Living out your vows

It’s good to be back from a long hiatus. Thesis and wedding preparations have taken up much of my time during the past half year or so.

The rings

One of the things that popped up often during our many mini marriage counseling sessions with prospective principal sponsors, as well as the books we’ve read in preparation for marriage was the centrality and sacredness of marriage vows. While many consider the “you-may-kiss-the-bride” as the main event in a wedding, it is actually the exchange of vows in front of God, the officiating minister, and witnesses that is the actual “main thing.”

Vows are public declarations of your commitment: first to God, then to your spouse, and also how you would relate to everyone else afterwards. While it is customary for some vows to be funny or hilarious – with punch lines being thrown here and there –  vows are binding and should therefore be taken seriously. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to add a touch of humor, but vows do reflect the couple-to-be’s take on the seriousness of what they’re entering into. Vows also set the tone of your priorities in the married life.

Personally, here are my do’s and don’ts in vow construction:

  • (Do) Understand the meaning of and God’s purpose for marriage – God is the author of marriage. As the deepest union between two persons, it is reflective of the union and intimacy between Christ and the church in the future. God’s command in Genesis to be fruitful, to fill and subdue the earth, likewise can only be accomplished through marriage and procreation.
  • (Do) Declare your commitment to God, your spouse, future family, and community – what separates a marriage from any other human sexual union is commitment involved as two people enter into a covenantal relationship with God and each other, with the community as their witness.
  • (Do) Put the Gospel at the center of your future life together – the ultimate goal of a christian marriage is the glory of God. This is accomplished by living holy lives and using your partnership to advance the Good News of God.
  • Don’t focus solely on your spouse-to-be – Marriage isn’t about your spouse. Yes, vows that prove just how much you know and love your husband-or-wife-to-be are cool and funny to hear, but marriage much, much more than just the two of you.
  • Don’t focus on yourself (same as above)
  • Don’t take your vows lightly – you will be held accountable for each word you write down. Don’t write what you can’t commit to doing. Don’t commit if you have 101 conditions attached. Make sure you’re really ready to spend the rest of your life with the other person.

My wife and I wrote our vows in Tagalog, you can read them below.

Wife:

Nilikha ng Diyos ang lalaki at babae ayon sa kanyang wangis (Genesis 1:27).

Ano nga ba ang Hugis ng Pagibig?

KRUS Ang Kanyang kamatayan sa KRUS ay kapahayagan ng wagas na Pag-ibig nya sa kanyang nilikha, at tuwirang pagsunod sa kalooban ng AMA. At ang kanyang muling pagkabuhay ay kaganapan ng ating kaligtasan at larawan ng katagumpayan sa kasalanan at kamatayan.

Pangalawa ka sa kaligtasan bilang pinakamahalagang regalong aking natanggap. Ang personal na ugnayan nya sa atin ay pagpapatibay ng ating Pananampalataya. At sa buhay na binago Nya, magkasama nating pagtatagumpayan ang mga kasalanang maaaring maghatid ng kamatayan sa pagmamahalang pinagbuklod nya. Ang kanyang Pag-ibig ang nagbubuklod sa atin bilang kanyang mga lingkod at salamin ng kanyang Pag-ibig sa Iglesya.

Sa iisang mithiin na magsilbi una sa Diyos.

Sa iisang hangarin na magkaroon ng oras sa pagmiministeryo sa iba at sa isa’t isa.

At sa lakbayin, ay ang kanyang Salita ang magsilbing maningning na Tanglaw at Matibay na Pundasyon sa landas na tatahakin.

Ito man ay: kagalakan o kapighatian kasaganaan o kahirapan kalakasan o kahinaan kapayapaan o kabalisahan tagumpay at kabiguan.

Magkahawak kamay, kakapit ng mahigpit sa Maylikha na maidambana ang Kanyang Kabanalan at Katuwiran.

At bilang iyong katuwang magaksama nating ibabahagi ang Wagas na Pag-ibig ng Diyos, sa loob at labas ng ating Tahanan. Ang ating tahanan ay magsililbing Kanlungan at Kapahingahan ng mga taong sugatan.

Sa ilalim ng Kanyang Grasya at Habag ako’y maging Katuwang mo sa lahat ng panahon at Mabuting Ilaw sa ating tahanan.

Mahal ko, Aking Panalangin sa iyong Panguguna na maibigay at maipadama ko hindi lang sa Salita kundi pati sa Gawa ang Walang Pasubaling Paggalang sa lahat ng pagkakataon, Mamahalin ka habang ako’y nabubuhay, Pagsisilbihan ka sa Tulong ng Kanyang Biyaya.

Aming Panginoon at Diyos karapat-dapat kang tumanggap ng Papuri, Karangalan at Kapangyarihan; Sapagkat Ikaw ang lumalang sa lahat ng bagay, at ayon sa iyong kagustuhan sila’y nilalang mo at pinanatili. (Pahayag 4:11) Walang hanggang Pasasalamat sa DIYOS na pinagmulan ng lahat ng bagay ay ating Dakilain sa ating Pagsasamang Pang Habambuhay.

 

Husband:

Ano nga ba ang hugis ng pag-ibig?

Tatsulok.

Tatsulok, tulad ng ugnayan ng Ama, Anak, at Espiritu Santo bago pa man nilikha ang sanlibutan.

Tatsulok, tulad ng ugnayan ng mag-asawa at ng Diyos.

Tatsulok, tulad ng hugis na makikita sa batalya ng isang bisikletang pang-dalawahan.

 

Dalawahan.

Dalawahan pagka’t ang pag-iisa ni Adan ay ang unang hindi magandang napagmasdan ng Diyos.

 

Iisa.

“Hindi na sila dalawa kundi iisa, kaya’t ang pinagsama ng Diyos ay huwag paghiwalayin ng tao.” (Mateo disi-nuebe sais)

 

Ang buhay na binuklod ay parang paglalakbay sa bisikletang pang-dalawahan.

Isang lakbayin na pang-habambuhay.

Iisa ang ritmo ng tipa ng pedal, iisang landas na tatahakin – ang habambuhay na pagsunod sa Matuwid na Kalooban ng Maykapal.

Iisa ang tamang landas, ngunit marami at sanga-sanga ang pagpipilian. Hindi rin ito parating patag – may mabato, maputik, matarik, padausdos, at pa-siku-siko. Maraming panganib, at nag-iiba ang kapanahunan.

 

Mahal, nangangako akong ibigin ka tulad ng pagmamahal ni Kristo sa kanyang simbahan.

Pangngunahan ka sa landas ng kabanalan.

Hihingi ng dunong upang hindi malihis.

Ang Kanyang salita, gagawing GPS.

Iiwas sa mga bangin ng kasalanan.

Matututong pumreno kapag pabulusok ang daan,

Magbagal upang tanawi’y masdan .

Magpapakatatag sa harap ng matarik na akyatan,

Init ng araw, bangis ng hangin at ulan.

Matututong tumigil upang iba’y saklolohan.

Magpapakumbaba sa mga panahong masiraan.

Hihingi ng tulong kapag kapag kailangan.

At sa lahat ng makasalubong,

Hikayatin sa pagtugis sa landas ng kabanalan

 

Halina’t akoý samahan

Ihayag sa sanlibutan

Ang pag ibig na sinlawak

Ng kanluran hanggang silangan

 

Pag-ibig na di susuko

Handang makipaglaban

Pagtatagumpayan maging ang kasalanan

Walang aatrasan,

Maging bingit ng kamatayan

Ang pag alay ng buhay,

isang iglap mang daranak

O sa araw-araw nap pag-patak.

 

Sa ngalan ng Ama na Siyang may-akda

Ng Anak na dugo ang pinanglagda

Ng Espiritu-santong sa atiý naghahanda

 

Ito na ang aking

Huling  panata,

Huling panalangin

Bilang isang binata.

 

Writing our vows is just the start. Living them out in the context of day-to-day living, especially during highs and lows, is the harder part. It’s been a month and a half since we tied the knot, and we are yet to experience our first major fight. Many people find that to be a breakthrough. I think that the biggest factors  that contribute to the lack of quarrels  are maturity and staying true to the commitment to forgive and understand each other:

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. – 1 Peter 4:8 MSG

One thing I have in common with my wife, and also the major “plus points” while I was deciding on whether or not to court her, was that we both hate being late. As it turns out, other than that, we have practically very little in common. She likes to sweep the floor everyday and doesn’t like to use the vacuum cleaner. I can live with cleaning the room less than once a week, and grew up using the vacuum cleaner to clean stuff. I’m meticulous about segregating our trash, while she doesn’t mind dumping swept organic material into the non-biodegradable bin.

I haven’t quite adjusted to the dynamics of married life. For sure, getting pregnant, having a child, and experiencing crises later on will bring out the worst in us. Our vows will serve as a reminder of what we signed up for, and why:

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. – Philippians 1:27

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Incubated Confessions

source: youtube.com

//It’s ironic how this thought has itself been incubated for quite a while… It’s been more than a month since I jotted down the outline for this post.//

Under ideal conditions, bacteria can double their population every 20 minutes. So, if you leave a single bacterium cell alone in a favorable environment, it will become 2 cells after 20 minutes. They will again double after the 40 minute mark, and then after an hour, they will become 8 cells. Do the math, left undisturbed, after 4 hours, that one cell will be 4096 cells. Give it more time and there will be enough cells to spoil your food and possibly cause harm to the one who will eat it. The seemingly spotless plate on the left on the picture above could turn into the too-numerous-to-count plate on the center just overnight.

If only money earned interest that fast…

While money doesn’t multiply in that manner, sadly, sin does. Sin usually starts as tiny, dismissible thoughts. Too tiny for us to actually be freaked out about. Like that single bacterium.

Case 1:

Your boss reprimanded you for something that wasn’t your fault. You felt victimized by such injustice, and spent the whole day thinking about how you can subtly get back at him or her. In the process you’ve plotted murder plans just like criminals did on CSI. You may not have acted out on your plan, but you have mentally murdered your boss three times in three different ways. You may think to yourself that no harm has been done. But you have just, in the process, harmed yourself and sinned against God:

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[c] of fire. -Matthew 5:21-22

No one may have noticed what went through your mind, but God did. You may also think that the effect of your thoughts ended the moment your head became cool again, but you may be wrong. You may have just become subtly more irritable as a result.

Case 2:

You were accidentally elbowed by some stranger during rush hour inside the MRT on your way to work. Instead of forgiving, you held a grudge. You felt irritated all day. Before you knew it, you’ve been irritable towards all your officemates who have done nothing to irritate you.

They may not have known what gave you a bad day, but just like a domino effect, you’ve turned their days somewhat bad as well.

Case 3

You may start out by looking at a a beautiful girl (or guy). Then by taking a second glance, not just at his/her face, but at his/her body as well. The next thing you know, you’re undressing him/her in your thoughts. Then by the time you get home, you can’t stop thinking about it. It had turned into full blown lust, ready to be taken to the next level – an erotic movie, pornography, an urge for a sensual massage, or maybe an interpersonal sexual encounter.

These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death -James 1:15, NLT

What was common in all three cases? You did not confess immediately – either to God, or to another brother or sister. The practice of confession, while being common in the Roman Catholic church, doesn’t seem to be as popular or institutionalized as a discipline in the Evangelical realm. Evangelicals should give it more importance, I believe. And so does John and James:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sinsand purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. – James 5:16, MSG

Confession is first and foremost an acknowledgment that we are wrong. We acknowledge our sins before God, because all sins are ultimately against Him. We confess and confide to our brothers (or sisters) for reconciliation (if that person was the one you offended) and accountability (if otherwise). Part of being a functional spiritual community is sharing each other’s burdens, and that includes our struggles.

Case 4

You find yourself attracted to a person of the same sex. You find that person physically attractive. You are drawn to that person socially, intellectually and spiritually as well. You start to have doubts regarding your feelings… Now what do you do?

Of course, the very first thing  you should do is to tell God. You ask Him to help you understand your feelings. Is it wrong? Is it just a David-is-to-Jonathan type of brotherly attraction? Or is it perhaps slowly turning into a sexualized/eroticized/somewhat-emotionally-dependent thing? You may also ask God to bring or point a person in your life to whom you could talk to (not that person you’re attracted to though, most likely).

Ideally, that person would be understanding enough to try and assess your situation without judgment. He should also be godly-wise enough to know what to do. He should also be committed enough to walk with you through your journey, as a co-burden-bearer. This person should be able to journey with you – reprimanding you gently but firmly when you are in the wrong (“oops I blew up again” moments), and celebrating with you for each milestone (“congratulations, you haven’t been sarcastic this week!”). That is what Christian accountability should be like.

So, does that mean you should have one person to talk to regarding whatever shameful life problems you have? Well, it would be good if you have a handful of people you can be dead-honest to. A friend calls this concept as having “multiple anchors.” I’d say 3-5 individuals would be good enough.

Application questions:

Do you have any sins that you are yet to voluntarily confess to God?

If yes, what are you waiting for?

 

Do you have at least one brother or sister in Christ that knows all the hidden stuff in your heart and thought-life? If your answer is no, pray for God to lead you to one or more persons.

Are there burdens that you think you need to share to others, but are ashamed or afraid to?

This may be hard, but the longer you incubate that confession or burden, the worse the damage will be.

The song “Love Alone” by Caedmon’s call starts with the lyrics “no one will love me if they knew all the things I hide.” While this may feel true for most of us, I believe God, by His Spirit, enables His children to love other brothers and sisters as they are.

On top of it all, remember, God’s glory and our sanctification is far more important than our pride,  fears and feelings of shame.

Shalom!

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Overwhelmed

image source: michaelhyatt.com

I was doing a head count of my students who were taking an exam, only to find out that one was missing. I went outside the room and found her – sitting on the floor and crying. She was talking to her mother on the phone. She was crying out about how she couldn’t handle her situation anymore. Another guy, presumably her boyfriend, was beside her and consoling her with a gentle rub on the back. That same guy later talked to me – interceding on her behalf – regarding her predicament. Life had apparently overwhelmed her like a stampede on a marathon race (sorry, I can’t think of a better illustration right now). Work, academics, and other personal problems probably came crashing towards her at the same time.

As her teacher, I decided that it wasn’t the best time to talk to her. I had to let her be as she poured out on her mom, and allow her other loved ones to comfort her. She was in no state to take my exams, let alone be informed that a makeup exam may not be in the realm of possibility.  Meanwhile, I did not realize that what she was experiencing would eventually be something that I would experience as well…

Just a few days after that incident, I felt overwhelmed by life as well. There’s thesis. There’s church ministry. There’s teaching. There’s the upcoming wedding. There’s the tons of other things that I want to do. Finally, there’s that proverbial elusive rest. Somehow, I wanted to be understood. Yet the only people whom I think could understand me are equally, if not more busy.

Overwhelmed. Even the Lord Jesus was overwhelmed, as recorded by both Matthew (26:36-38) and Mark (14:32-34):

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Jesus’ time had almost come. He was about to bear the weight of the sin of world on his body, he was about to experience apparent abandonment by God the Father. He was about to experience something he’d rather not.

What do we do when overwhelmed? Here’s a good read from gotquestions.org.

Meanwhile, one of the things I encountered while meditating on the Psalms (118:5-7) was this passage:

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.

When overwhelmed, it’s OK to cry(out) to God or to friends. We need to ask for His presence to be felt. We may also seek the presence of peers and loved ones. We need to ask for God’s presence and promises to be our strength. We need to realize that we are in a position of victory. Sin cannot overwhelm us, neither can any trouble this world has to offer. We need to realize that all these things will come to pass, and that Christ, who matters above all, will remain.

The things that cause us to feel overwhelmed may not disappear. The problems will still be there, and we still need to face them. We need to crawl to survive, if need be. The comfort is that we are not alone, and that the problems are not forever.

On the other hand, we also need to be aware about people in our lives who may be overwhelmed and need our help. Our presence and an empathic listening ear would help.  Here’s a link on empathy. Appropriate comforting intimacies and selected affirming and comforting words might help. Thoughtful actions and volunteering to help will also be appreciated. Even Jesus wanted his disciples to at least keep watch. To make him feel that he wasn’t “alone”.

Are you overwhelmed right now? Come to Jesus. Call a friend or more. Pour out your soul and open yourself up to receive grace.

Do you have friends or loved ones who seem to be run-over by life at full throttle? What can you do for them? How can you journey with them?

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SMS 145 Matthew 4:4

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]” (NLT)

Obeying God takes precedence over our physical needs. Our hunger for his word should exceed our hunger for food. How is your spiritual feeding lately?

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SMS 144 Matthew 4:2-3

For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil[a] came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (NLT)

The devil tempts us to meet legitimate needs through illegitimate means, to rely on self rather than God. Try to examine what happens when you are being tempted.

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SMS 143 Luke 2:38

38 She  (Anna) came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. (NLT)

Praising God and sharing Jesus come naturally to those who are devoted to him. Are our words and thoughts filled with praises to God? How eagerly do we talk about Jesus to others?

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SMS 142: Luke 2:34-35a

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. (NLT)

People will always take sides when it comes to Jesus. He exposes and confronts what’s inside our hearts. The question is, how do we react when that happens?

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