For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
-- Ephesians 2:8~9
As a little boy, I grew up caged by rules. The first rule I could remember was, “my older brother and I must sleep after lunch”. For the present me this is a very welcome rule, but for a six year old version of me, this was suffocating.
Our first house, where I grew up, was in a squatter area somewhere in Mabolo, Cebu City. Our little place back in the late 1970’s was not your typical slum today; there were many trees, and bananas, and we only had around four neighbors. Windy days were my favorite because I could clearly hear the leaves and branches slapping each other, made me feel like going out to run and feel the wind blew against my cheek, but my mother’s rule was really a killjoy. Still, there were times when I got crazy, and sneaked out when her chores or the radio program she was listening to carried her attention away from the sneaky little me. But after several memorable sessions with the long, small, firm, leaves-freshly-plucked guava tree branch, my mother’s favorite torture machine, I learned not to forget that rule.
After I graduated from the school where sleeping in the afternoon was the only subject, my mother enrolled me to the next discipline where the rule was, “study hard and finish your studies.” Under this rule, there was a statement, small enough to be hardly noticeable, enclosed in an open-close parenthesis – no barkada, no girlfriend. From elementary all the way to college, this rule became my breakfast, and dinner; I ate lunch at school. Fortunately for me, I did not have difficulty sticking to the rule because I simply liked going to school. However, when I reached second year high school there was a glitch -- I fell in love! Unfortunately, my mother was, and still is, very close to God. I suspected that when she noticed the new twinkle in my eyes, and the gel in hair, she tripled her prayers. As a result, I crashed and burnt in my first attempt at courtship, and I never courted again during the remainder of my high school days. The worse part was, my crush, the apple that couldn’t be mine, became my classmate from third year to fourth year.
Now that I am a licensed engineer, working for a big American firm, and blessed by my work, I can’t help but appreciate the stubbornness of my mother in implementing those silly rules, and pat my own shoulder for believing in her. Had I not, I am sure I wouldn't be what I am now.
God surrounded us with rules, and directions not to cage us, but to protect us from ourselves because we are like lotto betters, our vision of what is good for us in the long run, is as sure as our guess of what is the winning number tomorrow. No one knows exactly the future except God, for only His foresight extends to infinity. In His mercy for us, He gave us directions and warnings, so that we can avoid the deadly pitfalls in life. And in His great love for us, He gave us His only son Jesus Christ to act as our bridge back to Him. But to reconcile with the Almighty One, we have to believe in the Son, and follow His teachings and instructions. This is what it means to be faithful. Believe. Follow. When the time comes that you graduate to the next life, you can appreciate the stubbornness of God’s love for you, and you can pat your shoulder for believing in Him, all those years.