Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Getting Back on My Feet

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Gen 22:1-2)

This is a familiar story and many of us have, at one time or another, experienced something akin to Abraham’s “Moriah experience”, where we had felt God asking of us our most treasured possession or beloved, and we had reluctantly surrendered to Him, unable to take after Abraham who simply told his son Isaac, when the latter was looking for the lamb to be their burnt offering, that God would provide.

I’ve always related this story to particular people in my life that I’ve had to sacrifice just because it was wrong for me to hold on to them. While driving home tonight, however, I realized that my recent and most concrete Moriah experience did not pertain to a person, but had everything to do with my career. This is the wisdom and clarity provided by hindsight and a cup of coffee shared with an old friend.

I could be second-guessing God, over-spiritualizing my life, and jumping to conclusions, but then again, being human and of limited understanding, I could only grasp at what my life means and where God is taking me. I am entitled to be unsure of what God is truly up to, as usually it takes me a lot longer to figure things out. But I have wounds that are healing, and these new insights that I discover along the way help in easing the pain and in letting me walk again. If they point to the truth, I am all the more relieved.

So what was my Isaac, “my only son”, one which I had waited for for a hundred years under pain of a huge mistake along the way, like Abraham did? It was something I had to wait for a very long time to achieve, and, surprise!, it was my being a lawyer. I had written about it many times before that in my pride God showed His mercy by letting me fail the bar exams and teaching me to put my complete trust in Him when I took it the second time. Just like Abraham, I thought my career would pave the way for God’s other promises to me. God promised Abraham descendants as many as the stars in heaven, and Isaac being his only son surely was going to be instrumental in the fulfillment of that promise.

If I was going to make it in life, my career as a lawyer would define it, as it provided me with many opportunities. There came a time, however, when God called me. I was sure of it; I consulted others about it; and I was able to confirm it – He wanted me to give up being a lawyer and to serve Him as a volunteer mission worker. The mission field before me then was Lingkod, and I sad yes. It was like setting myself up to be burned alive, however, as my decision was tested and contested by many people. I had to endure months of doubt and disappointment. I left everything and followed Him. Or so I thought.

Things did not fall exactly into place. I did get a fulfilling service in Lingkod, and I had the support of many friends, brothers, and sisters; still, something did not fit. I was restless again, but since I had discerned about it, I did everything I could to make it work. I addressed the people I had difficulty serving with. I endured the pain of correction for my mistakes. I helped point out matters that could be improved. I thought I was living out my dream, but happiness remained elusive. There was the knowledge that I was “seeking first God’s kingdom” and “building my treasure in heaven”, but slowly I grew tired of meeting the high expectations I set for myself as a supposed servant of the Lord.

I checked with Him again, after months of crying almost everyday, if there was any other way He wanted me to sacrifice my life. What was it that was so wrong with my situation that it was not bearing as much fruit as I knew it could? People said I was doing a good job but I did not believe them. I could not feel the “click” that I was looking for. I could not see what was in store for me. I was stuck in an idealistic mold.

Slowly, I lifted my eyes in prayer and God gently showed me that I did not have to struggle so much. I went through discernment again – retreats, spiritual direction, consultations – and heard God’s encouragement to be free to serve Him the way He created me. It was hard to understand because I believed at that time that I did not have to be a lawyer anymore. I stopped paying my membership in the IBP. I refused to accept consultations. I stopped reading the news. I soaked myself in all things spiritual and shunned anything that was “legal”. I said to myself I had a whole lifetime to figure out why God allowed me to be a lawyer who did not want to practice.

I eventually got back on my feet and found a job that was a blessing (a subject of many previous writings). Just as if I never left it, God gave me back my profession, and even allowed me to expand what I could do with it, breaking away from the traditional mold of a lawyer-in-a-suit appearing in court. I am now applying my interests in technology, research, writing, organizing, and working directly with people. I’m no longer prepared to say this is it for me, that I’ll die in this company. No, I’m just thankful to be here where I am now, and to see that what I had sacrificed, God gave back to me, with so much more than I had before.

I thought I had placed myself as a sacrifice and God refused the offering my life. That was a major cause of my tears before, that I displeased God in some way that’s why the decision to be His alone did not last.

I was wrong. Jesus had already offered the ultimate sacrifice, and He did it for me. God did provide the sacrifice, but so that I would see and understand, He waited to see how I would respond if He asked it of me, like He did for faithful Abraham. In some ways working back in the corporate world seems like a deviation from the path to heaven that I was aiming for a year ago, but on many levels it is a part of the personal journey where I could give, receive, and become the person God promised I could be, which could still be hiding somewhere inside me.

Another Old Testament character who was tested, Job, put it best when he said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) As we have read from the Bible, God spared Isaac and fulfilled all His promises to Abraham. As for Job, “…the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:12)

Therefore, regarding my career as a lawyer and I, I believe that love should be lovelier the second time around.

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