November 22, 2013 by AJ Briones
I have been a teacher for quite some time now. Though I am not a teaching course graduate, I have been blessed to have a chance to teach the next generation good manners, right conduct and most especially who Jesus really is. I so love that idea that I can actually be used by God to share His love to young persons.
Every time I would talk to young people, I would see myself in their shoes. I could remember the beginning of it all. I was not a boomer Christian. I was not like some of my Christian friends who were flashy. Rather, I was one of those who stood quietly, enjoying God and growing on my own. I was a Christian but I was never really a people person.
Extremes, I suddenly thought of that. That was the early stage of my relationship with Jesus. I could remember its similarities to who I was before Jesus. I practically grew up in what you call a half-Christian family. What do I mean? Our house was actually cut into two kinds of persons. My mother’s side was filled with Protestants and my father and his family were in some sort of was nearly nominal Catholics. Though, in our family, my mother made it sure that we were immersed in a majority of Protestant beliefs which was a good religion for a Christian, I did not really understand who God was.
I grew up in an environment of nominal religion and conservative Presbyterianism (if there is such as a word). It was all mixed up into a new culture where I grew up. I could remember my dad with his many self-created rituals and traditions. I could remember my mother who was so active in Church activities such as the choir and what they call the CWA or the Christian Women’s Assembly (or Association. I may be wrong). I have now a new kind of culture for myself.
Grew up in a world where men were superior as women were breaking out to prove themselves the better ones in comparison to me. I could remember the nights at our home when my “Papa” or some of you would call Dad would call his friends, eight to twelve in number to drink San Miguel Beer and eat “Pulutan” (Sometimes cooked goat / the 3 letter animal we all love). I could remember myself as a part of those gatherings as early as two years of age, holding onto a grande size beer, enjoying the company of my dad as they were enjoying to see a little boy like me drink. Still could remember the taste of it. It was awful but at that time I loved it because it brought happiness to the person I so heavily idolized that time, my father. Don’t get me wrong. My Dad is for me the best Father a man could ever have and I know that I would never want any other Father other than him. He’s the best Dad that God gave me. No one else could ever take his place or could even do what my Dad has done for me. I honor my Dad. Even at the present time, he has been a great and loving provider for our family. Even at this moment that my brother and I have a job already.
The other side of how I grew up was because of the raising of my mother. My mother was a Christian. She was and still is at the present loving and caring and protective of her children. You see, we were four. I had two elderly sisters and one younger brother, which in some sort of way makes me into the middle child. She would at every Sunday encourage our whole family to go to the Church where she still attends at the present time with my younger brother. She gave us an example of an ordinary person who has a great eagerness to serve in the ministry. She was at a lot of times in my memory an usher or a liturgist in the 7:30 AM service. I could even remember myself urging my father to sneak out of the Church building and walk to the nearest place where we could eat, MERCED BAKESHOP in Quezon Avenue.
Growing with a perspective of the two brings to my memory a certain religious cultural tradition that I have read about:
In an Amish religious sect with roots found in Europe, people have separated themselves from the people and kept themselves pure from anything that the world has. In one time before a young person would enter a full pledge to the Amish faith, they are to go through a season called Rumspringa. Rumspringa literally means “running around.” It’s a period of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules; as in zero rules. Some people even called this as the Devil’s Playground. In the end of this period, a young man or woman is given a choice to live the life he wants. A lot of them turn out to choose to go back to the Amish faith being so disgusted with their lives during the time of Rumspringa.
Why did I have to share that? What does it have to do with my story as a child? It is because of the choice. In was in a situation of seeing two worlds. Both of them appeared to be great. One side I would please my mother by singing hymns with her and on the other side, I would please my dad as I create a “manly” image for myself. I have come to a question of which path should I take? Should I take a life of a “Christian” or “Nominal” life?
Such questions made me ask myself, what it really means to be a Christian. I hear it almost every day from our teachers in school. I hear it every day. I sing it but I had no idea what does it really mean. It was a big question mark that I would still carry on my head promoting with my mother as we go to Church every week.
The searching brought me one day to a time when I was waiting for my school service as a first year high school student. There was something that most of the students called as Campus Ministry promoted for everyone. I was curious because I knew it had something to do with my question of what it really means to be a Christian. I also knew that the people I considered as SUPER Christians attended that. Arla Fontamillas, Shalom Gasilao, Kristel Sison, and even Ishmael Cabaña attended that activity. They were considered as the leaders of the Christian Faith in the School. I wanted to understand and give an end to my searching. I wanted to know what is the beneficial path to take was.
That was the beginning of it all. When I attended that, I did not find my answer but it helped me find the way to the answer. It was a choice that I have never made regret for making. Ask me now. What did I choose exactly among the two as I saw it at a distant time after I attended that activity? I chose neither.
I came to a point when I realized that it was not about my identity. It wasn’t about me becoming either one. It was far off from my search of identity. It was all about the one who gave me my identity. Christianity has come from a view of rules and things I must do to please my family; either my mother or father. It was a relationship with the one who made me and loved me. It was never about whom I wanted to be but who He is. He created me. He was more than that. He loved me. He even died for me. Because of that great love, death could not even hold Him to express His love for me. He rose from the dead and brought life back into my dying lungs. He gave flesh to my dry bones. He was no longer far from me. It was not about my choice to love Him but His choice to love me. And that amazes me the most. And that’s the story how He became PERSONAL to me.