From the Basketball Court to my Bible Notes II: The Plays and Prayers We Make

27 September 2014

8:38 pm

History repeats itself at our little pad. My sisters and I have collectively found a reason to post a status in our respective all but abandoned facebook walls. Three times this week, I have tweaked the broken antenna on our tv to no avail and endured headache-inducing picture quality to watch the Gilas Pilipinas play in the Asian Games. I don’t mind the headache nor the sore throat; the only one that gets me is the heartbreak.

We have suffered three consecutive losses in the quarter-finals, all of them close fights. Surely three choked games in a row is more than enough reason for me to feel choked up over this. I was honestly fighting tears when South Korea snatched away a win that was ours for more than three quarters. We fell from a sixteen-point lead to a two-point loss. I was shaking in the last five minutes of the game, in this unnatural September heat, when the opposing team was closing the gap in seemingly supersonic speed.

Throughout the second half, my sisters and I were saying “Please, God” over and over again. Every timeout, one of us would fall silent and bow her head in prayer. At some point I actually said aloud, “God, please naman. Third world country naman kami. First world na sila!” My sisters laughed at that. In my mind, I was reasoning out that when the game was over, we would still be poverty-stricken Philippines, with the crappy government and the corrupt idiot of a vice-president and the never-ending typhoons and the high poverty rates and they would still be economic superpower South Korea with their strong leaders and clean cities and great education system and cutting edge technologies. They don’t need this victory; our emotional country does!

In the laughter that followed my irrational desperate plea, I realized just how wrong, in so many different levels, it was to think that way. It is a prayer vaguely reminiscent of the ones I cried to God in bitterness after I got a rejection letter from the only company who responded to my application when I was looking for a summer internship. “GOD,” I had railed two summers ago, “my ChE life has sucked since day 1. It sucks, God, and I suck in ChE. Why would You choose to withhold this internship from me?”

It’s been more than a year and I still haven’t figured out what God’s reasons were. Most of the whys I asked in college were not answered by God the way I wanted Him to. For more times than I want to admit, I have channelled Job and challenged God to give me His reasons for the (often petty) crises I have gone through. I did get answers from God- answers that refused to address my whys, but addressed my nearsightedness and lack of faith, instead.

God let me see the ingratitude I was expressing through those kind of prayers. By focusing on that single plea, I was forgetting the favors He have extended to me over the course of my college life. I was acting as if the internship was a make or break, and I viewed it as the only way God could make my ChE life beautiful. I was looking at it as my source of happiness. It was wrong, idolatrous, even. I had a lot riding on that acceptance email- my sense of worth, my pride, my happiness-and when it didn’t come, it broke not just my heart; it shattered my pride. It wasn’t the best of experiences, but given my history with my pride, it was probably for the best. Scratch that probably. Knowing God, it was definitely for my best.

That’s something I can say when I remember that He is good and almighty. But often I am this self-focused creature who suffers from both memory loss and myopia. I forget the goodness of God. I forget that life does not revolve  around me. Worse, I forget to trust in God. I set my sights on earthly matters and conclude that God doesn’t care. I would rather wallow in my self-pitying tears than lay down my concerns at Jesus’ feet. Because remembering God’s goodness means admitting that He knows better than I do and understands what I cannot in my limited human capacity. It means waving the white flag and confessing that when my version of best conflicts with God’s, then mine is wrong because His is always, always right. It means forgetting my dreams, no matter how beautiful they may be, at least for the present, because they interfere with God’s plan for me.

Those humbling moments are plenty, and they are always painful. But those moments are also precious, because they  bring me closer to God. I relearn what it means to trust and how it feels to let go of what I think I want. I have a Proverbs 3:5 moment all over again. It is not easy to relinquish control of my desires but it gets a little easier when I am reminded if how God is always good, loving and faithful to me. He is never perverse and He does what He wants to do, which always ultimately works best for me. No, it is not easy, but it gets easier with every apparent defeat. It is not easy, but it is always right.

One more thing I remember writing in my journal amidst my drama was that God wasn’t one to withhold blessings from one who already has a lot. It was illogical, ignorant and self-centered to reason out that Korea didn’t deserve the victory by virtue of their better government.  It doesn’t work that way because there is no limit to God’s generosity. The life I live is testament to that. If there was, I wouldn’t have the right to ask more from God because I already have a lot. I have Him.

I have since come a long way from that day when I cried and cried to my mom over the phone but I keep the rejection email in my inbox still because I long for that day when I am so secure of my worth in God’s eyes, so over my college failures, so contented with my present life, so close to God, that I could read that impersonal “We regret to inform you that. . . ” and not feel a pang in my heart. And I believe in that day. I also believe that whether the Gilas advances to the semi-finals or not, it will be for the best.

We still have a chance to advance to the semis. It is but the slimmest of chances (Qatar has to lose in their games against Kazakhstan and Korea, and we have to win over Kazakhstan with at least 11 points) so I am amazed by the faith my fellowmen are exhibiting. A lot of people are saying “tiwala lang (just trust)” and “pray for gilas”. I consider this.  If I truly believe that God is good and He can give the gold to the Philippines this year, I must also believe that IF it doesn’t come, then it is God saying “no”, for whatever reason.

And I do believe. I believe in a God who cares for the Philippines. I believe in a God who cares about basketball. I believe in a God who could make us win against all odds. I believe in a God who listens to the prayers of his basketball-loving people. I also believe in a God who knows when to answer with a “yes” or a “no”. And I believe that He knows better than I do what this year’s Asian Games outcome should be and will be. And because I believe, I will accept that. Win or lose, I will remain Gilas Pilipinas’ faithful fan, while God- He will remain a faithful God.