A few nights ago, I was talking to an old friend at a coffeeshop. We talked about her struggles and the messiness of her life. We talked about my own trainwreck of a life. We enumerated all the scary things and all the painful things and we talked about an unclear future but she said, “You know what, I’m not afraid of the future anymore”.
The moment she said that, something in my heart clicked and it felt like I found the sentence I’ve been looking for, to fully describe all the new feelings I’ve been having lately.
Fear is an old friend. I grew up with that guy. I am always paranoid about the “next thing” in my life and I always think about what could go wrong, what should I do, what should I avoid, things like that. My friends used to wonder why I liked “sabotaging happiness” (their words haha). Hindi pa nga nangyayari ang bad thing, iniisip ko na ang damage control for when it’s over.
That may sound practical, after all we should be wary of things that may go wrong so that we can deal with them. But friend, constantly living in fear, the fear that something will go wrong – this disposition will drain the life out of you. I wish I do not know that all too well, but I do.
I won’t be able to enumerate all the instances na I sabotaged my own happiness, in our family and in this scholarship and in relationships with other people. Some are too painful to recall. Some of the damages still ripple until today. I let fear take hold of the steering wheel and we crashed. We crashed everywhere and I still let it drive.
I used to think that I was just being logical and the bad things that happened were bound to happen, anyway; that life is one big loop of bad things going around in circles and we can only hope for pockets of sunshine. It’s funny how I wanted to believe that God had good plans for me, but at the very bottom of my hope was this fear that I did not deserve them and so I have to brace myself for the next bad thing.
But my Lord, Jesus, begs to differ. Sometime last year, on a jeepney ride home, a verse came to mind and I was shell-shocked at how I blatantly mix up the words.
(Side Note: great aha! moments happen to me at jeepney rides. Does that ever happen to you, too?)
The verse John 10:10 appeared in my mind. “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
I’ve always credited God for the undesirable things. He took this dream away. He said no because this is not for me. He is holding a heavy hand over our family. He allowed my father to turn his back on this family. He allowed this disease. This must be His plan. This must be His will.
Then I hold out for the good things, that came in trickles, sometimes in streams. I never fully enjoyed them because I had to keep one eye open for the next disaster.
At that ride home I realized that I have been blaming Jesus for all the stolen things and the dead things and destroyed things.
But He did not come to do that.
We have an enemy who is at his toes every minute. He steals health. He destroys families. He kills hopes, dreams. He places us in cages made of fear.
But my Savior, He came to give me life. An abundant one, at that.
Life, in the form of enrollment forms and tear-stains on 1000 peso bills.
Life, in the form of laughter at a small hotel room in Hongkong with my family.
Life, in the form of a twin brother who I dance with at 3 AM in the kitchen, who told me he believed me the most when lies about me flew all over.
Life, in the form of best friends who helped me learn how to bike in a small island off coast and laughed with me and shrugged off my apologies on how I slowed the whole trip down.
He has liberated me from fear. He is the good shepherd. Wolves cannot snatch me out of His hand because He protects me and watches over me.
The future is not that scary anymore. I know who goes before me. I know the Shepherd who leads the way. I have abundant life in Him and I can rest in that. I can rest at His feet and not worry about the wolves. They can’t take me away.
Sitting in that coffeeshop with my friend, and remembering that jeepney ride, I realized what the first few months of 2016 have been about. They have been about surrender. I kicked fear out of the car and let the rightful Driver in the seat He owns. And while there are still consequences to face and damage to deal with and while danger seems to loom at the next corner, the next turn – we are not afraid anymore. We are free.