“When things happen to you, when you go through circumstances, it’s God’s way of calling you to respond to Him. How will you respond? Will you respond in faith and love? But more than that, when God is working in you He’s also working on everyone around you. He’s asking them to respond to Him through your situation and asking them to respond to Him through how your situation affects them. Will they respond in faith and love? When an unwed girl gets pregnant, God is calling the girl to respond in faith and love, and He is calling everyone around her to respond in faith and love. When a man goes bankrupt, God is calling him to respond in faith and love, and He is calling everyone around her to respond in faith and love. Whether you encounter the rich or poor, the wicked or the righteous, the foolish, the wise, those different, the question is, how will you respond, regardless of how anyone else responds, will you respond in faith and love?
– from my notes on what my dad, Joey Bonifacio, told me.
The sun was dying outside my apartment on this late Saturday afternoon of a very stressful week. To say business was bad was an understatement. My business was dying, and dead to many experts who had seen it. But I was fighting on and fighting hard, applying my obsessive study and disciplined effort to each day’s challenges. Anyone who has owned a business knows the difficulties of running one, particularly during crisis. Being my dad’s son has the extra pressure of having to succeed (or fail) in front of more people. I prefer being able to do things privately.
Anyway, business was bad.
But my mind was not on my business that Saturday afternoon. It was on another concern, something more serious, something so serious it risked putting a serious wedge between me and one of my most important relationships, my relationship with my dad.
We had just met earlier, and his words still rung in my head, “If you go through with this, you’re on your own. I can’t help you. You’ve made it impossible for me to help you.”
And he wasn’t trying to be mean. Yes, he was angry, but I was in the wrong. He couldn’t help me.
I remember driving home as if in a trance and somehow floating up to my apartment, landing on my bed and just staring blankly, the thought of the one person who had always been a constant pillar of strength and support throughout my childhood telling me “you’re on your own”. I never thought I could ever do anything so bad that would bring that kind of rejection, that my own father would refuse to help me. But I had.
It was a dark dark dark, loneliest of feelings. It was painful in a heart caving sort of way. It was a feeling of such hollowness, such emptiness, that it was extremely painful. Man was never meant to live on empty. Yet because of years of hardened determination I did not cry. In a way I had forgotten how.
With nothing much to do, I opened my Kindle to go through my daily list of things to read and continued on a book by Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him Savior, that read:
“But when God turned His head, that was more than He (Jesus) could handle.”
It was from the story of the crucifixion. Jesus, after withstanding everything, torture, mockery, betrayal, injustice, without caving, could not handle His primary relationship turning from Him.
Why did God turn?
Because Jesus had taken our sin. Jesus who was perfect and enjoyed perfect love for His Father, took on all of man’s sin and became an abomination to His Father.
By taking all our sins, Jesus became something so bad, that God, His Father, had to reject Him.
It was the perfect thing to read at that moment, me, reeling from my own mistake and rejection, finding solace in the story of Christ’s rejection…
… His rejection for me. And He had done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve the rejection, like I had, yet He was rejected.
That’s when I felt something inside break and tears started to roll down my face. And I could hear a gentle whisper, “I know your pain. I know what it feels like to be so abominable to my Father that He rejected me.”
And then I understood His love in a way I never have – and it made everything worth it. The shame, the pain, the rejection, the complication was all of a sudden worth it, not because they’re good, they were terrible, but because it led me closer to Christ.
For those who know the Gospel, for those who read the Bible, we know that the story ends well, that Jesus rose victoriously and defeated sin once and for all. But on this Black Saturday it’s good to reflect the price He paid, not just a physical price but infinite rejection, and we all know how painful even small rejections can be.
When I think about the cost I am led to believe that Christianity can’t be just about making our material dreams come true. God’s Son doesn’t die just so we can have kids with high grades, celebrity this and that, mansions, and cars, and food we’re too fat to eat, clothes filling overstuffed closets, bank accounts filled with fiat paper, and security in probabilities and algorithms. Did God’s Son really die for something so temporary, so shallow? Did He die simply to give us all one fine day? That’s an incredibly self-centered and prideful way to see things, to think that God’s Son’s life is payment for me to enjoy man-made dreams.
No. No one pays millions for a piece of trash. We pay millions for treasured things. When I think about the cost, about the price He paid, the ultimate price, I think about the ultimate gain: love.
1 Corinthians 13 says “the greatest of these is love.”
Ultimate cost paid, ultimate treasure gained.
What did God stand to gain from paying this price?
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son.”
You and me. That’s the crazy part.
Romans 5 says:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Every time I read this I always find myself asking, “Why?” It just absolutely makes no sense.
But now that I have a better idea of what love is about, particularly a kind of love I observe with my brother, Joseph, and how he and his wife are crazy about Philip who has not done anything much more than depend on them for everything, I am reminded of a quote by a popular author I don’t exactly read often:
One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.
– Paulo Coelho
Could it be that such unmerited favor is upon us, that even in our darkest, our lowest, our emptiest, our weakest, our poorest, we find God Himself with us?
Yes, it could be. And is so.
Black Saturday reminds us of the ultimate price Christ paid that we may enjoy ultimate gain, an eternal love with Him.
It’s 4:39 in the morning, I’m sitting in my car parked somewhere in Bonifacio Global City, ready to start the day. One problem of my sleeping habits is even when I sleep early I end up getting up super early because I’m wired to sleep so little. Today I got up at about 330am, only to find a message on my phone that the person who I asked to sing the song I wrote for my brother’s wedding may not be able to sing it.
Which means… I’ll have to sing it. Yikes!
The last time I sang in public was for a team building activity that had this karaoke challenge. Now, you know someone is a bad singer when people crack-up and start laughing when he sings. You know someone is a terrible singer when the room assumes a deathly silence. That evening, the room assumed a deathly silence.
But let’s see. You never know. I have a way of improving on stuff I’m not supposed to be good at. Besides, my dad attempts to sing in front of a few thousand people every sunday during his sermons. This can’t be that difficult.
The other night, Joseph invited Joshua and I as well as our friend Dan Monterde to hangout and give Josh some married advice. A lot of Joshua’s childhood friends are sadly out of the country and will be missing his big day. This includes the Murrells, the Magpantays, the Duques, and a bunch of other friends.
But the guests aren’t the important part of a wedding. What’s important is that you get it over with as soon as possible, claim your driver’s license, and go for a ride.
I guess we know why I’m the single brother.
During our time together, Joseph gave his usual wise advice but this time in a context of being married. He has a 4 year head start on Josh so had some insight. I had absolutely no contribution to the discussion other than at the start when we talked about a joint investment I’m proposing. After that it was mostly Beowulf himself advising Josh on the ins and outs of marriage. No pun intended.
I have never appreciated my brothers as much as I do today. Sometimes distance and time have to do their work to bring us further away and give us a better perspective. Now, everything we enjoyed together and fought about are fond memories of shared life. Now the differences and similarities harmoniously come together in this thing we call family. This Thanksgiving Day, I thank God for my family, specifically my brothers, hand-picked by God to swim against currents as we did as boys, and in doing so, become an opposing tide ourselves to push back the waves crashing people’s lives, to lift travelers to new destinations.
Now that I’m older, I can see why Joseph was so wise as a kid, or why Josh was so good with people, I can see how their gifts are starting to come bear in the bigger stage of real life and I’m excited to see what they’ll accomplish. This is even more exciting for me when I think about Philip Bonifacio, Joe’s coming baby, and the very real potential of 7 little Joshuas.
I still don’t know the purpose for why I’m the best-looking of the brothers but hey, some things we can’t understand, we can only enjoy.
Speaking of looks, I was talking to my mother about my date for the wedding, which led to another classic conversation with her.
Mom: Who’s your date?
David: It’s a secret. I want to surprise you.
Mom: You HAVE to tell me.
David: No. It’s a surprise.
Mom: Make sure she wears clothes.
David: Yes, yes. I told her to wear something really hot.
Mom: I’m going to bring a towel – a beach towel – to cover her.
David: Bring the beach towels from Florida.
Mom: Those are too expensive.
David: You can wrap the towel around her bosom. The towels are big enough.
It’s a good thing she doesn’t read blogs or she might back-out. Or I could just be taking everyone for a ride like I like to do.
The beach towels from Florida are souvenirs from a crazy non-investment we made years ago in Florida. I call it a non-investment because it was financially nuts. To make a long story short, while vacationing in Orlando, my parents saw this golf resort coming up, thought since we liked our vacation there so much we would be going back often, and decided to become members. I remember my dad telling us, “This is where you’re going to learn how to play golf!”
We would go back to Orlando, many times in fact, but we never got to realize that “golf dream”
The most we got from that were two huge beach towels from the resort. I have to say they were the most amazing beach towels I’ve ever used.
Today, those towels stand for something new, a token, a nemonic, a reminder, not of a failed investment, but of life – shared life. It is a reminder of what’s really important. Don’t get me wrong I’m not encouraging reckless investing and wasteful living. I am saying this:
There is no mistake, no failure, no lost chance, or dumb decision that love cannot fix. While there are permanent losses, that’s why we need to be wise and avoid mistakes, there exists a permanent love, a love only from God that redeems us from our foolish and evil choices, and leaves us with a life story that’s even better to tell. This is the power of choosing forgiveness, humility, and grace.
But we have to choose love. We have to choose His love. Like I wrote in another post, the love we choose dictates who we will draw from. It’s not just about loving, but loving the right things. I’m a proud flawed man of incredible degree, this is why I draw from God daily because He is infinitely loving, and infinitely loving beats incredibly flawed any day. The light will always overcome the dark.
This is why in everything, big or small, smart or dumb, joyful or painful, run to God and give thanks, knowing by faith that if I choose love, if I choose the right love, I will find beautiful permanence in His permanent beauty, and discover an even greater joy, a joy I have foretasted in having the privilege of being in the middle of two of the most amazing people in the world.
It seems that the years are flying past faster than ever.
When I was young, I couldn’t wait for the years to pass so that I could drive, or watch certain movies, or live on my own. I don’t particularly like driving in Manila traffic and I can’t seem to stay awake in movies, so among the three things I mentioned, only living alone has turned out to be better than I imagined.
That is not to say that living in my parents’ home was terrible. On the contrary, in my biased estimation, it was the best place to grow up. An intense yet affectionate dad who couldn’t understand why a whiteboard and a pie chart couldn’t take the place of a bed time story, and a sweet, artsy, incredibly comforting mom who grew claws when it came to people threatening her babies. Threats of course included the ladies I went out with. She told me that I placed too much importance on looks, to which I replied, “Do you want ugly grandkids?”
She responded, “No David. But I want you to marry someone wise and moral.”
“Did you marry Pop because he was wise and moral?”
To this my dad interrupted, “Of course not. She married me for my looks.”
And we all laughed.
More on my girlfriend later. I always put the good stuff mixed into the end of my posts that way people don’t leave my long-winding writing. I worked on this. I want you to enjoy it.
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala
(Ok if you’re wondering where these lyric like weird words are from, they’re actually the chant from The Circle of Life. Just so that I don’t mislead you, I did not draw that from a reservoir of African knowledge but from google.)
The first is always a special occasion, and in Brothers Bonifacio lore, we’re about to have our first offspring. For my parents it is their first grandchild, officially earning them the titles of Lolo and Lola (grandfather and grandmother). My mom has said that she wants to be called Nana (like we called her mother, our grandmother) and my dad wants to be called Obi Wan (yes, from Star Wars, which was his laser tag code name as well). Joseph of course wants to be called dad, Josh has decided on “heart break kid” instead of uncle, and I’ve warmed to “fearless leader”.
This is also the first kid from us brothers. This is understandable of course as we are just following the natural chronology of events. Joe’s born first so gets married first so has a baby first. I was born next so I…
During one of our conversations, it came out that Joe and Carla wanted to name their baby Olivia, which I told them is the same name I want to give my daughter, to which they replied, “You don’t even have a girlfriend.” I had no idea you needed a girlfriend to reserve a baby’s name. I’ve always liked that name because I really like olives. To prevent them from getting this name I have come up with some amazing names for our upcoming little prince.
If it’s a girl, I was thinking Kate Middleton Bonifacio if they want to go for something more royal and is much more behaved than Kate Upton Bonifacio.
If it’s a guy, I was thinking of pulling from Joe’s roots. Many people don’t know that before all this “Pastor Joe” stuff, Joseph wanted to become a GENERAL. Which made the guy do hundreds of pushups and sit-ups every day as a boy because he read somewhere soldiers did that, and that’s why along with World War 2 books, an Encyclopedia of modern warfare’s weapons, tactics, vehicles, and equipment, he wanted to collect guns and knives. So my name suggestion is Jose “Ghurka” Bonifacio III because my dad’s Jose, my grandfather is Jose, and Joseph is related to the name Jose. So I guess that would make him the IV? Yikes. I personally think having Roman Numerals in your name is passe. I never liked them in school either. But Ghurka, now that’s something legendary. If you don’t know what a Ghurka is, do what I did with The Circle of Life, google it.
Other ideas were Jose Hannibal Bonifacio or Jose Mossad Bonifacio or even Jose Jack Ryan Bonifacio, his nickname could even be Rainbow Six but might be hard to be a six year old boy growing up with the name Rainbow. I was also thinking of Jose Wellington Bonifacio but may not match because we’re not Chinese.
I’m quite confident Joseph and Carla will look upon my name suggestions favorably.
I’ll continue this later. My cleaners are here and I want to go for a quick swim.
NOW you know where romantic Joe gets it.I really like Kristie for Josh. My family does too. She’s an amazing addition to us. Beautiful, smart, with a kind and generous heart, she’s able to make life work with Josh in ways no other person can. And just so you don’t think this is a problem-free fairytale as many simple minds tend to do, what makes their love amazing is durability despite the circumstances. This is the inspiration to a song I’m writing for them that has the lines:
You light my life
Every time I see you
I don’t want to go
We’re in a moment
A moment in time
We must move forward
Or say goodbye
I can’t be without you
Please say I do
I’ll post it when it’s finished. The whole idea was to capture how their relationship lasted and how they’ve hit a point of having to either firm up their commitment or stop. I’m happy they’re taking this step. Marriage will be good for them. Marriage is good NOT because it puts us in a perfect situation. It is good because, like I said in an article about Joe’s wedding, it brings two imperfect people together to be perfected by love.
Joshua reminded me that I have a plus 1 for his wedding and that I have to find a date. He told me this months ago but I never took it seriously, now there’s two months to go, and the chances of me running into someone who is incredibly beautiful, sweet, easy-to-be-with, fun, forgiving (because I must admit I need a lot of that), as well as not think I like her appears to be impossible. My friends have told me, “You can’t take a girl to your brother’s wedding and expect her not to think she’s special.” I asked them, “Why not? Why does it have to be so impossible?”They resignedly say, “You’re impossible!
“More on that later. I’m going to workout.
I woke up a little before 5am today which is not rare for me. It’s not rare for me to wake before my alarm clock, to rise before the sun, and to get moving before I want to. The reality is, like pretty much everyone else, my body would like nothing more than to stay rested.
But these days, every day feels like Christmas time for me as a boy. Back then, I would wake up earlier than everyone to check what new gifts were added to the tree, and while there were lean years where the gifts were noticeably less and smaller, being a child, the excitement and belief that this Christmas would have amazing things in store.
That’s how I feel.
But now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize that the only reason why Christmas was always worry-free for me was because my parents did the worrying for me. I never thought about how much everything would cost, or the traffic, or the details that make occasions special. I simply showed up and engage. I showed up and believed that everything was going to be perfect – even if behind the scenes my dad was worrying about the money or my mom was worrying about the home.
I didn’t worry, I wasn’t afraid, because deep down inside me, beyond cerebral definitions, I knew Papa Joey and Mama Marie loved me and would take care of everything.
(So that I don’t mislead you again and paint a picture of perfect parents, they weren’t. They’ll tell you themselves. We have our own heartaches and challenges. But that’s why there’s forgiveness as my dad likes to point out. Forgiveness restores.)
Through the years, my own challenges would grow and outgrow my parents’ ability to secure me, and with that my childlike trust go. It’s not a bad thing when our parents can’t do things for their kid. Let me repeat. It’s not a bad thing when parents can’t do things for their kids. The problem with our culture is we baby people, particularly people we think are vulnerable. I think we should stop raising kids and start raising men and women. We have 30 yr. old men with sharp clothes and fancy cars but still live with their folks. And we have women who are impressed by that. We have men and women who spend their parents money, and this is true among the rich and poor, without any thought to what it costs their folks, much like how I was when I was 6 years old.
And we have parents who are pressured to give iPhones and laptops and Air Jordans and college degrees, and piano lessons, cars, vacations, and Sunday school, thinking that if I don’t provide these I’m a bad parent. Now these are all nice, but I know a lot of people who had all of these but are not particularly useful for meaningful work.
What does all of this have to do with Joe’s Baby, Josh’s Wedding, and your girlfriend that doesn’t seem like she’s ever going to show up?
Everything.Because here’s the first point of this long post: Time goes by and the future is upon us before we know it. Many of my childhood memories seem like it was just yesterday but reality is that season is gone and we’re now in a new one, a new season that requires us to stand on our own as our own men – not our parents’ sons. Our wives are going to need us, not their in-laws, to be strong for them. (Ok ok. Their wives.) ) Our kids are going to need us to be mature, to be examples, to provide, to protect, not lolo and lola. Our people, the men and women who rely on our leadership, will need a grown-up Joseph, David, and Joshua NOT the children of my Brothers Bonifacio stories.
It’s just the reality of things.
And we will mess up. We may even mess up big time. But we can wake to each day excited, like I did as a boy on Christmas morning, like I did this morning and intend to do for the rest of my life, knowing that someone is going to make things special, that God Himself promised, that despite my disqualification, He has a hope and a future for me, and all I have to do is show up and engage.
Last Sunday, I was on the rowing machine in my parents’ bedroom and I noticed a framed message on their wall that said something like “I love waking up next to you every morning.” and under it the names “Joey and Marie”. Obviously my mom put that up there. Can’t imagine my dad doing that. Like he says, “Your mother makes everything prettier.” It reminded me of another thing my dad told me when I was younger, “Marry a woman whose face you’ll want to see every morning.”
I think I understand that a bit better now.
When we were in Australia, my dad talked about my mom, and how she brings him delight. He explained that men will never understand women because they’re a mystery (in Tagalog our word for that is malabo. Just kidding.) He said that he has learned to stop resenting the mystery and start embracing the beauty of it, that there’s always something new, something unexpected, that there’s always something to discover. He likes to say that he’s the luckiest man alive to be able to wake up to next to her every day, to wake up next to beauty, to something new, something unexpected, and something waiting to be discovered.
The funny thing is I wake up to the same thing every day as well. It’s true. A relationship with Christ can be heart-wrenching like any relationship, but as I learn to walk with Him, I realize more and more that He makes everything beautiful in its time, that His mercies are new every morning, that no eye has seen or heard nor mind has conceived what He has in store, that He can open my blind eyes to see new things and to see old things in a new way, that’s what discovery is. This is why I wake up early every day, to check His messages to me.
That is the second and final point of this post: It is the relationships in our lives that make life beautiful. I wake up to the most beautiful. And you could too.
What happened to your girlfriend?
I’ll tell you about her some other time. This post is too long already.