Renewal Is Always Around the Corner // 重生就在轉角
Reno thought if God wanted him to be a proper Christian again, He would show him a grand sign. There was no sign but he shares an amazing lesson he learned from what happened once he decided to take responsibility for a personal relationship with the divine.
In college, I took a history course with a rather ironically named professor. “My name is Teofilo. It means the love of God,” he said on the first day of class. “I do not believe in God. I was raised Catholic and went to a Jesuit school. But Jesuits have a habit of turning out to be the most profound atheists.”
I remember thinking at the time, “Right on. Finally, someone who can understand me.” I was going through a rough patch in my faith, a byproduct of growing up in a predominantly Catholic country in which a relationship with God has the propensity to lean secular. I know now to appreciate that early start in faith—the religion courses, the retreats and spiritual guidance were fundamental to shaping my convictions—but at the time it was all too expected, routine, and all too conducive to complacency.
I became aware of this want in my communion with God when I set off for college in Los Angeles. I went to a public institution rather than a Jesuit academy like the one I’d gone to all my life in the Philippines. No Bible study. No mandatory prayers. No spiritual counselors.
The change in my circumstances revealed the hollowness and formalism of my belief system. It wasn’t that the college I attended was ultra-secular and detrimental to religious professions. In fact, it was quite the opposite—there was a robust Christian community on campus. Students persisted and grew in their faith even as they were removed from the constraints of their past lives, free to pursue an alternate walk. That accentuated doubts about my faith. After all, why wasn’t I moved to persist in the same way? Why didn’t I feel the compulsion to be close to God?
Through much of my undergraduate career, I managed to convince myself that if God meant for me to become a proper Christian again, there would be some kind of grand sign, à la Paul the Apostle. It never came. In hindsight, it wasn’t that I was looking for a grand sign to make a return—that wasn’t the point. It was all a convenient excuse for my own lack of volition, and my refusal to take responsibility for a personal relationship with the divine.
I’ve come some way since those days—though of course I’m still a work in progress—and my faith is at a point of strength it hasn’t before seen. Of late, I’ve learned to shed the legalism of religion and enter into a personal communion with the Heavenly Father—which truly has made all the difference. Worship has become joyous in not being rote, prayer more effective in not being rehearsed and service more meaningful in not being automated. What I’ve learned over the process is that a renewal of a relationship with Him is always around the corner, no matter the darkness of times. He is, after all, constant in His grace. He is, as the father of the prodigal son, ever welcoming to the wayward and enduring to those who remain by his side. Signs, grand or not, are moot in consideration of His faithfulness. You need only open your heart to that fact—and not make hollow excuses—in restoring a way to Him.
Reno’s testimony was originally published in the inaugural issue of SPRead, Solomon’s Porch‘s church-wide print publication.
我記得當時我想：「講得好。終於有人明白我了。」當時的我正在信仰路途上比較不穩定的時期 – 這大概是因我是一個人與神的關係普遍傾向世俗化的天主教國家成長的副產品。我現在才懂得如何去欣賞我有機會在信仰路途上較早起步 – 宗教課程、靈修和屬靈指導都是我信仰的建基石 – 但當時的我卻覺得一切都是太預料之內、太常規和太過自我感覺良好了。
環境的改變揭示了我信仰上的空洞和形式化。這並不是因為我就讀的大學特別世俗或針對信仰。事實上，情況剛剛相反 – 校園裡有一個健壯的基督教社群。就算學生們離開了他們過往生活可能有的限制、有著自由去走一條完全不同的路，他們依然堅持著，其信仰也繼續成長。看著他們，讓我對自己的信仰更加存疑。為什麼我不是跟他們同樣有著堅持的動力呢？為什麼我沒有意思要與神有著更密切的關係呢？
從那些日子到現在，我進步了不少 – 但當然我還努力 – 而我信仰的力量達到了一個前所未有的境界。最近，我學會了剝掉宗教那形式化的外殼，並進入與天父的個人化關係。原來這就是關鍵。敬拜是喜樂的，並不是死記硬背。禱告變得有力，而不是重複背誦。崇拜也變得更有意義，而不是常規自動化。我在這過程學到的是，無論情況有多黑暗，與神關係的重生往往就在轉角。說到底，祂的恩典是不變的。祂是敗家子的父親，隨時歡迎迷途的人，對著留在祂身旁的人們也是不變的。在祂對我們的忠實的對比下，啟示隆重與否並沒有實際意義。你只需要打開心扉，不去製造空洞的藉口，去重建與神的關係。
Image credit: flickr.com/splorp