A thought. I know I’m a sinner. I know I’m not perfect. I will fall short of his glory. I also know I’m forgiven. With each sin, I know that I can look to the cross with repentant eyes and know that I am still loved. But, I’m not okay with the fact that I find myself there in that same place time and time again. That I still mess up with the same old sin. I wish I didn’t have to look at the nails in his hands carrying a heart that’s sorry for the same issue. I wonder when I’ll get past this. Or do we ever? I wonder. All I know is, I know, but I’m not okay.
The past months have been tumultuous for me. I was going through waters of doubt. Incredible doubt. The many stories of God in my life I thought to be real did not quite match the stories I had written down in my journals. My “healing” of STDs possibly not being an STD, but a simple yeast infection. Visions people got of me as a “prayer warrior” when I don’t find myself praying the same way I used to. More doubt. Did I fabricate stories to make the Jesus I had sold myself out to … to be more real so that it would fit the narrative I was living? To add onto that, the “paradoxes” I kept finding in the Bible were extremely frustrating. Doubt was loud. So loud.
I want to take you back a bit more. Before all this. Back to the beginning. When doubt wasn’t an issue. When I met God, it was like nothing I’ve felt before. I felt amazing. I felt forgiven. I felt lighter. I felt freer. My heart felt like it could legit conquer the world. At my church, the Holy Spirit was moving at top speeds. Everyone felt it. We moved with our hearts. We yearned after God. We thirsted after him. We wanted God first and foremost. My heart was soaring. For years, I felt God with my heart. And my feelings were valid. They were real to me. Until they weren’t.
About two years of seemingly wedded bliss, my head started knocking at the door of my heart. My mind began to ask questions. About the church. About Jesus. About the holy spirit. About God. About my feelings. These questions became as valid as my feelings. I found myself in great disagreement with what the church was doing, but because for years my feelings were too real, I stayed with it. I kept at it. I hoped and hoped and hoped. Again, until I didn’t.
I started seeing what following “God” with your heart started leading to. People giving up their lives to whatever the pastor said mindlessly. Always ‘yes’. Never ‘no’. Yes to ridiculous protocols. Yes to extremely borderline-cultish rules and guidelines in the guise of “accountability.” Yes to strange concepts that seemed biblical. Yes to all the things anyone said on the pulpit under the notion that everything the person with the mic says is from God.
Pride grew in my heart. And I told myself, I wasn’t going to be like the others. I would no longer use my heart. I would use my head. The more sensible of the two. More logical. More reasonable. Soon enough, the spiritual abuse in my church was exposed for what it was. And let me tell you, it was not pretty. Stuff hit the fan in all the horrible ways you could imagine. In my pride, I couldn’t see my friends fall left and right as victims to this spiritual abuse. So much pain, tears, regret, and doubt in God poured out. I attempted to comfort them, but it seemed useless in my pride. What I really wanted to tell them was that “I knew this would happen. Why couldn’t you see like I did?” All this, without realizing that I too was a victim of this spiritual abuse just in a very different way.
The spiritual abuse led me to throw away my heart almost completely. Empathy used to be a strength I possessed. Something I used to wield for good especially in prayer. I stopped though. Why? Well, I knew my heart would just get me in trouble. This is not to say that my heart didn’t try it’s best to make its voice heard through the years my head took charge. But my head would quickly discredit what my heart had to say. The more I sought God with my head, to my delight, there were pockets of encouragement here and there when I would listen to other speakers like Ravi Zacharias, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris .. the works. See, using my head is so much better. Later down the road, the more I sought, to my disappointment, I still found roadblocks. There were things about God my head could not wrap itself around. Things it refused as truth. I was in this place for quite some time.
Earlier this school year, I remember my principal encouraging us to send out support emails. And, it sounded like a good idea, so I decided to take the advice. I emailed my closest friends to keep me in prayer for various things. Maybe it was the prayers, but in very recent months, my heart took courage again and knocked at the door of my mind. “Can we meet in the middle?,” it asked. My anti-social mind was careful in its response but to my surprise, it wasn’t an outright no. I could slowly feel the two parties communicating more and they worked together to make sense of things the other could not. Then, just last Sunday, my friend shared a testimony with me that literally blew me away, broke me down, and whatever other Christian-ese term you could use for what I felt in that moment. I felt my heart come alive again. Almost literally. I started crying tears that I haven’t been able to. I started feeling all of these emotions again towards God. True gratitude. True belief. True awe. True wonder. Real love.
I was reminded of a song throughout this journey. It’s called “Head to the Heart” by United Pursuit. And the lyrics go like this: “More than words, more than good ideas. I’ve found your love in the open field. From head to the heart, you take me on a journey of letting go and getting lost in you.” I missed getting lost in God’s wonder and glory. Though it hasn’t been long, it’s good to be back. All this time, during my doubt, I had been asking God for something. Something miraculous. And he did. Leaving very little room for doubt.
A friend gave me a verse for my birthday ages ago. Actually, it wasn’t a verse. It was an entire chapter. Psalm 101. It goes like this:
I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life. When will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning, I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.
It’s become my go-to chapter. When I just don’t know what to read, I come here and sit here. Not every time, but from time to time, something new stands out to me. In this season, it’s the portion where it says I will be careful to lead a blameless life and asking when God will come to me. For the past year almost, I’ve been in the most interesting portion of my spiritual formation. Doubt. Uncertainty. Unbelief. Curiosity. Frustrations. Confusion. Words that can somewhat encapsulate the time. Finding myself asking him when he will come to me? When will you come back Jesus? Also discerning that my life has been far from blameless. Realizing how unhappy I am about it not because I’m supposed to, but because I just am.
Now, I find myself in want. In want of a life without blame. A life where evil is far from me. Why? To feel like I have the grounds to ask him that question, “When will you come to me?” Yes. Even though I know it’s not a formula. I want it for that reason whether it may be right or wrong. Now grappling with the how.
A beautifully crafted film with lovable characters and tender colors in the backdrop of war. Growing up, I learned a very one-sided narrative of the wars. The thing is every story has more than one. It’s made up of everyone involved recognized or not. This movie painted the life of one ordinary girl growing up during these war-ridden times. The difficulties and tragedies faced from her perspective. Someone who didn’t really get a say in whether she wanted a war or not. Nevertheless, breathed in and through it. Her life was filled with the mundane, sincere laughter, awkward moments, hard work, romantic frustrations, heavy guilt and sorrow, fear under the shower of bombs, delayed tears and incredible imagination. The beauty of this film for me was the hope. It reminded me of the verse in Romans 5 …
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character; and character hope.
Give it a watch.
i seem to have lost my way
are you still aboard this ship?
could you be asleep?
or is it i that has jumped ship?
i feel lost.
not lost in the way of knowing you as reality
but lost in how to piece into your life
i lack the knowledge to fit into your shoes and attempt to even tie them
lost in my understanding of you and your word.
the infallible word written by fallible persons
the countless contradictions.
yet you claim constancy.
undeniable belief in your realness fails to escape me
however, i find myself shaken at the scrutiny of your word and the confusion that i uncover
illuminate is what the word is called to do, i suppose
confounds is what the word has done to me as of late
i seek something real, god
i seek something tangible
the word doesn’t seem so tangible nor sensible
i don’t want signs and wonders
i think i just want you. face to face. help me not to regret that part.
wow. absolutely blown away by this woman’s audacity to make this man feel as uncomfortable as possible by rephrasing everything he says to fit her idea of him. continues to confirm my beliefs for awhile that extreme liberals have specific agendas to either mute or distort people’s freedom of speech. that extreme liberals seem to be some of the most intolerant people. glad he had that one ‘gotcha’ moment where she couldn’t fight him back.
“What if? Semy, what if you die and there is nothing? That’s the end of the story? What if?”
Doubt. Coming full force. Haunting me with its frequent visitations. Denial is preferable. But for how long? Brush it off like you usually do. Would be easier no? Would be easier than to go through the process of unbelieving everything you’ve come to believe. As I’ve dived into reading texts of all colors and backgrounds, I’ve been opened up to the possibility that all I’ve come to believe could simply be a result of what I’ve fed myself. What I’ve surrounded myself with. What if in fact, I’ve simply been consumed by what I’ve delved into. This way of christian living. “You become what you eat,” people say. Is it true? And to what extent?
Surrounded by christians. The church. The bible. The sermons. The songs. Oh the songs. Submerged myself to its ways until it became a part of me. Until I found myself. Or was it until I lost myself? To a point I believed there would be no return. Yet, here I find myself with questions. Questions I should’ve asked more often before I took the leap. But I didn’t. Instead, trust was given maybe a bit too readily resulting in the investment of a well-known commodity known as Jesus. Yesterday, I found myself in despair thinking that all of this could not be real. That this was all we humans got. One chance. One opportunity. One life. Nothing after. A terrifying thought. A hopeless thought. A liberating thought?
Conflicted. As I recounted the story of how God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Premeditated kill. Murder, no? Did I miss something in the story? We could agree to disagree. Sure the the ten commandments came after he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Yet, if god was the same yesterday, today and forever, how could he put in his commandments not to kill? These thoughts led me to the bible. This book of words supposedly from god. God’s word. Why? Because the book says so. The only truth. A claim this book makes. More doubt. More questions. “How valid is it? Didn’t imperfect people write the words of this book? Moses wasn’t there in the beginning. How am I supposed to believe word for word the words of a book that claims to be the truth written by imperfect people?” It doesn’t make sense for me to be fully convinced. And quite possibly it’s for that very reasons I could be finding myself struggling with the ‘what if’. Maybe I’m trying too hard to make sense of it all.
Despite the war waging in my thoughts, I find myself defending the bible and god to others opposed. All the while, thinking to myself … “Have I gone so far, so deep into this way of life that now I feel there would be no way out?” It took incredible faith for me to believe in your wonders, but I realized that it would take an even more outstanding faith to ‘unbelieve’ them too. What can I do? What must I do?
The first thought. I must go back to my past. Rediscover the points in my life where God seemed real and tangible. Not just some story that I could’ve assembled, but something real. Sometimes, I think about a lot of my testimonies. I think about the time where I thought I had a sickness I could not cure on my own and was “healed.” Was I healed or did the sickness simply run its course through my body? My father who quit smoking after “prayer.” What if it simply coincided with the fact that his wife didn’t like it and told him to stop? The tears and feels from retreats. What if they were simply emotional highs triggered by a high spiritually stimulating and emotion-inducing environment like a football game?
The only story I would be able to recount that could have no man-made explanation is dreamlyn. The girl in the philippines. The girl I believe god healed through me. Could I have made that up too? The tears in her eyes? The tears in mine after I felt her swollen ankle become ‘unswollen’? Did her ibuprofen kick in? Could I have imagined her running back to her class with her healed ankle to create a better story? Could I have fathomed it or fabricated it to say that “God used me to heal too”? Doubt, where have you taken me?
What do I do? Maybe I need you to talk to me through a burning bush. Send me a pillar of fire! A little too much? Okay something more my generation. Send me a text message or an email. Not through some person but you. You can, can’t you? Heal my brother. Take away his diabetes. Do something impossible. Right now, I know that I might be acting like the Israelite in the desert when they complained. Even after they saw your glory in Egypt, they stopped believing in your goodness. They needed more. Needed water to flow out of a rock. Needed manna to fall from the sky. You gave them things that could not be explained by human rules and standards. Call me fickle, cause maybe that’s just what I am, but I think I need more. Please God. Say something … do something cause I don’t think I can give up on you.