Leaving the old self

March 26, 2016 is another date that I will celebrate. On this day, I publicly declared myself as a Christian, formally leaving my old religion, and committing myself to follow Christ.

Growing up, I never really understood what Christianity is all about. I am aware that there is God. I also know of some stories in the Bible, particularly that of the life of Joseph, son of Jacob. My understanding of the life of Jesus though is like a fairy tale to me. A fairy tale in the sense that it is impossible to happen. Where on earth can you find someone who turned water into wine (John 2:1-11)? Doesn’t it happen only in the movies? Or the time when Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22-33)? When I was in grade school, these things are unreal and impossible to happen.

Up until high school, I grew up in the house of my old maid lola (a sister of my real lola). She goes to church every Sunday, tagging me along. She also sings in the church (together with my real lola and other senior citizens), and they are well-verse in Latin. I was also included in their outings when they go to life size statues of the stations of the cross in Bulacan. I would also join poster making contests in the church and win.

During Holy Week, I would join the processions and is awed by images of saints. I remember vividly that after each procession, I will force myself in getting flowers from the decorations of the religios images and bring them home. My thought then was that these flowers would bring luck. And three years ago, I would even take images of saints.

But then growing up, somehow, I lost interest in going to church. (Note, this happened a decade before I became a Christian). I found the ceremony too repetitive. I found it too monotonous, that I can even recite the line the priest would say even before he says it. But the main reason for losing interest in going to church is on not being able to take home anything after the service.

You might have experienced it before. You go to a service, but after one or two hours, you leave, and not being able to remember anything that was said. You hear the word of God, but found no meaning to it.

Specifically I am referring to the homily after reading the Gospel. The priest would give his message, and very seldom, at least on my experience, that I find value and interpretation on the homily. Since the different parts of the church service is the same across all churches, the only thing that I was really interested in is the Gospel, what can be learned from it, and how it can be adapted in our ordinarly lives. I found no more substance in what I hear that it’ll be a waste of time to wake up early, to dress up and to listen (and stand up from time to time) in the church service. I was looking for something that I can take home, contemplate on, and possibly adapt in my lifestyle. And so I stopped going to church altogether.

But then I did not really leave the church. During my daily commute, I would pray silently repetitive prayers. Whenever I want something to happen, say that the travel will be fast so that I will not be late, I will continously pray those repetitive prayers. During the time when I was still buying newspapers, I would cut out those ‘miracle prayers,’ prayers that supposedly never fail; that after the third or ninth day of praying, your wish will be granted.

And then slowly, as I join the workforce, I started to just rely on myself. Whenever I want something, and it’s usually is a material thing, I would save up for it. I would render overtime work, and even work on my restdays just to earn more money. I drank whenever there’s an invite. The only time I would go to church are friends’ weddings and Christmas eve. Sundays for me is just another day to sleep.

Then came a time when I want to be with someone. I pursued a girl, but then my intentions were not clean. For one, I just want to prove myself that I can ‘rob’ her from someone who is already courting her. Also as a guy, well, you know what I wanted to do next. And so having a relationship with the girl failed. By January 2013, I stopped pursuing her.

But there was a relatively new girl in the office whom I have secretely have a crush on. How our relationship grew would need a series of posts. To sum it, however, she is already a Christian under United Methodist Church in Pasig City. We went there and for the first time I attended a Christian service. And so that was the start of my Christian journey. Today, I attend Christ Commission Fellowship in its main location in Pasig as well.

From someone who transitioned from an old religion to Christianity, you might ask, what’s the difference? I love what John Piper said in his sermon on the similarities with my old religion and the born-again or Protestant Christianity: “that God is three Persons in one divine nature – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that God created all things, that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, that Christ died for sinners, that the Holy Spirit is needed to live a godly life, that the Scriptures are inspired by God, etc.”

And then the differences: “authority of the pope, the place of tradition alongside Scripture, the veneration of Mary, the belief in the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the claim that baptism regenerates, the teaching on purgatory, etc.”

You will not realize the similarities and differences if you have not experienced both. For me, I found more meaning in Christianity because it made more sense: that God so loved us that He wants everyone to have a personal relationship with Him. But then we are sinners, and so we never qualify to be with a sinless and perfect God. Good thing though that He sent Christ so that when we put our faith in Him, we will be saved from eternal damnation.

So there you go, that’s the introduction of my life journey. More posts to come.

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