“When we pray, we enter heaven,” mommy once told me when I was a kid. And so, whenever we prayed together during our then- weekly family devotions, I would often open one eye to see if the bed we were sitting on has been magically transported to heaven. “Nope, we’re still here. Perhaps we’re only in heaven when our eyes are closed,” I thought to myself.
This is just one of the unique scenes in my life while growing up. Being born as a fraction of fraternal triplets to Protestant parents is already a statistically unlikely scenario – thus contributing to my unorthodox childhood.
We were brought to church even as babies. My earliest childhood memories already included running around the church building of Diliman Bible Church (DBC), and coloring scenes from the bible using broken crayons. I specifically remember one Sunday, when our teacher shared the gospel to us in church. I remember locking my room when I got home that afternoon, and inviting Jesus into my heart, while staring at the sun as it hid behind the Iglesia ni Kristo Central Castle. I knew back then that I was sincere and that my faith was genuine, but perhaps I did not yet have a firm grasp of what “Lordship” meant.
As I grew up, I started becoming more reserved. I was insecure about a lot of things: my height, my complexion, my inability to draw and to play music, and my low grades. Perhaps that is why I often spent my summer playing computer games instead of learning a new “skill” (something I now deeply regret).
As early as 11 years old we were making ourselves useful in church by washing dishes for the DVBS programs, and by ushering during Sunday Service. I was also generally a “good boy” in school, rarely being listed “noisy.” But at home it was entirely different: I often got into quarrels with my siblings, exchanging pranks of vengeance, and at times being grounded for doing stupid things like throwing rocks across a high wall towards our neighbors’ lawn, which injured a person and broke a glass table in the process. I also became involved in a not-so-good influence set of friends during sixth grade, coupled with a school-wide newspaper drive that exposed me to vulgar tabloids that had unholy visual and textual content. These “worldly influences” had robbed me of childhood innocence and has greatly affected my thought life – to this day.
The pool of insecurity turned into a sea the moment I entered the Philippine Science High School, or Pisay, where a lot of people were smarter, more talented, more good looking, and at times, more mature in character than I was. Yet it was at this same stage in my life that I got involved with the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) through camps and get-togethers, where doses of personhood sessions slowly helped turn my insecurities into confidence in being made in the Image and likeness of God; and where I realized that being a Christian entails protecting the Name of Christ by living a holy life. Using Paul’s words to Timothy, “watch your life and doctrine closely.” So much was my realization that I deliberately lied when I was asked by a classmate if I was into unbiblical habits common to teen-agers. It was also in IVCF that I learned to be a leader, though I admit that I’m just as reluctant as Moses was when he was called.
And so, as I entered college, I was no longer that very shy and insecure person (well, kaunti na lang), thanks to God’s work and the love and mentoring of people around me. I joined DCBC and SVCF, and was active in a lot of ministries, as well as in doing pastoral and planning work. Before I was just part of those receiving mentoring and attending camps, now I was the one teaching and organizing camps!
At one point, I entered into a romantic relationship, yet being unable to handle it properly, it led me away from God, majoring on physical intimacies that I knew He did not approve of. Yet no one was able to notice what was happening, for I put up a front that everything was alright. Yet God convicted me to obedience, and helped me remember my promise to Him, that, “If this relationship leads us away from God, this relationship has to go.” So, gathering the strength, I finally confessed to my confidants and to the congregation the secret which I have been keeping. Putting the shame aside, I willfully underwent the discipline, and praised God for the restoration that he brought through the communities of believers.