CFC SFL Cubao
When Tito Joey Ramos announced during one of our service meetings that a sisters’ sleepover is forthcoming, I was more than elated to the point of clapping my hands and exclaiming “yehey!” while the other sisters smiled and nodded their approval. Although the brothers were repeatedly heard saying “Kami din! Kami din!”, their rants were silenced by the sisters’ giggles and expressions of excitement. I think at that point, the ladies were like queen bees placed into a single beehive producing a very audible buzzing sound. The anticipation of spending two days and one night exclusively with your own “kind” and imparting thoughts on topics you alone and your fellow sister can comprehend, is more than enough to activate our collective emotional and vocal responses, hence the sudden exchange of embraces and don’t forget, the buzz. Even if the brothers will shift into rally mode and carry their “Kami din! Kami din!” placards, during that time of sisters’ outburst of emotion, I think they will not be heard, seen or even felt.
If the mere announcement of sleepover generated such an intense reaction, the days preceding the actual get-together is no different. Our ecstatic feelings transcended from personal to social networking sites with sisters posting status like “can’t wait for our sisters’ overnight!” or “super excited to be with my sisters in Christ this Saturday!” To say that our imminent sleepover was a trending topic for few days is an understatement.
As if to mitigate our enthusiasm and call our attention to more pressing matter, we had the SFL NCR Assembly with our Servant General Tito Frank Padilla as speaker expounding on the topic “New Evangelization”, a day before the scheduled overnight. Of all the words Tito Frank said, only three struck me the most: “undefined”, “drifting” and “renew.” The term New Evangelization is undefined, it urges us to utilize novel means and methods to persuade those who are drifting in their faith through renewing our own lives thus being effective witnesses of Christ by living and sharing Him. Little did I know that these three seemingly innocent words spoken to me a day before the event, will radically revolutionize my perception of womanhood. Beyond doubt, every people, act, word and circumstance is but a part and parcel of God’s grandiose plan for our lives.
When the sisters’ overnight finally came, a massive shower from the heavens greeted us. Some sisters had to wade the flood and arrived dripping wet. The kitchen part of Cityland Penthouse (venue of our activity through the accommodation of the very generous Ate Matte Luna) is filled with drenched pants, shoes and umbrellas. But no matter chilly the weather is, there is a sense of warmth and belongingness inside the Penthouse. It’s as if when you enter that place, you will not feel cold at all.
After exchange of pleasantries, worship prayer and dinner, we rolled down our mattresses, clutched our favorite pillows and sat together. Our first session was led by Sis Kuh Belarmino who enlightened us with the evident differences between men and women in relation to our physical characteristics, like us women tend to have softer voice, finer skin while men bold and coarse ones, and on personality traits, men are more are driven to excel to provide for the family’s needs while us women are motivated to take care of it. As Sis Kuh belaboured on such peculiarities, there was a chorus of agreement among the sisters. It was really a cherished moment of affirmation of our uniqueness as a woman and as a daughter of God. To some extent, had Sis Kuh did not highlight such dissimilarities; I will just consider my physical and personality qualities as trivial. Since I always believed that those are but inherent to us women, there is no point of talking about it or even appreciating those mundane topics. Truly, familiarity breeds complacency. There are things which we think are but in the natural order of events in our lives and necessary consequence of living that we are inclined to dismiss as insignificant. Thank God for sending sisters like Sis Kuh who will gently remind you that I am not just a thoughtless product of evolution but meticulously, well-thought off woman of creation.
At this point, there is no arguing that us women is inseparable with the word “insecure.” I think it is already ingrained in our DNA that we are so anxious of our appearance and how people would perceive us. And admittedly, the idea of exposing and talking about our insecurities is terrifying. As expected, insecurities are meant to be covered, masked, padlocked and even buried into oblivion. But just like how Jesus would strip us out from our sugarcoating of pretensions in order to touch our unadulterated and pure selves, and so it is with our community. That is why it is very fitting to have our discussion starter with the question: “What are your insecurities?” I felt so blessed and liberated during our discussion. Blessed because how in the world that the people I am confessing my hidden insecurities with are actually strangers to me (some I only met during that night), and yet they made no judgment at all and even prayed for me, and liberated because a once taboo topic is openly discussed into light coupled with prayer of healing for everyone. Truthfully, “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing secret that will not become known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).
The night did not end with us just admitting our sentiments of uncertainty without Ate Teny Mardo sharing the antidote for all our doubts and anxieties. In our second session called, “Magpakatotoo ka Sister!”, she reiterated some fundamental truths:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8).
At the outset, these lines are frequently read or heard by us that sometimes they seem to be just that – plain lines, but while Ate Teny were mentioning them, these verses suddenly became so animated and real to me. I am no Bible scholar and this is my layperson’s understanding on these truths: God said He created me in His own image and likeness, so I am an exact copy of God’s image. It’s like when you photocopy a document, the original and duplicate copies are precisely the same. God is the original and I am His duplicate. Or when a glow-in-the-dark stuff, well, glows in the dark, the radiance it emits is the very same radiance it received from its source. (I just recently learned that GITD things will not glow at all if it did not previously absorbed light). God is the principal source of light and when we fully accept, absorb and embrace His light, we become His conduits of illumination, so we shine not only by ourselves but serve as light to others as well. What a reassuring realization! God dwells in me, and so with other people. There lives a living God in everyone. And when we profess that Jesus lives in us, we will no longer be uncertain on which way to follow, no longer be deceived by falsity and we will fully live and love. WOW! At one point, Ate Teny said: “God died for you to live.” Again, this line is cliché, so I will try to imagine it by realistic analogy if only to fully appreciate its meaning. If I am about to be shot and a friend say X, came suddenly out of nowhere, took the bullet for me and eventually died. One thing is absolute: X loves me so much to the point of exchanging his life for me. X is saying to me: You are worthy to live. So I will live my life very certain that a person loves me so much and everyday I will wake up with a grateful heart that I was saved. Well, X is just a friend, but it is the Lord of lords, King of kings and the Creator of the universe who laid down His life for me, and I don’t think even a smallest sense of insecurity deserves a place in my heart. And as a result of that assurance, you slowly discard off the soul toxins of comparison and imitation by being happily fulfilled for being just you, and happily fulfilled for others for being just them. Now, every time I am tempted to be anxious, I will just envision the Lord holding the world with me in it at the palm of His hands, so what can even go wrong, right?
From identifying the factors that make us different from men, to courageously exposing our anxieties and finally knowing the remedy therefor, Ate Giella Sanchez, in our last session entitled The S Files, summarized our three peculiar roles as a woman of God: STEWARD, SERVANT AND SAINT. Ate Giella’s basis is the evocative passage from Proverbs 31, which is now my battle cry:
10A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
“Undefined”, drifting” and “renew.” The words that struck me the most during our Assembly, and a day before our sleepover finally made sense, albeit in a different context. In our effort to imitate others, we are little by little drifting, losing our own identity making us vague and undefined, but if only we renew our originality by strengthening the link with our Originator, we will realize how incomparable, inimitable, matchless, one in the world we are. We are all unique individually, but communally, we are duplicates of an All-Original God. In my less than a year of membership in the community, my standard of beauty and power has drastically evolved. Worthy of emulation are those women who became so empowered not because of their own strength, but because they allowed themselves to be stripped out from self-sufficiency, and affirm that apart from the Lord they can do nothing. In their nothingness, they overflow with fullness. And for that, I honor you all my sisters in Christ.