Friday, February 16, 2007

Rejoicing in Waiting

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
(Psalm 33:10-11, NIV)

Some friends told me upon learning that I was looking for a job, that surely "malakas ako kay God", meaning I enjoy a special favor from Him, and He would reward me handsomely after serving Him for many years, and even giving up my career for a time in order to do mission work in His name. I didn't want to express my contrary thoughts then, but now that I'm "in waiting" again, I reflect on how God rewards His servants like me and would like to share my thoughts.

I wanted to tell my friends that I knew right from the beginning, when I gave my life to the Lord and committed myself to follow Him, that I was in for an uphill climb. I knew that prioritizing service over career would mean being left behind in the latter. I knew that discerning my state of life and surrendering it to God meant not compromising on my essentials and valuing my identity as God's daughter over my desires and attractions. I learned from reading the lives of the saints that they who followed Him did not experience success as the world defined it. They might have needed a luxury or two and might have given up all of their desires altogether, but those were part and parcel of the job description of a disciple.

When I left the law firm that was making me work twelve (12) to fourteen (14) hours a day in favor of the Court in order to serve God more through Lingkod, I did not do it expecting a proportionate reward from God in due time. When I left the Court in order to volunteer as a mission worker for the Lingkod Office, I did not expect to meet the man of my dreams in the process who would sweep me off my feet. If those were part of God's plan, then I would have happily accepted them. But since they were not, this does not mean that I served a heartless, demanding God who did not want to reward His people.

The Lord never told me that He would shield me from pain or suffering; He only promised to be with me, and He has never failed me in that promise. I did them and shall continue to make such "foolish" decisions for him because I wanted to see Him face to face one day in heaven, and to bring others into a similar relationship with Him. Service was its own reward. I only wanted a room in my heavenly Father's house.

I am very far from leading a holy life. Impure motivations still envelop me, relentless temptations still overpower me, and there are days when I simply want to give up. However, the knowledge that God is with me quiets my heart. All of the anxieties and fears I battle with now, I share with Him openly during my prayer time and at daily Mass, and I have affirmed that I'd rather be in bad times like these with the Lord, than to have good times with someone else who would take me away from Him. Yes that's a line from a love song that I sing to Jesus in my heart.

His ways are not our ways. People like me who have left major service, mission work or even the religious life cannot expect to be welcomed by high-flying jobs and "all the things we gave up" in one glamorous package. In fact, we are called to do the opposite, to be lay people set apart for the Lord, fully submitting to His plans which are forever and far greater than our dreams and plans, as the Psalm I quoted above says.

I felt a peace that surpasses all understanding yesterday. I had three interviews in one government office, which went okay, but this was followed by a written examination, which I think I did poorly on. I was not prepared for it as I last read about the pertinent laws and cases some seven years ago, when I was reviewing for the bar! One question pertained to a procedure which I handled while I was a law intern but could not for the life of me remember in detail. I answered the exam with cold, clammy hands and a sinking sensation that I was not going to be hired, after all.

When I handed my papers, the admin officer reminded me that the hiring ban was coming up, 45 days before and after the elections. Considering the many other steps my application had to go through (ranking of all applicants, review by HR, call back for psychological exam, medical exam, and rigorous background check), they could not assure me that I would be hired or even if I were chosen, that it would be earlier than July.

As I left the office in a daze, part of me was saying I should be officially in panic. Hiring ban meant two of my pending applications would have to wait, unless the respective offices were granted exemptions. It meant lack of steady income for several more months. I searched for panic but there was none. I was reminded that God provided me with other skills and talents I could use for the meantime. Faces of friends who were willing to hire me as speaker, facilitator, writer, etc. flashed through my mind. I would get through this long period of dryness. My days of harvest shall come. I was going to be ok.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. (Hab 3:17-19, ESV)

Malakas talaga ako kay God! He shows His favor by making me go through periods of dryness and waiting and lack. These are precisely the things I do not like to face, but His plans are better than my plans. When the seasons change, I shall share about them again. For God is truly good and full of love, though we may not understand His ways! I rejoice in Him and praise Him continually.

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