I strayed away from Catholicism, the faith I was born into, because I never did understand it. Doctrines and dogmas never bothered me much, I was okay with the incomprehensible mysteries. Rather, I just couldn’t understand Jesus – it took God thousands of years to come up with a plan to save humanity from sin and the plan was for Him to come disguised as a handyman who spent most of the time on earth making chairs and tables and very little time finding the people to sit on it! And the Crucifixion, what was that all about? If this was God’s plan to save humanity, has it succeeded any? Afterall, look at us, we are in no better shape now than those who lived before Christ; evils still rule us and sins dominate us.
As you can see, I was lost. What made it even worse is that I didn\’t have the courage to tell anybody how I felt about my faith. So from ever since I could remember I put on an act. I went through practicing my faith like a well programmed machine. I did everything those around me did – went to church on days of obligation, got married in a church, baptized our kids, went to pilgrimages, supported the church financially – all without ever thinking what it all meant. Without taking anything away from those who had to go through the pains of converting to Catholicism from other walks faith, I believe that it is harder for a Catholic to convert back into being a true Catholic. How could you ever return to a place from where you have never left? How could you ever seek room at a place when everybody think you are already a big part of it?
When God gave me the grace to turn my life around, He did so by slowing down my life, by putting an abrupt end to things that kept me busy. Unlike many falls I suffered in my career in the past, this one was different, I was trapped and no amount of money or human effort was sufficient to find a way out. This slowing down gave me the time needed to reflect back on the life I was living. Eventually through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I was able to identify that the source of my miseries were impatience and lack of trust in God, not lack of effort or misfortune as I had thought. Forced by the situation, I decided to turn to God.
Though we both followed very different lifestyles, I felt like I could identify my situation with what Daniel had to go through while in the lion’s den – the unpleasant feeling of being cut off from the familiar surroundings, worrying over the imminent danger that is ever present in the form of ferocious beasts, agonizing whether anybody would ever show up to check on him to see if he is alive, the constant fight to thwart the despair that is setting stage in the back of the head. Daniel’s misery ended when a loving king saved him on the seventh day. I liked that story, that’s how I wanted my story to end also. Though unhappy, scared and in agony, I knew a loving King would deliver me also. So I started praying.
As the time went on, I began to become suspicious about my decision to turn to God. A big part of this was due to the reasoning that there was not a whole lot of changes to my situation. I knew I had to be patient and trusting; but what do you do when you are too impatient to be patient and too suspicious to be trusting? I had a newfound love for God, and I was doing everything I could to change my perceptions about my faith. But I just couldn\’t understand why God would allow me to suffer so much for so long. I was no longer fighting this battle for myself, I was doing it to be with Him, to be one of his humble servant. Daniel got saved, but I am not. Why God, why?
Then the answer came and it was definitely not something I expected.
First I saw Daniel sitting in the lion’s den. Unlike how I imagined it, he didn’t look lonely or scared. He hardly ever looked at the locked door to see if anybody has shown up to check on him. I didn\’t sense him fighting despair. He was having a good time playing with lions and making good use of things available at his disposal though there wasn’t much. He looked genuinely happy and kept on praising God for using him to display His glory.
Then I saw myself. But I was not in that den with Daniel. I was on the perimeter wall, clinging onto it with all my might. I was doing everything possible so as to not fall into the den, all the while calling out to God to deliver me from the lion’s den.
God can’t save me from the lion’s den because I am not in it. I was never there. Daniel obediently entered the den because he trusted God. He, then, sat there patiently for God’s will to be done. I am in agony because I am neither in or out, I am in between – neither hot or cold, but lukewarm. God can’t save me – lift me up in His arms, unless I am willing to take the plunge.
I made a huge mistake in my spiritual transformation because I thought I had changed. But God, in His abundant mercy, showed me what I was doing wrong. I was not Daniel and I was not in the lion’s den. I might not be the sinful man I once was, but in reality my heart was still leaned towards sin – evil fascinated me, the temptation to entertain those near occasions of sin was still there, and I constantly searched for excuses to override barriers put up my conscience.
I misunderstood transformation as a moment’s work. What I needed to realize was that transformation, thus learning to be patiently await God’s will and trusting in God’s plan, is indeed a moment’s work, but it is also a moment’s work that occur every moment for the rest of the life here on earth. I may not ever want to go back to being the wretched being of my past, but I am also reluctant to let go completely. For some unknown reason I am afraid of landing at a place where the hungry beasts are tamed, where prophets airdrop bread and stew on flybys, and where a loving King eagerly awaits dawn to bring me out.
I must understand that the God of Christianity is not a god of instant gratification. His works are infinite and eternal, and I need to be both patient and trusting to discern it. I am where I am today not because I loved God above all things, but because I failed to love Him any; all my life, I only gave emphasis to acquiring physical wealth. And unlike what I had thought, Jesus is anything but a simple plan of God. It is God teaching me all I needed to know about His ways – waiting in patience for thirty years and then living in a lion’s den for the next three with a complete trust in God’s will.
The devil makes his money by mimicking God’s actions and by distorting God’s plans. Fortunately for humanity, he is yet to find ways to mimic or distort the Crucifixion or the Resurrection, as evident from the ever growing body of believers, a growth which is about to hit two thousand years in age. God’s plan to save humanity is definitely working because we now live in a world where when sin is increased, grace overflows all the more.
Perhaps I should stop comparing my predicament to Daniel’s. Perhaps I should be requesting the company of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, for I need the faith to say, “If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.” (Daniel 3: 17,18)
© Emmanuel Joseph. All Rights Reserved.
Photography: See our Photographers page.