Last night, before I allow my body to be embraced by the bed that I am using and close my eyes for sleep I asked God; why religious life is full of tests?  Why you allow it as part of religious life’s experiences that to be considered and cherished?  These questions came as I read the gospel (Mk 1:12-15) thrice and consult some reliable commentaries which granted me a suffice understanding about the gospel.  There were a lot of insights that popped-up unto my mind as I involved and indulged myself with some reliable assertions, interpretations and reflections about the gospel. As I put myself in silence and reflection, only one word remained among the insights that my mind encountered and gathered, i.e. tests.  What so special about the word “tests” in me as a Rogationist religious?  Why it pierces my heart so deep?

One thing that I realized about the word “tests” is its significance.  Without it, it is hard to appreciate my life and my identity as a Rogationist religious.  We cannot deny the fact and I also admit that tests are painful, embarrassing, challenging and even discouraging, yet I just only recognized upon my reflection that it serves the real joy of all joys which my own intelligence, ideals and principles cannot provide and give.  It helps me to accept, recognize and gaze upon my brokenness and my shortcomings with humility and sincerity.  And, it makes me believe that tests are a providential opportunity that comes from God which serves as means for me to become a better and mature person and a better and mature Rogationist religious.

Putting myself with the experience of Christ as the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, remained in the desert for forty days and tested by Satan; it is somehow the same as I relate His experience from my experience after I professed my vows to the Lord.  After professing my temporary vows to the Lord, now, I am in the wilderness called “to be faithful or not”.  The days that I face and live in my journey always grants me a test whether I will be faithful or not to be faithful on my identity as a Rogationist religious.  Sometimes I prevail, sometimes I fall short.  Winning and failing is not what struggling “to be faithful or not” on my Rogationist identity, it is all about how far I am considering Christ as my strength, my fortress and my shield in all tests that I am encountering in religious life.  It is also about how far I am truly convinced that it is the Spirit that motivates and animates me to stand in every test that I face and to see it not as a curse, but an opportunity for my continual conversion.

Recognizing the significance of tests in my life as Rogationist religious made me realize that I am not the master of my self and of my identity as Rogationist religious for I alone cannot straighten the crooked lines in my life.  God alone, only God alone can straighten it through Jesus.  Now, as I am trying my best to consider tests as an opportunity, it is also good to consider it as a light to my path.  For me, tests are lights that leading me towards authenticity for it shapes, molds and strengthen life darkened by disillusionment and uncertainties.  So, it is good to assert that without test, I cannot struggle towards Rogationist authenticity for test alone can suffice that I am a Rogationist, tested by time humbled by adversaries in life. To paraphrase the common saying: “In our studies in theology, the lessons comes first before the exams but in life ‘especially in our religious life’ the test comes first before the lesson”.

There’s GAIN in PAIN

In life, PAIN is inevitable. Everytime we do our best to escape PAIN, there will always be a moment when we still experience it. We cannot escape on its effect. When we speak of PAIN, we feel horrified and terrified for it causes us to stumble and fall, first and foremost. So, we try our best to forget the most painful experience in our lives that made us cry, dumbfounded and sad because it’s like a nightmare. But, is there a particular moment in your life that there’s GAIN in PAIN? On the many painful experiences that you encountered, do you have some unforgettable experiences wherein you’ve been healed by the painful experiences in your life? Sounds weird, right? Initially, we could immediately say that these questions are unimaginable. How could painful experiences be a way for us to know who we are, to accept our brokenness and to love ourselves in spite of the shortcomings and limitations that we have? To be honest, I was taken aback encountering these questions for the first time. But, as I reflect upon these questions, which sound silly for me, I realized that there’s GAIN in PAIN.

 When I was reflecting upon the benefits of PAIN, the reality game show entitled, “The Biggest Loser” popped-up into my mind. How many of you watched this reality game show? The show’s title speaks for itself; this reality game show is all about losing weight. There is a group of “BIG” contestants who joined the game and take the risk of losing their weight for the cash prize. But, as I watched the reality game show keenly, there are set of traits being highlighted in the reality game show: DISCIPLINE, PATIENCE, SELF-CONTROL, PERSISTENCE and COURAGE. In order to gain these traits, which are very important for winning the cash prize at stake, they need to involve themselves in heavy and painful work-out consistently. Comparing it to the weird and silly statement, “There’s GAIN in PAIN,” I realized that there really is wisdom behind this statement. In fact, the reality game show helped me to understand that pain is beneficial in every person’s journey towards life. It is in pain that we become courageous and steadfast.

Experience taught me what gain I got from pain. It is PAIN that made me to accept who I am. PAIN purified me. PAIN, even though difficult to be considered as an essential ingredient in life, helped me to be aware of the fact that life cannot exist and attain its meaning without it. It is because of PAIN that now I am contented of being who I am. PAIN has helped me to see the inner beauty within me despite the brokenness, woundedness and shortcomings that I have. I hope this simple and humbling entry of mine may encourage you to see the brighter side of pain and the wisdom behind it. Recognize and analyze the importance of painful experiences in our life. How great, special and optimistic life would be if we are convinced that PAIN adds meaning and color in our life. (I am not advocating masochism and sadism here, please be reminded. They are an entirely different topic.)

Now, are you ready to accept the fact that “there’s GAIN in PAIN”? I hope so.

I am a PERSON without a BACKBONE

Imagine a person walking on the street without a backbone. How does he look like?  Weird and unimaginable as it seems, many people in this world, including me, are walking in the street called life without a backbone.  I am not referring to a monster or in a literal sense. My struggle of facing the reality that I am a PERSON without a BACKBONE is what I would like to share.

I am a person who is not deeply grounded with a strong foundation and is only dependent to the decisions and suggestions of others when making decisions in life.  I have discovered it when my Novice Master presented to me the result of my Psychological Assessments during our dialogue.  At first, I was greatly disappointed with the direct and straight to the point psychological assessment results which were really shocking and unbelievable.  But, as I knelt down in front of the Crucifix and started to pray in tears, I realized that I am human, capable to fall short and capable to bounce back with the help of God’s grace.  Knowing that I am a PERSON without a BACKBONE in my psychological assessment results was a moment of grace for me.  It led me into a realization that I need to be in touch with my humanity. Although it felt humiliating at first, I am still thankful and blessed at the end.  For years, I kept on hiding my weaknesses and shortcomings. Later then I realized that God blessed those who are sincere and humble on their weaknesses and shortcomings in life rather than those who boast their achievements and popularity.  Now, I am in the process of accepting the result and starting to form a deep and strong foundation in decision making with my life. It is tough but I will get there, I know.

  Indeed, it is better to be true and to be yourself in spite of the vulnerabilities that we have than to pretend to be somebody whom we are not.  Accepting the fact that I am a PERSON without a BACKBONE is a challenge yet a great grace for me because it enlightened me that accepting and loving who I am begins with accepting and loving my shortcomings and my woundedness. After all, they are God’s blessings in disguise that we just fail to recognize.