My Instinctive Judgment Theory: Strangers, Instincts & Relationships

There is something particularly special about the fact that wherever we go, regardless of the nationality of people we see around us, we always kind of know who to trust in an instant–by looking at their faces, the way they act, what they hold, what they do, even if we don’t hear them speak. Perhaps, I’m referring to what we usually call instinct. When travelling alone waiting for the boarding gates to open in an airport for instance, we scan the waiting area before settling in a vacant seat. Apart from being vacant, we also look for the area where we find people we feel we can trust most. Without talking to them, we kind of already know we’re relatively safer sitting closer to them than others.

This morning, on my solo flight to Manila, I realised how this strange subconscious thinking process works. A tall guy wearing sunglasses, a cap and a hoodie sat on the benches directly facing mine and watched me the whole time I was eating my McDonald’s takeaway. I thought it a bit odd but judged it normal enough not to create panic or move to another seat. Besides, I was surrounded by others I would generally trust (again, by my instinct’s judgment). And then right before boarding, when I was standing up to proceed to the gate, he suddenly came to me (I didn’t see from where cause he was not on the seat in front of me the last time I glanced that way) and said “Excuse me, which province are you from?” I turned my face and said “Sorry”. He repeated the question and I answered “sorry” one more time. He said “What? Why? Don’t you understand what I’m saying?” I said, “No, I’m sorry I’m not from the province.” I was completely standing up by this time with my backpack securely on my shoulders. He said, “Oh, where are you from then?” I said “I’m not from the province, I’m from the city.” I was already walking away while talking. And then he asked, “Which one?” and I walked hurriedly passed behind him and said “I’m sorry.”

The whole time inside my head, I was just telling myself “Do not speak to strangers. Do not speak to strangers.” And I didn’t look back, I hurried to the gates where I was caught up in the queue when I heard two old ladies talking from behind me, they were asking each other if they were supposed to queue or wait since they’ll be seated on the sixth row. I said, “They said rows 30 up should fall in line first but I think you should be fine. They’d probably let you in anyway.” We started chatting then and up till we boarded the plane. I even nicely said goodbye when they took their front row seats.

While I was walking to my seat towards the back of the plane, I realised they asked me some more personal questions than the tall guy actually did but I comfortably answered all of them. They also shared some information about themselves and I learned that they are US citizens who travelled to Sydney and now off to Manila for vacation with two other friends who were in wheelchairs and therefore, will have to board last. I wasn’t the only one too trusting, they also were, considering the vulnerability of their pack. They were really lovely, reminded me of my late grandmother who raised me up from childhood.

I don’t think what they were wearing were fancier clothes than the tall guy. They probably even hold the same type of passport and came from the same country. In the 21st century for a woman my age, who would turn away from a rich-rapper-looking guy to talk to some old grannies?

But our instincts just know who to trust. Is that being bad, perhaps judgmental? If one is travelling alone, is  being selective with who you talk to considered bad? Is being rude justified? How do we know when to be friendly and when to be on our guards?

I could probably do some analysing here— think of all possible factors affecting our instantaneous level of trust, draft a model and then run the regression after collecting data from a good number of sample. It would be an interesting economic research paper. And then we’ll see which factor has the strongest correlation to our trust level of a stranger. But I can only do this with some data—a survey; questionnaires, interviews of some random people of different backgrounds who have travelled alone. More interestingly, I could explore deeper and try to find out which instinctive judgments made have been strongly, directly proportional to the actual personality of the strangers judged—this one would require more than a  survey but a full experiment. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do either of these. So I’ll just resort to trusting my instinct and common sense being particularly careful in situations like this.

In any case, my guess is that the results of such study will show that a person’s instinctive judgment would prove to increase reliability in direct proportion with age. I’m saying the younger we are, the more likely we are to misjudge people. There may be outliers of course, the influencing factor being experiences with people and how much one’s seen the world in general. That being said, I could probably conclude my research saying a person’s level of maturity, shaped by his/her experiences in life would show the strongest correlation value between his/her instinctive judgment  of and the actual facts about a stranger.

This would incidentally explain how unwise our relationship choices were when we were younger and how many wrong choices we’ve taken when it comes to love. But then again, once the right level of maturity is reached, our instinctive judgment of a person improves. By this time, we may have already trained our instincts well and have increased the precision of its judgments and their correlation value with the truth. We probably would look less on the person’s physical appearance and begin to see right through him/her at the first word he/she utters.

A lot of us, young people rely on what we’ve heard somewhere that once you see the person who’s the one for you, it would only take a moment. You’ll just know he or she is the one the first time you meet him/her. That probably may be overly romanticising it. I think it’s true for some but more rationally put, they get caught up in that one right moment the first time they meet the other person because they talked and they found out that they just click and they end up being actually right for each other. These are the ones who have probably met when they’re level of maturity and instinct’s training were ripe and ready. So when their subconscious told their conscious mind “Yes, this person seems to be perfect for me and I can entrust him/her with my vulnerable side,”  this instinctive judgment was as close to reality as possible that the risk of being wrong is negligible. They would then interpret this as falling in-love. The subconscious and its instinctive judgment, we then refer to as “our hearts”. Thus, we say the heart knows when it’s found its home. Although, thinking about it—the subconscious gets inputs uploaded to the brain by the conscious, so the two are still connected. So it’s actually our mind through this process, not our hearts, that “fall in-love”.

Yet for some people, love-at-first-sight is not the case. They are those who have long known each other for a long time but never quite realised any sooner that they were a good match and that they can live and make each other happy for a lifetime. These people would seem matured from the outside but remains unaware that their instincts’ training have not been enough. So they have often misjudged the one that is actually perfect for them as being just one of the other strangers—just like everybody else. It would take some time; and for others, some heartbreaks; before their instincts come to full maturity enough to see that the once-friend-zoned is actually the ONE.

And then there are those who grow old in age, face too many heartbreaks, make the same instinctive misjudgments again and again and still keep their instincts immature—keep spitting out the same kind of misjudgments leading them in cycles. I would like to believe that there is nothing in their conscious mind that wills this, everybody wants his/her own piece of happiness. I think there are just too many factors messing up with the subconscious that the natural process of maturity of the instinct and growth of that subconscious superpower to see through people is halted and this disorder goes on for an uncertain length of time. Sadly, some grow old and die never fixing such disorder, living with a malfunctioning instinctive judgment all their lives. But then there are a few lucky ones of this type who find someone with matured instincts, who can tell that the person are their match even as they can see exactly how messed up he/she is. These people get the chance not all people can experience in their lifetimes—to sort out another person who has a malfunctioning subconscious and a persistent inability to mature and see beyond strangers and people. We all have the ability to help repair another person with such disorder, but not everyone gets to try his/her hand on it. These cases usually make for the most unique and dramatic love stories.

Of course, these are all just theories inside my head with no way of me proving them at the moment. I’m just sorting out my judgments of people inside my head, wondering whether I am writing this with a matured instinct or not. You of course, dear reader, are free to hold on to the  most famous theory of falling in-love, finding the one and experiencing magic in moments.

It’s not of much use to ponder on this for now. In the meantime, I’m sleeping in the plane just about now and will publish this as the first WordPress post I’ll ever do from my hometown in a few more hours.

 

With all the “love” from 41,000 miles above the ground,
@sassycare
 
 
 
Featured photo from Airport Love Sport Retailer TV Commercial Ad as seen in youtube

My 2,000-Year-Old Valentine: an Inkspill

A guest blog post by American Kate of thewarmjournal.com

A Shocking Discovery

It began in Romans. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was immersed in the New Testament. I was so full of scriptures on the love of God, they seemed to be overflowing out my ears. Love, love, love, and more love; I was flying high in Romans 8. But at the beginning of the next chapter, my eyes screeched to a halt. Romans 9:3-4. Had I read it right? I scanned it again to make sure, and then once more, still shocked by the words. The apostle Paul, continuing after his glorious discourse of the 8th chapter, said this:

“. . . I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers . . . the people of Israel.” (Romans 9:3)

My reactions were threefold. Horror, admiration for the kind of love that could make such a statement, and finally, obsessive thought.

Think About It

Imagine, believers, what it would be like to be “cut off from Christ”. To no longer have the kind whispers of the Holy Spirit guiding you from the inside. To lose your covenant with God. Imagine being cursed, doomed, condemned; lost to Him forever. Imagine never being able to get Him to turn His face toward you, after being intimately acquainted with His love and irrevocable righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). 1 John 4:16 says that we have known and believed the love God has for us. We know it inside ourselves. Imagine losing that knowledge; that faith. To be nothing but an ache, never satisfied. To know that every unbeliever and backslidden Christian on earth has endless opportunities to run into the Father’s open arms—but not you.

The very thought makes me queasy. It is past my full comprehension.  I wonder how Paul could care about his people so much that he would be willing to trade his salvation so they could have theirs. For my part, there is only one thing I would never let go of, even for the salvation of an entire nation: my covenant, salvation, relationship (whatever you want to call it) with God. I don’t want to admit it, but I just couldn’t. My life, body, relationships, or livelihood, maybe. I’d like to think that with the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit living in me, I could give all these up for love. But I could never give up God Himself. He is my one true addiction. I make no sense without Him. He is the author of every good thing I have become. Without Him, I am nothing. Without Him, there is no such thing as me.

Good News

I would like to point out that the tormented existence I’m describing will NEVER happen to you if you accept Christ into your heart. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your life is like or what you have done. You can always come to Jesus. He waits, arms wide open, to wash your filthy soul and stained reputation.  He will clothe you in robes whiter than snow. He wants you even more than you want Him, and He will never stop seeking to adopt you as His own. God’s door is open, so that you and I can come running to Him. Seek the Lord while you can find Him, call on Him now while he is near, and you will not be put to shame (Isaiah 55:6, Psalm 25:3).

And if you already know Christ but find that you have strayed from His commandments, then remember that you can always return to His love. He is ever-forgiving and would never turn you away (John 6:37). His love is available to anyone who will take it. If you have accepted it, rejoice! You will never, ever have to sacrifice that relationship. The day will never come when you must choose between keeping your salvation, and giving a loved one theirs. It could be that you end up risking your life for such a thing, but not your salvation. Rebirth in Christ is yours forever. Paul mulled over the concept of exchanging his own salvation for that of his people, but he never had the option to do so.

Love Enters the Picture

In light of this, why is Paul’s remark even in the Bible? On the surface it seems irrelevant. But as we know that the Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and that every word of Paul’s letters was given him by the Holy Spirit, there has to be more to the story.

And there is. It is meant to point us towards Jesus. I had not meditated on this verse for five seconds before it occurred to me that the awful proposition of Romans 9:3 had already happened. Just once.

There was a man who loved God with everything he had. God favored him and called him His “beloved Son”, in whom He was “well pleased”. This man was connected to the Father in every possible way. In point of fact, He is in His very nature, God (Philippians 2:6). 1 John 4 states twice that “God is love”. Well, we call this man Jesus Christ, and He is love. Love is the very substance His spirit is made of. And it’s because He loved us that He chose to be separated from God on Calvary.

Peace With God

Let me explain. When I speak of a Christian’s “relationship” with God, here’s what I’m talking about.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Romans 5:1)

Think about it. We. Have. Peace. With. God. That means two things: we are (or can choose to be) at peace with the Creator of the universe; and the Creator of the universe is at peace with us. This is huge. It’s what both God and mankind have craved since the third chapter of Genesis. No matter what happens, I can count on peace with God. I can count on His listening ear, on His lavish and gentle hand in my life. No force in existence has the power or the right to steal my peace. If I have peace with God, then I can have peace about everything and in every situation.

The Price of Peace

Back to Christ’s separation from God. I believe this is a key piece to the “punishment that brought us peace”. In the past, I tended to only consider the punishment Jesus took for us through the crucifixion. But on Valentine’s Day, the very worst torture Christ ever suffered was revealed to me; something worse than just dying in the flesh. He was cut off from God. Since Christ is God, the sensation must have been akin to that of sawing off His head with His own hands. (Even this description is inadequate. How much more pain can God feel than the sensations of human imagination?) Part of the eternal relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Christ found Himself forsaken. He was severed from the presence of the Father, away from His sight and His love. I finally understood the meaning of Christ’s words on the cross, words that had confused me all my life. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ, laden with all the filth of the ages—every sin of the past; every sin of the future, was exactly what Paul described. Cursed. Cut off from God. He, love personified, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13). God couldn’t look at Him. He turned His face away from His Son.

You are Never Forsaken

At that moment, Jesus was taking our place, our punishment. So the pain became not ours to bear—it became His. He was the one who cried, the one who suffered, the one the Father turned his back on. It was supposed to be us—that was supposed to be our cry! We are the ones worthy to be forsaken. But in that great exchange, He cried our cry for us. So you will never ever have to say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Lord wants His children to know that our greatest fear, alienation from Him, was destroyed on the cross. When human beings are estranged from God, we become nothing more than bleeding mutations; helpless. Jesus cried out, but there was no help for Him. Remember, He endured that so we would never have to. Bottom line? God will NEVER forsake you (Matthew 28:20). He got punishment. We got peace. Don’t ever let yourself think that God is turning His face away from you. He has never and will never turn away from His children. He will always listen to you, always watch over you, and always be there for you.

This belongs to us. The Bible says so. The war between Heaven and earth is over.

Love Brings Freedom

I often call my salvation my “peace with God”. And I often call that peace freedom. I suppose you’ve heard the phrase “freedom isn’t free”? It’s true. Freedom always costs something. As far as I have been able to discern, true freedom has only ever been purchased with blood. And mine was bought with the blood of Jesus. You see, to make peace with God after all that mankind has been guilty of, somebody had to be punished. The problem is that even if we got what we deserved and the entire earth was nothing more than a heap of ash in outer space, we would still have unpaid debts of sin. We overdrew our accounts, and it was going to take nothing short of the perfect blood of Jesus, God in the flesh, to wash the evil away. Even more important than that, however, is John 3:16: “. . . God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son . . .” It’s obvious that God’s reason for sending His Son, our Prince of Peace, the author of our freedom, is because of love. His will is for no one to perish (2Peter 3:9). He wanted to defeat our sin with forgiveness, not wrath. So God the Father chose to punish his own Son. Jesus: fully man, fully God, fully obedient to the Father. His pure, sinless blood paid the price of punishment God’s glory required on our behalf.

We couldn’t do the good we knew we ought to. We couldn’t sort out the chaos we’d created. We couldn’t fix what we’d broken, return what we’d stolen, or unlock the shackles we had made ourselves. So He did it for us. After all that, still we were precious to Him. We will always be precious to Him. To Jesus, we are more valuable than His own life. That . . . is love.

Our Happy Ending

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, emphasis added)

And what happened after all this? We were made the righteousness of God in Christ. We wear His cleanness like a robe (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 61:10). And, thank God, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17). Peace Forever. It’s one of the titles of history’s great love story—that between God and man, wherein sin was defeated and love prevailed.

Many thanks to sassycare for her sterling advice, edits, and expansions.

Featured photo is taken from http://theprayingwoman.com/2015/02/23/10-simple-steps-to-healing/healing/

Broken

How do I unlove you?
And why do I have to?
Tell me what did I lack
What was, can’t we turn back?

How do I unlove you?
In all things I see you
Every night I just try
Say “this time, I won’t cry”

My efforts always fail
When did I turn this stale?
I didn’t see it coming
How long were you hiding?

How did you unlove me?
Will it please you, teach me:
How to not remember,
to love you forever?

What of your promises?
Just throw those memories?
Thought would never happen
But so far you’ve fallen

Have you really forgotten?
Were you that worn, that broken?
I’m the one, there’s no other
Would anything else matter?

Yet you still chose this path
To fill our hearts with wrath
Let go of what we’ve had
Turn good things into bad

Beautiful disaster
Indeed that’s all you were
I should have known better
You’d easily falter

I was worth fighting for
That’s what you saw before
Might you be in stupor,
Or have lost your valour?

One chance I tried to find,
But you just won’t change your mind.
________________________________

10,000 years later
You ask me how I were
You won’t get an answer
You’re still not self-aware

You said, “let’s talk again”
Dense like you’ve always been
You left me just like that,
Perhaps I’d rather not

If you’re really that strong,
accept that I moved on.

*I wrote this to participate in How Much Do I love Thee Poetry Party but I missed the deadline, so I’m just leaving it here.

Featured Photo taken from freedwallpaper.com

Chasing Numbers, Catching Love

I checked my stats. I wasn’t particularly fond of it due to: first, my lack of familiarity on how to use it and second, my lack of interest—which is the result of trying to save myself from being either discouraged or motivated by something outside of myself. I want my motivation to come from inside so it will always be sustainable. As I wrote about in the post “To Blog or Not to Blog”, I want to blog for myself first and let everything else follow. That may sound selfish but think about it, can what I write be of any interest or help to others if I, myself, was only pressured towards writing it? If I was too focused on external factors, will I not become uncomfortable writing about the madness of my own thoughts? Will I not be lead towards putting others’ own ideas and society’s impression first? Nothing is totally wrong with that. It’s just that…the brand, this blog may grow but something will else will die—the deranged poet, the visionary, the writer will die. Michael Cunninghum warned about that in his novel, “The Hours“:

“Oh, pride, pride. I was so wrong. It defeated me. It simply proved insurmountable. There was so much, oh, far too much for me. I mean, there’s the weather, there’s the water and the land, there are the animals, and the buildings, and the past and the future, there’s space, there’s history. There’s this thread or something caught between my teeth, there’s the old woman across the way, did you notice she switched the donkey and the squirrel on her windowsill? And, of course, there’s time. And place. And there’s you, Mrs. D. I wanted to tell part of the story of part of you. Oh, I’d love to have done that.”

“Richard. You wrote a whole book.”

“But everything’s left out of it, almost everything. And then I just stuck on a shock ending. Oh, now, I’m not looking for sympathy, really. We want so much, don’t we?”

-Richard & Mrs. D, The Hours, Michael Cunningham, 1998

But wait, I got a little derailed. I was about to tell you about my Blogging 201 assignment. So I checked my stats but refused to “analyze”. Goodness, this class just asked me to audit (what used to be my day-job) for the last two days, and now I’m being asked to analyze (what my current day-job is purely made of)! I thought when I’m in blog world that I can escape from them for a while but look at how unforgivingly clingy they can be. (There I am diverting again from that assignment! Focus, focus, focus!)

Whatever I say, I still needed to do the assignment. So here are three good-to-know facts I’ve gathered from my stats page:

1. The highest viewed post ever was “How Much Does Mr Right Really Cost?“. It was viewed even more than the Home Page. More surprisingly, it has also garnered the highest number of shares. It’s funny because I shared this post in Facebook to comply to one of those Blogging 101 assignments and it barely had 10 likes and only 1 share–which last time I checked had only 4 likes and no shares. But there was a good count of viewers that my blog stats registered that day. They clicked on that post, read it and shared it. My, my.. what does this tell me? We are a society filled with people who are, try-as-we-may-to-deny-it, suckers for LOVE and happy endings. The assignment says “Give ‘Em What They Want“, well then… Hold on tight, ’cause I’ll give more love!

2. The blog has gained some traffic from my Instagram account. I haven’t linked it to my blog but I have the address displayed on my instagram profile. Wow, that just means social media links really help. I should be working seriously on this for the next few days.

3. Views, follows and comments peaked when I started using tags and categories. Well, this isn’t surprising at all but yes, I wasted a great deal of time writing and publishing under the default “uncategorized” category and NO tags.

Okay, item #3 made me seem really funny so you can laugh but hey, before you judge me, I was intending to concentrate on writing during my first blogging days and had little interest to know whether I got applauded for it. I said that not out of hypocrisy but out of insecurity. I wanted to be more confident before I let my thoughts out into the world for their scrutiny. Not that I am confident about my confidence level now, I still struggle. The difference is, now I try to keep to myself this thought: Handsome stats shouldn’t be the goal, it should only be the bonus that comes with reaching the goal.

But then again, it won’t really hurt to visit that stat page once in a while. If only to fine-tune those plans already drafted inside our heads.

Featured Photo is taken from www.wallzical.com

Running Against Our Eternal Limitations (and never getting tired)

I was supposed to sleep early today and thus, skip a post for the day. However, I just can’t sleep yet. It’s my mom’s birthday and I haven’t had the chance to talk to her. I left facebook messages and tried calling her but she’s out of the house without her phone. I just miss her. The perils of living abroad!

Suddenly in the midst of an internal battle trying to force myself to sleep, I remember my grandfather. I call him Lolo. Just last month, I heard one of the saddest news, my Lolo has lost one eye’s sight. It was due to the late diagnosis of high sugar levels affecting eyesight. I know him too well, even if he feels something’s wrong, he won’t tell about it. I don’t know if his eyesight can ever be recovered. The night I discovered it, I knelt down in tears under the shower asking God to bring my Lolo’s eyesight back. I wished for no one to see me, but I felt so sad since then. I hate that feeling of wanting to do something for someone you love so bad and not being able to do anything about it. When God reminds us of our own helplessness and weakness, it can really be so painful. The last time I felt this was when my brother died. There’s no feeling like it. I can only call on to God and surrender to His will.

I want to take Lolo to this place where I am now. And my mom as well. But right now, I’m just scared. Scared that time is just slipping away. I don’t know how long my Lolo’s remaining good eye will remain good enough to appreciate the beauty I now experience in this foreign land and have the pleasure of calling home. His knees have long been weakened by arthritis. My Lolo is the closest I’ve ever had to a normally functioning father. His strenght was my inspiration as a little girl. His hardwork made me say to him once “Lolo, when I grow up I’m gonna marry someone like you!” But now, that strength is failing and I can’t do anything about it.

My Lolo and his first cup of a Starbucks drink 4 years ago
My Lolo and his first cup of a Starbucks drink 4 years ago

I’ve always wanted to give my mom the kind of love she lost when she married the wrong guy at a young age. She dedicated her whole life working for us so we will have a normal, decent life that doesn’t lack anything. “When I graduate, I will….”–those are the words the promises I made to myself start with. But seven years down the road since I offered her my diploma and medal, I have done little to rid Mama of hard work. She still wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and works til late night to keep the business running. I know she’s tired. To other people, she might seem to choose this kind of life because she likes it. But these other people are not her daughter. I know better. I sometimes act upset trying to tell her she shouldn’t work this hard as we’ve now grown up. But the truth is, I’m just masking my own anger…at myself. I can’t do anything. She told me once before that she’s tired of this kind of lifestyle. But there’s no better choice. My mom grows one year older today, and I’m no way close to taking her to the life she deserves, the youthful years she lost when she dedicated her time working for us and raising us. Sure she’s been fulfilled in a number of many different ways for having us and in watching us grow up but she never had a me-time, like most moms have. She lost that sense of freedom of bonding with herself. I’m not sure she realizes that but I feel really sad thinking about it. She’s never met friends nor attended reunions. The best conversations she had was with her own sisters and nothing else. She wasn’t able to catch up with her classmates she’s shared memories with. She has barely ten birthday greetings on her facebook wall, mostly from relatives. I wish my mom could catch up on lost time–all those she invested on us. Now that we are experiencing the life she always wanted for us, I wish I could let her have a taste of it, herself.

Mama on my wedding
Mama putting my wedding necklace on me

I wish Mama and Lolo could both experience the life they worked hard for to support. But I guess they are growing old faster than my wealth does. Time runs quicker than I could ever run the rat race to reach that capacity that can support the kind of life I dream for them.

But from this eternal loneliness springs also the realization of an eternal hope. I am weak, I have no influence over time. I cannot give the people I love the better lives they deserve, the one they afforded me to have. It is in vain for me to trust me. Seven years and I learned, I can only do so much. I might never reach it. I find rest in the fact that God isn’t me. What joy is it to remember that God can give so much more than I could dream for them. And the best thing I can ever hope for them is not to experience the life I now have. That’s being too short-sighted. The best thing I could dream for them is heaven. I shall not only hope for it, I should pray for it. I might fail them here and now but my God won’t. In forever and beyond, they’ll live a life so much better than I could ever have imagined. Then, there’ll be no worrying about time overtaking me.

But then again, every now and then I still ask God: Prolong their lives and strengthen me through this lifetime. It doesn’t hurt to seek the joy of making the ones who matter feel how much you love them. Maybe that’s what this life is about, what makes it beautiful, and what makes every waking day in this world worth living for.

Featured Photo shows my Lolo and Mama walking me down the aisle.

From Agnosticism to Love: a Journey

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In Good Faith.”

“By Birth” doesn’t mean “By Faith”

I was born to a Catholic family and was raised as a Catholic though academic institutions made me a passive Catholic. Growing up, I began to question a lot of the church’s teachings until I gradually became an agnostic. I stopped going to mass. I was not sure whether there is a God or not and that didn’t really matter.. During tough times though, I would still pray to what felt for me was an unknown, distant God. Maybe it was a habit that was hard to break.

First Encounters

I had Christian friends back in College who would ask me to join them in their small group and church service which I did, but at that time I wasn’t ready. I always ended up concluding such sort of stuff wasn’t for me. Every time I try to be a good person, I fail the God I knew. I still held the notion that my “goodness” or “badness” will determine my being a child of God. Realizing I may never learn to stop failing Him, I would keep on sliding back. And so, that’s how I was—lost, unsure, living a life of a constant struggle. It was tough, carrying everything by yourself. I remember I used to relate to the quote: “Despite my rage, I’m still a rat in a cage”.

A Sharp Curve

Having things my way went very well for me until at one point in my life everything fell apart. I was so badly broken I felt I was beyond repair. I faced a sudden tragic death of a loved one, a loss so massive it changed the way I viewed the world. Suddenly, the idea of death became so real. I was no longer in control. I couldn’t do anything. My worldview came crumbling down and I could not help but watch the pieces fall apart. It didn’t make sense to think that a person who used to walk this world with so much life and passion can cease to exist just like that–in a fleeting moment, everything was gone. I knew that men get buried into the ground when their hearts stop beating but is that really the end to their stories? Where does ‘the person’ go? It was too hard for me to swallow the idea that he’s just gone like that. Suddenly what seemed an appealing, rational theory became unacceptable: that we are merely flesh and bones existing by some random chance, which if by another random series of events, our bodies fail, we just stop being alive–this does not make any sense. The person that was, all his thoughts, all his feelings, his dreams, his desires, the very core of the person he was… just *poof* gone like that. No, I cannot accept that! It just doesn’t feel right.

“Seek and You Shall Find”

So, I began my search for the truth about what happens when a person dies. It was a pathetic way of coping up with the idea that I can no longer do anything about the loss. If I could bring my loved one back to life, I would. In fact, in my head I bargained with the God I barely knew. “Bring him back to life, take the days off of mine and transfer it to his account so that he may live longer. Bring him back, I’ll give up a portion of my life, surely we can share it.” You know how crazy people expect that things like this can really happen? That when they wake up in the morning the thing they wished for will really be there waiting outside their rooms? I was THAT crazy. I realized later, it was pointless so I looked elsewhere. Thinking that, at least knowing the truth about his departing would ease the feeling of my helplessness, I searched tirelessly, doing everything I can to know what happened to him after he’s gone.

In the midst of my quest (and tears), my then long time boyfriend left me. Don’t ask. For no reason, he just woke up one morning and realized he could no longer bear the fact of being with me. That. That was the last straw. That got me completely lost. I started asking people randomly about where they think dead people go or if they wanted to die too like I did. I was freaking people out. This was when an officemate responded to me with a friendship I would value for the rest of my life.

Almost There

I had so many questions. He untiringly tried to answer all of them. He told me about God, about Jesus and how he died for me, how he has planned everything that happened in my life so that one day I would learn to know him. Later on, our conversations became more frequent. I was thirsty for more answers. I wanted to know more about this Jesus. He answered me not through his but God’s own words, through the bible. When he shared bible verses to me, they sounded like echoes of my own painful lamentations. To my amusement, all my questions have been asked before, they were all there, written down in the bible. Where the questions were asked, there also were the answers.

Heading Home

He then invited me to church until I felt comfortable attending the service and listening to God’s word. I learned that being a Christian is not about having a change in affiliation but having a change that is deeper, something personal. It is a journey that begins with accepting Jesus and letting him take control of your life. I came to realize how lost I’ve been and learned that nothing I can do can save me from my hopelessness. I need God, I always did.

Until this day I still wonder why God chose to save me after all that I’ve done, after what I have become. But he didn’t doubt me even for a second. Since I accepted him, life ceased to be a constant struggle or a search for meaning. There will always be moments when I’ll fall short of the expectations but I no longer worry. I know that slowly, my life would be transformed. Life is no longer heavy on my shoulders. I learned to let go and completely trust him.  I have never appreciated life so much more since then. I found the answers to my questions about death and in the process, also found life. Death is not permanent. In Christ we are bound, and in grace and love, even death cannot tear us apart. Surely, my brother and I shall meet again.

Today, I am no longer a ‘rat in cage’. I was freed, bought for a price. Admittedly, I am still wandering through this life, sailing where the wind blows. This time though I am assured, that wherever this wind takes me, I’ll be safe.

How Much Does “Mr Right” Really Cost?

Cost-benefit analysis is a basic tool for decision-making and one of the first lessons in Economics and even in Finance. Most of us know of this and probably use it to make rational choices. This concept came to my mind when a friend of mine approached me saying sadly how she made another mistake for the nth guy she’s been dating turned out to be so far from what she has always imagined him to be. So I thought to myself, what makes this news so depressing? Why are we, women, so obsessed with the idea of finding THE right guy anyway? Why is it so important to find THE ONE?

Perhaps the perceived benefit we have of finding Mr. Right is so great that we think it is all worth the cost. The heartaches and disappointments we experience when we go out there, with our hearts out in the open, are brought about by the risky nature of the most common method of arriving at the desired benefit—the trial-and-error method. This method is so old-fashioned and tricky but for the benefit, we are willing to take the risk. Trial-and-error means there are no calculations, no specific rational ways and no guarantee of how long the process is going to take or if we’ll even get there—to that eureka moment of finally finding THE ONE. Thus, I’m not making much discussion on the benefits side of finding the right person to live the rest of one’s life with. It appears it is much well-known and no one needs more convincing.

Rather, I would like to highlight the fact that on top of this inherent risk of the trial-and-error method, there are other hidden costs that each of us uniquely discovers on our own before we reap the benefits. Though I am in no way an expert in love and relationships, my personal experience should be reliable enough for one who is looking for a resource for estimating the total cost of finding his or her happily ever after. For someone who, in real economic terms, was able to make a “successful purchase” of a life-long partner, a recommendation to other prospective “buyers” is not at all a bad idea.

So here’s a list of 8 things in life I think I did right which brought me to Mr Right (a.k.a the costs I personally had to incur)

  1. I accepted that I was broken. I was lonely and that, though I didn’t really need someone, I wanted someone. I wanted to have a partner to walk through this life.

One of the guys I dated suddenly decided to stop seeing me for no apparent reason at all. When asked why, he said he thinks I am too independent and that I don’t really need anybody. There was no room for a significant other to be part of my then independent life. While that may just be an excuse from a guy who just realized he didn’t really like me, there is some truth to it. While we don’t need anyone to make us complete, more so depend on, from the bottom of our hearts we long for belongingness, someone completely for us and would stick with us through life’s twists and turns. Otherwise, you won’t be reading this post. Admitting this fact and embracing it with neither shame nor guilt is a crucial first step.

  1. I stopped underselling myself. I set the standards right at the level actually fit for the role I wished to be filled.

If we are hiring for job openings, we can be very picky. I realized late that I was not this critical when I was seeking for my perfect pair. I was largely reliant on the trial phase—the ride, the feel, the spark, the compatibility which I hoped I will discover through the course of the relationship. I have never been so wrong! Coming from a devastating break-up, someone gave me the most useful of all the pieces of advice I got then, “you should set your non-negotiables before you even think of dating.” The non-negotiables are values or qualities you are definitely sure your partner should have. Other good qualities you wish he has but can also accept him without all fall into the negotiables category. Enumerating the non-negotiables will be easy if you narrow down the list to a few. In my case I named three: (1) FAITH: He is a godly man, far more matured in the faith as I am and can lead me closer to God.  (2) FAMILY: He is a loving man who values family and real connection with friends. He will love and accept my family as his own and will never lose respect for them in any and every circumstance, no matter what comes out of our own relationship. (3) DIRECTION: He dreams and he is right on the path of achieving his dreams. Wherever he is at the moment, he should have achieved a level relatively higher than where I am. I was specific on this one because I know I am the type of woman who can only follow a man who has gained my respect, and a significant factor affecting that is how he’s fared in whatever endeavor he chose in his life.

  1. I prayed and prayed a lot.

Having experienced failure so many times and a heavy blow from the last time I did my own trial-and-error, I learned to give up and surrender the quest to God. I urge you to do this as early as you realize #1 is good for you and not commit the same mistakes I did experimenting and trusting my own guts. While I learned a lot and grew wiser through every failed attempt, I later realized in life that I actually didn’t have to. And you don’t have to either. So if only for one thing (though you would probably be better off if you do this for all things in your life), leave this matter up to God. After coming up with the list as in #2, let God guide you through the list: Is this the right criteria? Are you being superficial in any of the items? Let God change your heart and lead you toward coming up with a firmer list with his approval. Then patiently wait on him until he gets that guy right at your doorstep.

  1. I opened my heart to God’s answers.

When my husband confessed his love for me, I was surprised but I was not as happy as a child would be when opening a gift on Christmas morning that is exactly what he wished for. But right at that moment, I knew that it was God sending him to me. I felt in my heart how he was the answer to my prayers because he met all my non-negotiables. No questions asked—he’s the one. However, he didn’t fit my picture of an ideal man. He is not the type I imagined. He is only an inch taller than I am, he doesn’t play basketball or football, I can argue I am a better driver than he is, and most of all he is not an architect or an engineer. His profession was not the masculine type I always imagined my husband would have. He’s an accountant which is a profession that requires much organization and control-freakishness very well-suited for women. He is also not very outgoing and is very much an introvert. But I just let things unfold; I let God direct me through the events about to unfold. How on earth I would end up falling for this guy was not very straight-forward but just the same, I opened my heart to what was about to come clearer.

  1. I listened to my heart and learned to be true to myself.

While it is tempting to be thinking of what other people will say about the new guy I’ll be dating, I learned to silence the noise from outside and focus on the voice within me. My own soul would recognize the cause of its own joy. In my case, I was lucky because I was surrounded by matured friends at the time I started dating my husband. They see well beyond the surface so found a gem in him. Though my family was at first disappointed by the fact that he refuses to even drink a bottle of beer on social gatherings, I stood by what my heart is telling me. And that is, this guy is being sent to me by God because he meets all the criteria I set, the very list which I prayed about and got God’s approval for. Though the sparks and sparkles did not come immediately at the start, the conviction I had in my heart was solid. God is telling me a big “something” with this guy. And I, myself, knew what it was.

  1. I let go and let God write my love story.

I turned down my husband’s offer of love for quite a few times but each of those times, I felt like I did something that’s not really right. There was this friend of mine (let’s call her she), which I knew especially because a close guy friend of mine ( let’s call him he) courted her for a long time but consistently turned him down. He is a really good guy and a rare find so I once asked she whether she ever regretted not giving him a chance to be with her. I was expecting she would give me a testimony that will encourage my decision to totally refuse my husband’s offer of love. To my surprise, she didn’t. She actually advised me to keep him and give him a chance for she, herself, regrets the fact the she turned down he for the sheer reason she feels for him like she would for a brother. With him, there were no sparks and felt no butterflies in her stomach. It was a brotherly affection without the exciting feeling of guilt and scary risk of getting hurt. It was boring love so she thought it couldn’t be the one. Dating another guy afterwards made her realize that at the end of the day, her heart is still longing for he, for that good guy. When we are young we look for sparks, but as we mature we realize that love is not all about that, but about the comfort and security only a trustworthy affection can provide. THE ONE will make you feel right at home, where you have always belonged. She‘s confession was God’s way of talking to me and asking me not to let go of my husband’s love. I’d like to think that it was also God’s way of bridging the broken relationship She and He had because after that conversation I had with She (the rest of the story is worthy of a different article but to cut the long story short), they eventually got another chance at love and are now engaged to be married. (You may conclude that yes, I didn’t keep my mouth shut and told He everything She said.)

  1. I allowed and continue to allow myself to be loved.

Only recently a friend opened my eyes to the fact that it is far more difficult for a person to receive love than to give love. If we think more deeply about it, it requires someone to surrender his notions of how he or she should be loved and humbly bow down in an act to receive what the other person gives and how he chooses to give it. I read that there are five different love languages to express one’s love and our own language is embedded into our own character so it isn’t at all hard to practice. But learning to appreciate what another person has to offer, take it for what it is and abandon our own critical self-absorbed notion of how it should be is a crucial requirement of love.

  1. I forgave myself and continuously forgive.

The inherent risks of getting hurt and making mistakes can take its toll on a person and tire him of hoping and looking forward to the right thing that is yet to come. The same was true for me. It can be easy to be cynical or worse lose faith in love especially after years of waiting, trying and failing over and over again. I found my way back by forgiving myself and accepting the many times I was wrong. I gave up on self-reliance and trusting my own judgement when choosing the right “purchase” and instead took the service of a reliable “product advisor”—God. This is when I found the courage to continue to have faith in the benefits I will reap upon the coming of love into my life.

Even today in my marriage, forgiveness is a consistent element in love—for my own shortfalls and for my partner’s. This is a part of the benefits, however, more than the cost. It is forgiving and trusting that your shortcomings will be forgiven that make for a beautiful relationship; one that continuously aspires to change, grow and push us towards maturity, both as an individual and as part of the relationship.

So for me, was it a wise purchase? Do the benefits outweigh all these costs?

Well….

I’d say marriage is underrated. And that’s just a resounding “Yes!”