i will linger
i will stay
in your presence
till your likeness
be seen in me
I’ve got a lot of testimonies but I’ll share today’s first. This blog is becoming a Christian blog and though I’d like it to stay secular, I can’t help it because I don’t want these encounters to stop either. Frankly, these encounters are too precious in spite of my unwillingness to be the quintessence of a “born-again Christian” who waxes lyrical about God to the exasperation of others.
I constantly feel compelled to explain my circumstances to prove my sanity but ultimately, I do know it’s futile. I’ve tried these internal dialogues with my empirical proofs as proposition to an atheist opposition. Though myself further convicted (somewhat) through these dialogues, I clearly see how an atheist can completely explain away all my encounters with ‘delusion’ or ‘influence’. I wonder myself why things of God must be shrouded in such ambivalence but well, God does things His way.
Believe me, I know that any of us can believe anything we want, if we try hard enough or are consistently placed in an environment conducive for such influence. Who will trust that I resist, at least consciously, these influences with such deliberate objectivity it almost becomes a Science to me? In all these months, I have so scrupulously avoided any form of determinism that I would not so much as read the bible or utter the name of Jesus without feeling prompted to. In short, all my Christian acts and encounters have been due no part to my own effort, not one ounce. They were effortless, entirely due to grace of God. All I did was to keep an open heart to move an inch when I was pushed. I doubted every chance I got, I hesitated, I waited, and most times I did what I did with suspicion; always leery, always questioning. Imagine a student like that, how much patience you would need. Of course, I also listened, I pondered and I asked. I yearned when I felt a yearning. And shut out when I got distracted. But God always drew my attention back to Him. Always with His presence–little bits of chocolate He drops on my path that keep me on track. He knows my heart.
Honestly, what keeps me going to church every week? You’d be mad to think I care. Religion and all these seeking for the Truth stuff is fascinating to me, in fact, the one subject that has me going back while I fickly forsake the thousand other trivial pursuits that have caught my mind one time or other. But truthfully, nothing can justify me getting dressed and taking a bus out to City Hall every Sunday, nodding my head throughout the journey, and in the blistering heat (!), EVERY SUNDAY! But I do it. Every Sunday, without fail, even the week my cramps had me writhing in bed for hours, even the week I had an ethics paper due in 2 days and I had no clue how to even begin, weeks I was so weak from fatigue, weeks I was just pissed in general. Why? Because God goes there. Every Sunday, without fail, God shows up. And every Sunday, because God is there, I return so filled with joy, it is worth it. He gets me through another week. True story.
I’ve said there had been no effort on my part, yes, that’s true in matters of the spiritual. But Daniel has told me, “Belief is a choice.” When he told me that, this phrase had resonated within me. Every day, I thought about this choice. I knew the moment he said this that I already have all the proof I needed to make my decision, but I haven’t made it. That was the only effort I ever needed to make. Such a small step of huge proportions, countless implications in my world. It is that stage where a yes is a yes and a no is a no, and a maybe doesn’t answer the question. (Yep, try saying maybe to a proposal.) Really, in view of the goodness God has freely given me, unbelieving, difficult and fickle, what is my puny decision? My entire worldview, my bearings–what is Truth? Why is it important to me? What do I want from a belief in God? I don’t need a religion. I don’t want a religion. Promises to an afterlife are irrelevant to me. If all I want from God is an anchor, I don’t want that anchor, it’s only an admission of weakness that I would come to despise myself for. Why do I want to believe in God? Truly, it has come to that, not “why do I believe in God” anymore. The implications are manifold. Above all, if I believe in God, I cannot believe in Absurdism anymore, any form of randomness or chance. I’d have to believe we were all intentionally crafted lovingly. Can I deal with that? Weird as it may sound, that is very important to me.
Yet, I cannot deny feeling His presence, increasingly. And I cannot deny my growing hunger for these glorious encounters.
I cannot deny my love for Him. And this love, it doesn’t even come from me. God bestows upon us the ability to love Him. Such a strange show of commitment but true. I have felt it. And there’s no other way to tell you except that you have to feel it yourself to know. The move to believe Him and to follow Him is a human choice. But this ability to feel a love for Him so profound, so deep, it’s not even humanly possible. And in fact, He’s more pleased that you would rely on His ability to love Him than you using brute force to love Him on your own. Christianity is not an easy walk, not because it is difficult to commit to God’s standards and to consistently pray to and love Him. If we would just allow Him to lead us, He can show us such an easy way to be His children. All He wants is just surrender and He will do the rest of the work.
When I am in His presence, fully surrendered, He works in me such that it is so easy to love Him, to worship Him. And note that I have never ever tried to force these encounters. Nowadays, they are so spontaneous. When God comes, I break down in uncontrollable tears. So awesome is His presence that my humanly body cannot stand His nearness without reacting. He has led me to love Him like I have loved no other, profound and deep. And when I have cried out to Him silently my love for Him, He has answered with such pleasing pride. Through separate encounters, He has also led me to recuperate, to comfort others, to believe, to understand, to love others and to feel in awe of Him.
Till today, though, I have never manifested in Tongues, in part because of my skepticism that it’s really gibberish. I hope this fact is further proof of the truthfulness of my account because I’d think it would be easy to fake that. Blabber blabber blabber. But when it does come, I want to be sure that is of God and not born of a delusional zealousness on my part.
Today, and I finally come to the point of my essay! Gosh. Outreach started out in a lacklustre-ly fashion. I was exhausted, waking up around 6-7am every morning and sleeping at 2-3am, and somewhat preoccupied with the pressing deadline of my 2000-word book critique (that I still haven’t started!). I even fell asleep midway through worship (that I was humming through because my mouth was too tired to pronounce the lyrics). As we were wrapping up, Janice repeatedly suggested singing the ‘refreshing song (?)’ despite Daniel’s protests that it will refresh us ‘to sleep’. But it didn’t. At its first notes, God’s presence filled the place. Tears started flowing down my cheeks and I felt prompted to hold Vivian’s hand and the whole magic started. To put it clearly, one minute my eyes were 1% open and the next, I was crying and awake.
From Vivian, after: “Oh yeah, forgot to say, when Val held my hand just now, there was this sister love flowing through me, seems it was from God, and it’s like, I said my right hand was numb right? Cos I knew God was really in the midst of us. And it literally (sic) felt like I was holding God’s hand more than Val’s.”
(: Thank you God. There’s no greater joy, Lord, than being with you.