One of the most striking books I’ve read is Dr Richard Moody’s Life After Life, where he distilled hundreds of personal accounts into a sketch of the near-death experience. We’ve all heard of the typical elements: the out-of-body sensation, the entire life flashing in an instant, the pull towards some passageway towards some gate or portal. The impact of Moody’s book, for me, lies in the last element if his summary: when people die, there is an encounter with a Being of Light and Goodness, and this Being poses two questions: “Did you love?” and “Did you learn?”
The question about loving came as no surprise, but “Did you learn?” to me, was unexpected. It really got me thinking. So, “Did you learn?” is the question I would like to explore in this sharing. After all, in a couple of weeks I’m turning 52. Having joined BCBP when I was a brand-new bride at 26, this means that just about half my life has been spent as a BCBP member. And what have I got to show for all these years?
In 1986 Tita Cory became president. For me, it was a time of anticipated changes, not only as a Filipino but also as a Christian, because we joined the BCBP. It was just a few months after we were married, and Nelson invited me to the Breakfast, in preparation for joining the BCLP, which we did, graduating in October 1986. God called me into a personal relationship, I said yes, and God did not disappoint. When I became a BCBP member, He started in earnest to teach me about life in the footsteps of Jesus.
The very first important lesson I learned was to entrust my life to the Father. “… But apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn15:5) Indeed, despite my best efforts, I can’t answer my own prayers. If I want something to happen in my life, I need to ask the Lord for it. And – how He honors trust!
My next lesson was learning about His providence. “But if in the field God so clothes the grass which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you…” (Lk12:28) As each of our five children were born, He provided Nelson and myself with resources for supporting our family – and I’m not just talking about money. Even BCBP was a rich supply, what with our Action Group, the teachings and the retreats we gained so much from. God blessed us abundantly, allowing us to grow in the community, as we served in various capacities, and enabling us to give our children a number of foundational strengths for their own lives- knowledge of and faith in God, a healthy respect for work, and security in our love and presence.
The next lesson He taught me was to set my priorities – renouncing quick gratification for the long-term, towards more important things. “Set your heart first on the kingdom and the justice of God and all these things shall be given to you.” (Matt6:33) This phase of my life began when I first asked my midlife questions at age 37, and culminated when we moved to Baguio in 2003. In order to hold our children closer, just before their adolescence swept them away, we gave up many things: the trappings of wealth, an urban lifestyle, brothers and sisters in the Makati Chapter, even having our own families of origin nearby.
And now, God’s current lesson for me is something I’m still learning: accepting losses. “If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Mk8:34) I no longer possess my children’s innocent and total adoration nor their constant presence around me; many family members and friends have passed away; I have had to give up many, many of my expectations; my energy level (note- NOT endurance) is much lower while my patience is much shorter. I am also seeing my youth slipping by – so the mirror tells me every time I care to look. Even my customary camaraderie with Nelson has been changing, since like me, he’s going through his own stuff too.
Giving things up is always difficult. These days I hurt more than before – and I don’t simply mean aches in my head and my back and my shoulders. My heart is also experiencing more pain than it has ever been used to. Life, although deeper and richer, is also harder.
And so, more than ever before, Mama Mary is my inspiration. After all, she said in Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” I follow her leading, especially as a woman. I am learning, whenever I consider my angustia, to keep these things in my heart, and when I come to the Lord in prayer, I turn over my sorrows to Him. He knows what to do with them and He knows what to do with me. I must admit: He’s not as quick as I’d like him to be sometimes, but one thing’s sure – he always, always takes care of me. The Lord, who says “I am with you always, until the end of this world,” is my true Salvador.
As I linger in this time of my life, I believe the next lesson can be glimmered in my horizon – it is to gratefully embrace what I have and therefore to bloom where I am planted. Along with adult children and hair that won’t stay dark without some help from the parlor, I have less years to go than I have behind me. I look back upon many, many years with the certainty that God is in charge of my life, and as I walk into my future, I have the conviction that He always, always has my back. As I continue to place my trust in the Lord, I look forward to more wisdom, and more grace, and more hope, and the unbelievably loving gaze of our Father in heaven. In Corinthians, Paul says, “Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly.” (1Cor13:12)