of mistakes and made many wrong decisions. I judged and hurt other people, and spoke ill of others. I succumbed to the temptations of vanity and worldly pleasures. I stopped going to church after I found no answers to some questions I had about some Catholic doctrines.
I used to be my family’s pride and joy, but I disappointed them by taking my studies for granted. I graduated from college after six years instead of four. I used to be my friends’ comforter and listener but I hurt them because of my wrong notions about love. I used to be a student leader holding key positions in various organizations, both local and national, but I failed to be a good example to other students. I used to be a loving girlfriend to Omar but when my spirits were down, I would lash out at him.
Many times I wished the ground would open and swallow me alive so that I would vanish into oblivion. When it didn’t happen, I felt trapped, unable to move forward. I was ashamed of myself. I wished I could go back to what I used to be. I wished I could be my good self again.
Then, I heard my old self speaking the same words I once preached at youth camps: “Repentance is painful because that is when we start to honestly recognize our sins and frailties. Healing is only attained when we learn to forgive, and most of the time, the hardest thing to do is forgiving ourselves. We cannot expect others to forgive us if we cannot forgive ourselves in the manner that we cannot learn to love others unless we start loving both the sinner and the saint in us.
“What we need is faith. We need to have faith that He will help us overcome our weaknesses; that He will forgive us our sins and help us attain forgiveness from those we have wronged; and that with His immense love, our broken hearts will be whole again.”
I used to hate myself for having done wrong. But I realized that I have to go through all those heartaches to be more understanding and compassionate to others. Recognizing that I am a sinner makes me more forgiving of my oppressors.
I may not be able to speak in front of a crowd again, preaching His words like before, but I can be my own preacher. I will always remind myself that that is the very reason Jesus died on the cross. And if given a chance, I would speak without shame even if people will mock me because they only do that out of their own ignorance and suffering. I know because I have been one.
If there is a me who is a hypocrite, it is the me in the past who urged others to have faith and that healing can be attained through repentance and forgiveness without knowing how painful and hard the process can be.
I will continue to be imperfect but I will move on with faith that He will lead me back whenever I go astray. I will continue to love even if others may question my sincerity. I will continue to change for the better even if some people do not believe that I can. After all, it is not between me and others but me and my creator.
I may have disappointed Him by being a sinner, but I will try not to make His sacrifice on the cross in vain by ignoring His love. I will continue to love myself, forgive myself and trust that I can be my best self because I am His beloved child that He died for.
Mary Antonette H. Abello, 25, works and lives in Bangkok. She left the country after graduation in the hope of finding herself.
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