Picky eater, impatient waiter

For most of this season, my daily bread included a generous serving of time with family and a second helping of coffee chats with old friends. In itself, it was a delicious meal. Sumptuous. Filling. I could not ask for more. I should not ask for more.

But, like a petulant child in a kindergarten playground, I keep on glancing at my peers’ baon and find my own lacking. I can’t enjoy my ice cream cone when my lactose intolerant friends are all licking lollipops.

For a long time, I had the audacity to believe myself a non-conformist, an individualist. I was never one to succumb to peer pressure. I took pride in not letting pop culture dictate my interests, in having personal goals that would not look like anyone’s Pinterest board. But, on my nth day of funemployment bumhood unemployment, I find that I do care about what others think of me. It is suddenly increasingly difficult to meet a different set of friends from the ones I’ve been consistently meeting, those who have been more or less apprised of what I have been doing for the past year. I find myself dragging my feet to meet my Manila friends, even actively hiding from them, because I cannot bear getting asked how I am and offering the same answers I did four months ago.

A lot of it has to do with pride, with having the same stories as last time, with having to remind people sometimes that I cannot afford that middle-class restaurant since my savings ran out more than six months ago. It also has a lot to do with the inability to be firm in my faith 100% of the time and feeling like a fraud when I say I am at peace with waiting. With having to contend with self-flagellating thoughts almost daily and being unable to articulate how debilitating the struggle feels sometimes. With having to, wanting to defend the choices I made because I truly, honestly prayed for them and continue to do so, even when the results are nowhere what I expected them to be. And sometimes, with the guilt of feeling like a bad, self-centered friend when their comments on enjoying my vacation (unemployment is hardly that), on not exhausting my options, on being okay to be choosy (I am not!) strike a sensitive chord inside me.

Every single one of my friend has a lollipop in hand. A lot of them complain over their flavors, trading commentaries on the textures, the tastes, all the while licking the sweets. Sometimes I stare at their stained tongues, wanting a lollipop for myself, knowing I’ve been promised one five months ago and feeling impatient that it isn’t here now. They love Fridays, they say. I hate Friday because he marks another week “wasted” on waiting. They hate Mondays.  I would love to have their Monday. I love Monday because he’s a work day and I can then expect a call from xxx. And so I continue to covet after the colored lollipops, as the ice cream carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully prepared for me by my Father melts, dripping down my dress.

I didn’t use to think of myself as a covetous person. For the most part, I’ve had a satisfying life. Not necessarily easy, but consistently grounded. (I still think I have the absolute best pair of parents in the world, and by that alone, I already feel like I hit the jackpot in the world lottery.) However, there are times, lots of times, when I feel like I’m in the battle of the barrel of middle-class twenty something college graduates because, at 25, almost 26, I remain a dot in the in the growing unemployment statistics.

It would be so easy to blame government bureaucracy for my woes – it is, in actual irrefutable fact, the bureacracy’s fault. But I lose when I harbor bitterness against my employer before I even get employed. So I instead revert to second-guessing, to doubting, to seeking reassurances from the God who has power over busy government employees. The God, who, in infinite love and wisdom, offered me a gift I did not ask for.

Today, I read a message from one of my best friends. She said I was building character. I don’t really believe that, because this season has brought out in me insecurity, covetuousness, bitterness and a hundred other ugly sins in degrees I have never before been conscious of registering. And though, I find respite from them at the foot of the cross, I again have to struggle against them at an almost literal daily basis, a struggle that escalates within the day and peaks at 6pm, at the end of the work day and still no call has come, when I find myself sobbing in prayer, leaving tear stains on my bible.

I wish I could say that I realized something and then lived it out and became at peace ever after. In reality, I “realize” things repeatedly, feel comforted, struggle to hold on to the promise that has comforted me so well the previous night, and then run out of joy again as the sun sets. It is a cycle that would feel exhausting, if not for the fact that my quiet times are never exhausting. That God’s word never runs out of promises for me. That He still hasn’t run out of patience for me, and He never will.

And, maybe, this fragility that causes me to come back crying to God again and again, this pendulum-swinging between faith and frustration, this precise state where I feel weaker in faith than I have ever been, is good for me. Because it reveals ugliness I was too blinded to believe had existed in me. And so I tell my God that I recognized new sins in me. I tell Him how my heart broke when I got another “wait” message. I tell him how petty I’ve become. And I add to the sins forgiven of me all these.

And maybe, that is my character being built. I thought character came at the form of steadfast, unyielding faith. But maybe, just maybe, this unsteady, yielding faith is the precursor to that. This weak, overdramatic faith that struggles to be strong, that finds itself coming back to God, and will always find its strength in Him.

Now that I’m back in the metro, my meals no longer include family time and friends time. But yesterday’s had a huge helping of reading and dog time, just as lovingly prepared for me as the ones before. It didn’t really make me feel like the kid with the ice cream, probably because it’s not Friday yet. For whatever reason, I felt more like my regular self, eating veggies I did not order; nevertheless, I found myself enjoying the meal all the way through.

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The God of good coffee

I possess no crystal balls. I have absolutely no answers for people who ask questions beyond the present. I don’t know where I’ll be next week, much less five years from now. In fact, the only future I hold for certain is one a lifetime from now. An eternity before me.

An eternity with no disappointments, no unanswered questions, no uncertainty.

An eternity where Bituin Escalante doesn’t croon Kung ako na lang sana, while I bawl my eyes out alone in McDo, as my hot fudge sundae melts and my coffee grows cold, and I don’t care because I worry I’ll look fat in my graduation photos so I shouldn’t have ordered the former, nor added so much creamer to the latter.

An eternity where I don’t worry about petty things like how I’ll look.
An eternity where I don’t worry.
A eternity where dreams don’t melt and faith doesn’t grow cold.
An eternity where faith becomes reality.
An eternity where I don’t cry my eyes out.
An eternity without tears.
An eternity without cheesy heartbreak songs.
An eternity without heartbreak.

 

An eternity where I don’t go chasing after the vain things of this world.
An eternity apart from this cursed world that was never meant to bring joy.
An eternity where disappointment doesn’t chafe my wounded pride.
An eternity where I have no pride.
An eternity where my every desire is fulfilled.
An eternity where I only have one desire.
An eternity where my only desire is to worship my God.

For now, on this side of eternity, I have to content myself with hope. I dry my eyes on the napkins the cashier had so generously handed out and Kyla’s Love Will Lead You Back plays at the background. (Who hurt this manager’s feelings?) Yeah, no. Love won’t, but their coffee might.

As I abandon my sundae and step out into the sunset, I decide that today wasn’t so good. But God, my God of comfort- He always, always is. Even when I run out of faith, and my cup feels empty, and I am unhappy. Because it is the nature of God to be good, as it is the nature of this life to disappoint. Big surprise. Life disappoints. Sipping my still-warm cup of joe, I at least find that McDonald’s coffee doesn’t.

Thank God for good coffee. #

 

 

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.