|The Fire that Knows No Bounds
Author: Noble Voyager PM
A testimony of life lessons I learned from our high school summer camp. NON-FICTION.Rated: Fiction K - English - Spiritual/Adventure - Words: 2,540 - Published: 08-05-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3047864
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Author's Note: This is a testimony/reflection I wrote on April 15, 2012 after our high school summer camp. I can say that this is, by far, my BEST work, so I had to share it. May it be a symbol of light to you as it did to me. :)
Truly, the Lord speaks to us in different ways, be it in our homes wherein we lock ourselves in our rooms, getting our minds off of the hustle and bustle and just spend some quiet time with Him. Even in the workplace or in school, God is there to constantly remind us that despite the struggles we are going through, His voice would always reverberate in our hearts saying, "All will be well". No matter how many times we receive commendations from our teachers or anyone from authority, God is there to gently chide us for our conceit that hides behind our humble and unassuming facade. Whatever we do, whatever we say, wherever we go, the Audience of One will always be watching us.
During the times when I feel as if my world is slowly starting to fall apart, I just know He's there, hiding behind the storm clouds that I could hardly even notice it. Because of this, I tend to forget that there IS a God who loves me even if I am unworthy. Even during the times when I get commended or praised for a task I did, I know He's there, shining His warmth over me to the point that I become blinded by the light and burnt up by the scorching sun. As a result, I tend to feel too good about myself that I couldn't even hear the Voice in the back of my head, telling me to stay humble. Sometimes, I know He is just there, waiting for me to reach out my hand and tell Him that I surrender everything, but I could feel an internal barrier that hinders me from doing so. I forget to pray at night, I don't read the Bible, and I tend to become absent-minded inside the Church. I couldn't feel the connection with Him, and it was all because of my insecurities.
I know He is there; I just couldn't feel it.
While the time is still ripe, our high school batch was given the opportunity to have a 3-day camp in Alfonso, Cavite (Philippines) from April 12 to 14, 2012. This is the one thing that I had been looking forward to this summer because I couldn't handle being idle all the time. Just like what my pastor would say, "Idleness is the devil's workshop." I knew that this camp would change my life for the better even if it's only for three days. The camp is entitled, "Xi330: Go Extreme. Make an Impact". And with that in my heart, I could almost feel His unconditional love and inexorable grace become genuine, tangible. With all the activities and devotions we've been through, I finally felt that close encounter with God. I just have to keep that fire burning inside in order for me to live my life to the fullest.
During the first day of the camp, I honestly felt rather useless. When my group mates were pushing me to become the leader of the team, all the more did it made me feel down about myself. I couldn't even bring myself to speak up or strategize properly when each of us were chained together (our left foot, that is) in an activity wherein we had to go around the campus to find a few things that we need for the next days. The problem is that some of my teammates were having a hard time walking around with the chains and somehow couldn't bear the pain, so we had to work together to avoid the others from hurting themselves. My teammates were able to find the things needed, except for me, even in our swimming activity wherein we had to find 22 or 23 packets and complete a Bible verse. I was only able to redeem myself when we were composing our group chant. We are "The Wolves", and I can say that it gives much meaning to who we are as individuals and as one whole team as well.
One thing that I enjoyed the most about that day was when we watched Punchinello's story. It is based on Max Lucado's "You are Special". It's about the Wemmicks (small wooden people), who think that the number of stickers they receive measure their worth. When they do something that pleases others, they get a star. Otherwise, they get a dot. Punchinello has the most number of dots. Because of this, he has a low perception of himself and thinks he is not worth anything. After what I had gone through that day, I could see myself as Punchinello. I have such a low self-esteem, and I let my insecurities swallow me whole. But when Punchinello visited Eli, the one who created the Wemmicks, his life was headed towards a turning point. It doesn't matter what other people think of you. What matters the most is what God thinks of you, and He knows that you are special. We are not accidents.
I really felt useless that day to the point that I couldn't bring myself to sleep. I wasn't able to sleep well that night because I wasted my time worrying about what will happen the next day and how I will be able to cope up with it. So, before I slept, I prayed to God that He might use me mightily even if I am not the best to offer some help. And thus, He did. I didn't recognize it at first, and I still felt this uneasy feeling that resides deep within my spirit, but I somehow felt lighter.
When I had gone through the activities the following day, I kept on going regardless of what my teammates think of me. I was always ready to take on any challenge albeit my insecurities, and it was all because of Him, who opened my eyes to the fact that your worth in life is not measured by the number or the kinds of gifts and talents you have, but the habitudes you develop along the way.
I was deeply moved by the stories of our facilitators as well, and I can see myself as one of them. They have different stories, but at the same time, their lives were touched by the same God who can truly move mountains even if you think that you're already hopeless and unworthy. They inspired me to greater heights. One lesson that I learned from them is to open up and share what you are going through to the people whom you trust very much and also to the ones who have more experience so that they can give you advice. If you just keep your dark secrets to yourself, you'll never know that it might already eat you alive.
In my case, I never really had the guts to talk about my own despair with other people, even with the ones whom I am very acquainted with. I usually write it down, post it in my blog site, and just let other people read it (which I doubt they do, anyway). Sometimes, when it's really personal, I just write it in my private journal. Even if I wasn't able to open up my struggles to other people verbally, writing it down without having to care whether other people would read it or not already made me fulfilled. But sometimes, there is still this small, black void inside me that is waiting to be filled. I realized that keeping it to yourself is not enough. You must learn how to share your thoughts and struggles with others so that they can help you fill that empty space.
When we were already given the opportunity to lie inside the coffin and bury our negative habitudes, that was the time when I felt a close encounter with God. He truly spoke to me, and His presence filled the entire place. Words couldn't even describe that unforgettable experience. I buried my insecurities, my debilitating fears, and my worries. I surrendered it all to God. But just because you already buried those, it doesn't mean that it's already gone with the wind or decomposed in the ground. It doesn't happen overnight; it's a long process. Of course, I admit that the following day, I still have this slight pang of insecurity and doubts welling up inside me. I felt it when we were doing another swimming activity wherein we had to create a bonfire by ourselves. All I have to do is to surrender it everyday to God so that as time progresses, it would seem so little to me just looking back at it. Just like what some of my batch mates said after reflecting upon the activity, I must stay close to my Lighter so that every time my fire burns out, I can always run back to Him. Every time I am slowly starting to lose myself that I might break down any minute, the Lord is my fuel that ignites the fire once again.
I loved how the camp ended. We watched a video of Louie Giglio preaching about God's sufficient grace and how it touched the lives of teenagers like Ashley and Fruitcake. When you feel that your life is already screwed up, God is there to constantly remind you that you are loved, and always will be. I guess that's what grace means. God gives you another chance to turn a new leaf even if you think you do not deserve it because of what you've been through, and I can feel His grace moving in my life especially during the times when I feel as if I were the most neglected person in the world.
I could still feel His grace become more and more palpable when we watched the Korean film, "71 Into the Fire". It's about student soldiers fighting for the country despite their very young age. Some of them are only in high school while some are in college. And it's amazing to know how Korea was able to step up their game because of these youth who fought and died for the country. They used to be nothing but a poverty-stricken country 50 years ago, but because of these student soldiers, they were able to show the world and say, "We are here, and we will rise."
Honestly, I can see myself as OH Jung Bum, the protagonist of the story. He was assigned to be the leader of the team, but the problem is that he never dreamt of becoming one. He was insecure and had such a low self-esteem. I'm in the same situation. Whenever my teammates would push me to become the leader or when I am assigned by my teacher, it pushes down my self-esteem as well. I am not a people person, I don't have good communication skills, and I even have a hard time expressing myself verbally. I would always ask, "Why me?" Every time I look at my teammates, I feel that they are more capable than I am. But I guess God has a purpose for it. I just don't believe in myself.
When we already got home from the camp, I opened up to my mom and told her about my experience. I couldn't stop crying as I told her what I wasn't able to share with my teammates, my friends, and my facilitator. The words I couldn't say back then finally came out.
After everything that happened, there was something that I realized about myself, which also adds up to why I'm very insecure and have such a low self-esteem. Being a perfectionist and a deep-thinker, I set too high standards for myself that I tend to feel excessively hard on myself when I don't reach that particular standard, like the time when we have sharing sessions with our team. I bet my group mates know how much I have a hard time expressing myself verbally. Anyone who gets to meet me for the first time would probably find that out pretty quickly. The truth is, I was never content with short answers. I always push myself to give long ones just like one of my teammates. She's a very good speaker to the point that expressing herself is almost natural for her as breathing. I want to be like that. I just couldn't get the words past my throat and elaborate my answer well. As a result, I become too hard on myself for not being able to do so. Sometimes, I wish I could just express myself naturally and freely without having to struggle with words, but my mom helped me realize that the length of your answers or insights doesn't matter. What's important is the message itself and how you were able to convey it.
In life, I used to think that the number of gifts and talents you have measures your worth, but then I realized I couldn't be more wrong. And I thank God for opening my eyes through this camp. How I wish it would last for another month, but I guess everything has to come to an end. When you are already faced with your sharks alone, how are you going to respond? I can honestly say that I still have doubts, but that's just what makes life interesting. It teaches me to become independent, and fight against it.
I woke up the next day feeling refreshed but at the same time anxious. I think about the insurmountable obstacles that have yet to come as I start a new chapter in life. If there was one thing that I will bring with me for the rest of my life, it would be the fact that my God is far greater than I am. My God is greater than my insecurities. My God is greater than my fears. I have never been unloved. It was I who forgot that there is a God who loved me even if I am not worthy of His love that knows no bounds. And with that in my heart, I could almost feel as if a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders.
I started my 1st year in high school as a good student, but along the way, the fire that was burning inside slowly started to fade away. But because of God's unconditional love and inexorable grace, I could feel it igniting once again. I could almost hear His reassuring voice in the back of my head saying, "I am your Lighter. I am your Fuel. Just know in your heart that all will be well."