I grew up in a Christian family attending Bible studies and Sunday schools. At an early age, I was very much aware with what the Lord has done on the cross and what rapture is. I gained knowledge about tribulation, about the second coming of Christ and about the devil’s marks – basically about the end of times. All the information came from my mom. I never read the Bible then. To me it all seemed fictional. Well if it is true, I am below 12, anyway. God loves the little children.
At the age of 16, I had a dream. Maybe this was caused by watching two movies before going to bed. One was, I think, Gladiator, where the prisoners were sent to a coliseum to fight with lions and beasts while being watched by hundreds and thousands of people. The other one was actually a comedy with a scene where the father went inside the priest’s place while his bratty kid went to the confession room of a cathedral. They had a serious conversation for the first time. Back to my dream, I was a prisoner. Me, together with my fellow prisoners, were lined up in our seats inside a big church with sackcloth over our heads, for us not to see what will happen. But I knew exactly what will take place, I just watched the movie. When the guards came, they picked who will go first. Luckily, I was not chosen. When they left and I had an opportunity to escape, I entered a confession room. It was quiet, until I heard a voice. It was echoing. It was roaring. I was very certain that He is God. He uttered many words that struck my heart. Then I woke up sobbing and speaking in my mind, “Sorry, Lord, I will follow you”. After a while, I came to my senses and realized it was just a dream. It was frustrating that I cannot remember what God told me. I can recall how his voice echoed and roared, but not His exact words. Nothing special happened next. Nothing changed.
When I was about to turn 18, I asked my dad, who at that time was working in Saudi Arabia, to give me a gold-plated hardbound Bible as a birthday gift. The whole family laughed and told me that what my dad can give me is a Quran and not a Bible. I forgot for a while my desire to have the book until an opportunity to join a Christian organization in our university came. In a flash, I became very active with the activities that the organization participates in. I attended trainings, events, conferences, retreats and youth camps. I was always present. My parents supported me financially in all those events. I knew I accepted Christ in one of those events, but nothing changed significantly.
While my friends were very enthusiastic in telling their life stories about how they were changed by the Lord, I kept silent. They told our small group how disgusted they felt with the practices they grew up with, how they have turned from idols, cursing, alcohols and such things, which I did not even experience in my whole life. Practically, I see myself as righteous and what changed in me is that I stopped cheating in school and learned to practice plain Bible reading and praying, all because it is being checked by my leader so I am obliged to do so. If you will ask me about the condition of my heart, I was not sure. I was just enjoying the company of my church mates and the so-called ministries I was into. Ah! I forgot to say that I was famous. Well, maybe not really, but to me I was. I performed in almost all events as part of the church’s dance group. But the church’s vision, mission and goal focused on one thing: to be Christ-like and make disciples. I was not comfortable with that. But since it has been the measurement of being great (for me, at least), I invited my friends, conducted classroom talks and lead small group of students. But nothing lasted.
Eventually, I got my degree, CPA license, great job in a great company and a husband, who is also a former student leader in our church. I was promoted twice. Here comes the world and the world’s nicest things to offer. As I increase my knowledge because of my career, I began to seek the world and enjoyed it. I am a choleric type of person. I am highly opinionated, easy to anger, delight in arguments and can make the best speeches when my emotions are up. Life’s pleasures? I so love them. For me, I have a perfect life since I seem to have it all.
Then one day, BOOM! The world betrayed me. I fought with my college friends and former church mates for immature reasons. My house was robbed and the things I consider precious were stolen: gadgets, bags, watches, sun glasses and jewelries. I was not enjoying my job anymore and a lot of people in the office, I guess, were mad at me because of my complaints and rants with their inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. We were a victim of Habagat. And to top it off, my husband left me before our second year anniversary.
Instead of pulling him back, I did crazy things that pushed him away even more. My actions were not limited to SNS stalking, hacking his accounts, arguing with his friends and siblings, and involving more people in our marital problem. I lived a bitter life full of anger and resentment. Until one day in April 2013, I felt so hopeless to the point that I did not want to get up from bed. I did not want to eat, not even to take a bath. I did not want to do anything but to cry to the Lord to come and get me. Then it came to my mind, what if my husband comes back and see my current state: dirty, messy, smelly and ugly? It did not move me an inch. Then I thought, what if the Lord will knock at my door and see the current state of my heart? Oh, He does not actually need to knock. He sees me. Just because my companion for 10 years left me, I lost my purpose to live? What really is the purpose that God created me in the first place? Okay, that is to honor Him. And He will not be honored if I look like a trash. So I took a bath, ate and cleaned the house.
Though it seems unfamiliar and uncomfortable, I continued attending CCF Sunday Services until I welcomed the idea of joining a small group held by Ate Pia Jingco through signing up in the CCF website. On the first day, of course, I cried. The arrogant, self-centered and overconfident, who turned to be a junk – that is me – reminded that I am a prodigal daughter who will not lose my position and my title as a child of God. It was like God took me out of the garbage and said that I should not be where I am because in His house, I have a special place.
Thank God for His abounding grace that keeps on blessing me with so much blessings that I do not deserve and for His mercy for sparing me on the wages of my sins that I truly deserve. Above all, I thank the Lord for giving me peace, an unimaginable and impossible peace.
I began to search Him through prayer and devotion. This time, not because I am being monitored but because I find joy in it. He taught me that I need to surrender everything to Him, including all my burdens, and live trusting and obeying Him. I was taught that my prayers will not change my situation but rather it is me who will be changed. Besides, as Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God is the only one who will never leave me, forsake me nor betray me.
Changes like, more of Him and less of me, passion on Him and compassion for people happened to me. I became very careful to live a Christ-like life. I became sensitive on others’ needs and feelings. I became selective of the words I speak. Little by little, I was able to learn to seek to understand first before responding into something. The more I study the Word, the more I realize how sinner I am and how holy He is, and being called by Him who is holy, I should also be holy in all my conduct (1 Peter 1:15). As Gary Chapman, author of the book The Five Languages of Apology said, “I agree that I have the right to feel hurt, angry, disappointed and frustrated or whatever else I may be feeling. I don’t choose my feelings; I simply experience them. On the other hand, I disagree with the idea that because of my feelings, I have the right to hurt someone else with my words and behavior.” Being a work-in-progress, I sometimes fail. But it leaves me no other choice but to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. Indeed, that unruly member of my body, my tongue, has caused me a lot of trouble and God is on His way of disciplining it. Being straightened out is painful, but being left crooked will ultimately hurt even more. I know what to choose.
Heaven is real. The end time is clear. With that, the Lord is calling me again to be useful. Like Jonah, though I walked away and turned away from Him, He certainly found me in any and every way. He never promised to answer all my prayers the way I want it. So, whether my husband will be back or not, it does not change the truth that I will serve the Lord. No lies nor deceptions can stop or delay me from doing that. Not because I am being measured with it, but because God impressed in my heart that I should follow Him.
I, RheaAngeline, a work-in-progress, have decided to be an Exhibit A — no turning back. To God be all the glory.