“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it’s the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Last weekend, I attended my first Christian retreat, entitled True Life, and it has been by far the best 3 days of my life. Imagine being locked in a beautiful place focused on knowing and praising God alone. What made it more colorful was you share the experience with 250+ people whose hearts are afire with His love. It felt like we were there for a week, yet I don’t want it to end. But I know the real result of the retreat begins as we go back to normal programming. So, this is how I try to make Him known by writing my testimony the way I know how.
What’s my True Life story?
It’s a love story, a romantic one. As I recall this one, I shudder in tears and joy combined as to how He revealed how much He loves me – us.
A quick flashback to how I started attending the single’s ministry at CCF. As much as I hate to admit but it was triggered by my first real heartbreak that happened last year (which I have told several times in this blog). I won’t go into details of how bad the relationship was but I will share bits and pieces to shed some light on how perfect His plan is. “We” were wrong right from the beginning. “We” are not compatible at all, maybe we got too caught up with the ridicule from people around us saying we look good together. He never really pursued / courted me. There were no giving of flowers or even flowery actions to please me. Less than a month from knowing we have a mutual understanding, we entered a “no label” relationship (it was like the cool thing then). We fought more than we understood each other. Sexual immoralities was at the center of us. Then again, I admit to having a fair share in this failed relationship, since yes, I settled for that. And only after a year, he left me. You know the story – he broke up with me on Facebook.
I don’t feel any pinch of pain anymore (thank God for healing my broken heart), but damn, I never thought it would be the darkest moment of my life since I never realized that it was actually going to end. In those times too, everything around me were falling apart. I was battling a broken relationship with my sister, my parents weren’t around to protect me, work was so uninspiring that I was literally dragging myself to the office, and generally my life became so awful. I clearly remember how depressed I was, I always tell/wonder to myself how can someone simply hurt and leave me like that? Don’t I deserve a decent break up, even more, a decent relationship? My insecurities grew ten times more. I felt so ugly, pathetic, disrespected and worthless. Am I not worth sticking up with?
To get over the depression, I always go out to either a coffee shop to read books or eat in a nice restaurant alone. I also went extremes. I went mountain climbing, island hopping, surfing and committed myself to boxing/muay thai. All to prove I can do this on my own. And then one of those consecutive nights of crying myself to sleep because of the unbearable pain, I called out on Him, “I don’t want this feeling anymore, please take it away.” Indeed, He listens. (Psalms 34:17-18).
I was in touch with my friend Richel who invited me to CCF Sunday Service. My heart was strongly touched that very day that I knew this was all I needed. She saw the joy I felt after, so she invited me to Saturday singles ministry, called B1G (Be One with God) South, where I easily felt comfortable. During that time, they were promoting the upcoming retreat on August. I wanted to attend but circumstances didn’t allow me to. I was going to start my new job that same month and it would be inappropriate for me to take a leave right away. I also had the wrong perspective about a Christian retreat which involves baptism, like I don’t want to dishonor my parents by rushing to that decision without them knowing.
Fast forward 12 months later to this year, the Monday of the retreat week, I celebrated my anniversary with B1G South. On that day, God made it clear to me why I wasn’t at last year’s retreat and why the upcoming one is such a BIG deal.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Since that night in my room when I opened my heart to Him and made Him my Savior, He proved His faithfulness to me. Little did I know in that one year He was actually pursuing me. He courted me by leading me to B1G ministry, blessing me with amazing DGroup sisters and friends, He gave me the opportunity to read His word, He gave me a fulfilling job, He handled the hearts of my parents to give me their blessing in this walk of faith, and so many more answered prayers. Looking back I am humbled by His graciousness upon me. He totally did the opposite of my previous relationship. As a girl being pursued, I really made the effort to look pleasing to Him. But I always end up questioning myself if I am doing enough. I still feel ashamed of the sins of my past. I was trying so hard but I always felt discouraged because I know I don’t deserve that kind love from an Almighty Father.
On the retreat, the first message was Father’s love and this easily made me cry: “God is waiting to love you, to embrace you, to restore you.” Isn’t that amazing? Your Creator and Savior is just waiting for you with so much love to give and there’s nothing you will ever need. (whew)
There are so many highlights in the retreat. All the messages changed and deepened my understanding of the gospel. The retreat washed all my fears as a sinner and filled it with HOPE. Love was all over the retreat. When I think of how God showed He loves me in that one year, I will not forget that He actually affirmed it on the cross when He died for all of us. That act is the most romantic gesture done for me, for all of us.
The concept of baptism was made clear to me. It was not a matter of converting religions rather it is a declaration of faith. It is like entering into a marriage wherein you publicly declared your commitment to someone. While I was going to the pool area, it seems like I am walking down the aisle; fellow participants were gathered and cheering to show their support; and as the officiators asked you questions if you are ready to commit, I also heard Him say I do. As I immerse in water, I entered a relationship with someone whose love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me..
So now after a year, He has proven to me how I should love and be loved. I already feel valued and worthy. But this is just the start. Now that I have this burning desire to make Him known, that very day He became my partner in this walk. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19)
This is my testimony, just one out of the hundreds of wonderful stories of lives transformed during the retreat. A person can get saved even if he just heard about the gospel during the retreat, for some it might take months or years, nonetheless, it is only by God’s grace through faith that we are saved. I find peace in Him knowing He has written billions of stories unique to each of us – all with His love written all over it.
To end this, I believe it is God’s love that works mysteriously. He made a way for me to take part in the promotional video of the retreat wherein my role was the depressed one, “walling” and crying (so far from what happened). Then, I was given a moment again on the post-retreat video wherein a clip from my baptism was part showing how joyful I was (even if I still think I look silly there). Praise God for all these!