Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love, the Second Time Around

Was love lovelier the second time around?  That was what was running through my head last night.  I did something I had not done in a while, something I used to love with every ounce of my being:  I attended a Friday night prayer meeting.

For the long-time readers of this blog (meaning my aunt, my cousin, an in-law of my in-law, and about two other people, hehe), I am a passionate servant of God, an eager student of His word, and a bold proclaimer of His message.  Through the years, however, the expression of my relationship with God had gradually changed.  I had grown older and had sought to deepen such relationship, even though more often than not, I had ended up shutting the Lord out of my life and taking control once more.  The fact that this blog, and this relationship, is still alive after all those ups and downs, is a testament that though I struggled a lot, the Lord had been faithful, and as one brother commented to my previous post, I was still "in the race" to finish the prize.

For several years, Friday night prayer meetings were the highlight of my week.  I looked forward to the time of worship, the talk, the music, and the fellowship.  I could not survive without it, and it sustained my Christian life.  I exercised my spiritual gifts and experienced heaven on earth while doing so.  I had given my life to the Lord and there was no better way to live that out than through my prayer group, the community of single young professionals called Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (now on its 25th year).

A couple of years ago, I felt the Lord calling me out of Lingkod.  It was not an abrupt call, but a product of discernment.  Alongside my Charismatic prayer life, I also went on constant silent, personal retreats, and sought spiritual direction, to listen more to God and learn to be still before Him.  I was at peace when I told my leaders that I would stop attending Lingkod prayer meetings, and I would concentrate more on my new ministry in our parish.

Life in the parish, compared to Lingkod, was radically different.  From a homogenous group where I was comfortable and understood, I met people of varying ages, backgrounds, and agendas.  Adjustment took time, but through the pastoral care and leadership of the Missionaries of God's Love, I slowly found my place in our parish.  Still, my heart longed for more - for teaching, for worship, for music, for fellowship.  I sought this out and shared it with my new found brothers and sisters as much as I could.  Fr Steve, our parish priest, told me that in time, we would build a real community in the parish.

Last night was the fulfillment of that promise.  We had our first prayer meeting, not just as a youth group, not just as guests of a Catholic charismatic community, but as a parish.  St. Benedict's would henceforth conduct a prayer meeting every second and fourth Friday of the month.  I stood there, lifted my hands in prayer, read Scripture from my bible, sang new songs, and prayed.  

I felt in my heart an invitation to find God in this new place.  It was an answer to my prayer, and yet I was not running to embrace it. I was different, and yet it was the same God.  I had disobeyed Him, hidden my gifts, held on to my hurts, and as a result, distanced myself from Him.  I was a reluctant worshipper, because I felt unworthy to stand before Him and to serve Him again. 

It was harder the second time around, but I did not expect it to be as exciting as the first time I joined a community.  I was grateful that I felt no internal pressure to excel at anything.  It was as if God had opened His arms wide for me and all who came to the prayer meeting last night.  I knew that the slowness, the hesitation, and the feelings of unworthiness, were all coming from my heart.  

God, with His infinite, unconditional Love, as I knew it was waiting for me.  I knew God to be patient and merciful, and I prayed that I would see His patience and mercy directed towards me, a returning and repentant daughter.  

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