01 February 2012

Heat Under the Rocks

Click to enlarge.

Sometime last month, my brother signed up for a church-organized hike-slash-one-day-retreat on Taal Volcano. I wanted to hike, too, but was apprehensive about signing up; in general, I'm wary of Christian strangers asking me questions about my faith. I'd rather avoid situations that open me up to judgment or even condemnation just for being honest about my doubt. I'd also like to avoid situations where I seem to be something I'm not, which is a full-blown believer, and then be accused later of deceit.

Besides, I had Mandarin class the morning the hike group was supposed to head out.

Then, my mom told me that my dad was flying in, not on business, but just to join the hike and spend some time with Mikko and me. This seemed like a lot of trouble on Dad's part, as he takes vacation leaves sparingly, so, I decided to use one of my allowed absences from class and bond with my family.

My goals that day were to just enjoy the time with my dad and brother, enjoy the time outdoors and away from Manila, stay in the background during whatever retreat activity they had planned, and keep quiet when it came time to share. At the very least, the organizer-church—the same church I've been attending with Mikko since late August—seemed to be led by the kind of people who respect other people's quiet.

There were lots of beautiful views (some of which I'm sharing on Tumblr and Facebook).

Click to enlarge.

We went up to the summit and then went back and forth along this long ridge. It was still fairly early in the morning, the sun was not too hot, and there was some cloud cover. Despite the number of tourists going up and down, it was a quiet day.

After some time, we gathered at the rest huts to listen to the retreat master. And funnily enough, the theme of the retreat was goal-meeting (and right off the bat, the master said, "You don't all have to share").

While he didn't say anything or quote any passages I hadn't heard or read before, he did get me to think about questions that almost everyone asks each other and themselves:

What are your goals for today? What are your goals for the future? How are you going to accomplish them?

Is it bad to say, acknowledge, or admit—is it a crime?—that I haven't had a grand life goal since the breakup?

I don't blame Martin for my apparent purposelessness; I believe it was ultimately a good thing for me to arrive where I am now, in the condition I'm in now. But see, back then, so many of my goals depended on him. Today, I haven't stopped wanting the things I wanted; but they've become kind of abstract considering they aren't immediately feasible.

So, all I've wanted to accomplish in the meantime is to learn to be happy with myself, be reconciled with my flawed parts, and stay productive. I don't know when I'll have what I want(ed) or if it will ever arrive, so I just want to be happy catching as catch can.

One warning the retreat master gave everyone last Saturday was that taking things into one's own hands may only muck things up for ourselves, when God has his own designs on our lives. There are plenty of contentious ideas to do with human goal-setting and divine designs, but that day, I didn't want my objections to ruin a lovely day out with my family. I laid most of these objections aside and allowed myself to agree with this one thing: because I don't know what's next, I'm just going to stay reasonably busy, keep the door of my heart open, and hope for the best.

It was, all in all, an awesome day to be out with my family. I felt renewed gratitude for them, especially my parents and all they'd done for me and my brothers. I know my life wouldn't be as good as it is now if it hadn't been for my family and their love.

The love really is the greatest thing, the best thing that helps me keep my faith. On some days, it's not so hard to lay off my doubt and see the beaten track again, the clear path of belief and the relative ease with which it would meet my feet. On those days, I know how easy it is to "just" believe.

I am afraid of rejection there, too. Why would God welcome someone so willful and self-absorbed?

And yet, the love of my family, despite how physically and emotionally distant I've become in the past few years, is what allows me to reach for if not grasp the kind of love that they talk about in church. It is that kind of love that would lead me back to the fervent kind of faith I used to have. And like I said, I'm keeping my door open.

Click to enlarge.