Monthly Archives: January 2014

Why I don’t live for Others

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Photo from campusministrytoolbox.org

Photo from campusministrytoolbox.org

“The ultimate purpose of life,” he said, “is to live for others”.

I remember a conversation I had with a Sports Science student last semester.

I was using the Perspective cards. We had reached the “Meaning and Purpose of Life” category, and so I asked him which among the cards represented what he believed to be the meaning and purpose of life.

He picked the “To Live for Others” card.

When asked why, he explained that the neighborhood he is from was where drugs and other unhealthy stuff abounded. He hoped, as a Sports Science student (and eventually, graduate), to be able to influence the kids in his neighborhood for something better. It was a very noble, honorable aspiration, and I told him so.

It made sense that he believed that living for others is the purpose of life.

With fervor in his voice, he explained further that helping others, “pagtulong sa kapwa”, is the noblest undertaking in the world.

He asked me what I thought was the Purpose of Life, so of course I chose: “To Live for God.”

“Why?” he asked.

I remember detecting a hint of an accusation in his voice: as if I had turned my back on the human race by choosing to live for something as abstract – or worse, divisive – thing as the “concept of God”. To him, God, or the idea of God, is synonymous or equal to, impersonal institutions, huge chapels, religious rituals and whatnot. Why would anyone live for THAT? Why not actually do something worthwhile?

I explained to him that God is not just a concept.

God is a person, and the ultimate Giver of my purpose. I told him God is for change and justice. God also desires that kids’ lives not go to waste because of drugs or whatever sinister element out there. God desires that evil be stopped.

And I told him that although there are many other noble things people could live for, I picked the “Live for God” card because ultimately, living for God will enable me to live for others, and live for all those other noble

I reflect on this experience because I realize that the question: What must I live for? is something that echoes in every human being. (Those who deny the fact that we must, indeed, live for something may try to brush it aside, end up in an existence of purposelessness.)

The Christian answers this question by pointing to the ultimate Purpose-Giver, Jesus Christ, who He is, what He did, and why He came in the first place.

Moreover, the kid’s question “Why not actually do something worthwhile?” and the implication that Christians are passive and oblivious to social evils and injustices is something challengers always throw in the Christian’s face.

It follows then that if my Purpose is anchored on what Christ did, and who He is, then I, as someone seeking to be like Him, should act on these things that God cares about: redemption, freedom, justice.

Do you see? A Christian so intent on being like Christ will – must – eventually learn to love others, and fight for them.

It’s the beautiful paradox: to live for others, I must live for Christ first.

Neo is telling me goodbye.

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Me: It’s been, what, three years? THREE YEARS!

Neo: Three years indeed.

Me: Think of everything we went through. We did class reports together. We did my thesis together.

Neo: We did spend a long time together.

Me: RIGHT? Remember all those late hours?

Neo: Yeah. All those nights we spent editing your thesis!

Me: And making all those citations and stuff.

Neo: It paid off anyway. You got the coveted uno.

Me: That’s what I’m saying! And what about those many hours we spent in my English-tutoring job?

Neo: Ha-ha, I remember. I almost always got so exhausted in that job.

Me: You did easily get exhausted by the third hour of teaching English to those Japanese students.

Neo: I did. Never really liked that job.

Me: But we were together. That’s what mattered. So why would you leave me? Why would you do this?

Neo: It’s not that I want to!

Me: What do you mean?! You were perfectly fine last week! We hadn’t even been engaged in any exhausting activity recently.

Neo: I don’t know… three years. That’s a long time.

Me: Please, Neo. I need you.

Neo: I’m not sure. I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Me:  Don’t do this to me, please!!!

Neo: It’s not like you didn’t want to replace me. Don’t lie! I know you’ve been looking around.

Me: But that’s unfair! I was never disloyal to you!

Neo: It doesn’t matter anymore.

Me: Why would you say that? Why would you even think that?

Neo: I’m sorry, Sarah. We were growing apart anyway. I know you’ve wanted to do a lot of things I couldn’t do, or help you do.

Me: Please, Neo. Please. Fine, please stay with me for at least two months!

Neo: Don’t make this harder, Sarah.

Me: Just two months more please?

Neo: (Sigh) I’ll try, Sarah. Can’t give any promises though. I’m dying. But I love you.

Me: I know. I love you too.

Neo: I hope your new laptop, whatever it will be, will make you happier.

 

…and that was my imaginary conversation with my three-year old laptop, Neo. Sigh. I can’t afford it breaking down anytime soon.

What if my Prayers do not bring me a summit experience?

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I remember the first time I climbed Mount Pulag. 

The sky was gloomy that day. That morning, I was almost convinced not to join the hike.

And when I stepped out from the Rangers’ Station and saw the mud resembling chocolate pudding in vast quantities, and when I felt the first slap of wind on my already nearly-frozen face, I was almost completely discouraged. Still, the prospect of standing at the summit and having an amazing experience was very strong.

Ahh, the summit. The thought itself was very tempting.

So I climbed.

I climbed despite the continuous drizzling. I climbed despite the spectacular mud trails. And despite the extreme numbing cold, and the muscle pains, and even indigestion. All for the summit experience.

Aaaand when we finally arrived at our destination….

It was NOT. Worth. It.

No, it was not. We clearly arrived at the wrong hour. The summit reserved its displays of beauty at sunrise. At that hour, when the sun first peeked from the east is when the glorious is revealed.

Sometimes, as I go through prayer and fasting, I remember that first Pulag experience. To be sure, physically, it will be challenge… but haven’t I always told myself that difficulty breeds quality, breeds excellence? As my pastor once said, you pray and fast for the results, for the end, that is of having specific concerns answered, or payers answered, and most especially having God reveal Himself more to me.

As I draw near to God, He will draw near to me. But what if my expectations are not met?

What if, despite my pleas and prayers and meditation, God chooses to respond with silence? What if there is not glorious summit experience?

I will choose to believe that even in His silence, God has a purpose.

I will choose to trust that He will reveal Himself to me in His own perfect time.

And should this be the case, unlike my Pulag experience, I will not leave empty-handed.

Besides, in the Pulag experience, I only had the “glorious summit experience” to look forward to.

This time, the Glorious Himself is with me, every step of the way.

The Sea of Clouds: What we should have seen at the Summit, and what tourists and hikers come for. This artsy photo is by my friend Louella Marie Pader.

The Sea of Clouds: What we should have seen at the Summit, and what tourists and hikers come for. This artsy photo is by my friend Louella Marie Pader.