He knew where they were. He knew where everything was at all times. He simply knew everything. Yet He asked them a question in a way His Son would later answer those who questioned Him, not to get answers He didn’t know, like I said, He knew everything, but to reveal the hearts of those He was speaking to.
So God asked a hiding Adam, “Where are you?”
The omniscient God was not asking for his location, He was asking why this man was not in His presence.
In an infinitely less significant way, it’s like when I’m on a date with Yasmin, sitting across her, but with my brain on some other concern, or my gaze fixed on my iPhone typing away. Many times, Yasmin has corrected me saying, “You’re not here again.” It’s possible to be present yet miss the presence of the one who loves you.
Adam answered, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
What followed in the story of Adam and Eve, whether you believe it’s symbolical or literal, is a case of people passing the blame of their guilt on someone else. The man said it was the woman, the woman said it was the serpent.
“Who told you that you were naked?” was God’s reply.
Those words stuck to me. “WHO TOLD YOU…”
Another way to put the question, “Who told you?” is to ask “Who are you listening to?”
Today, there are so many messages coming at us. So many voices telling us what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s cool and what leads to success and what doesn’t, and what leads to dreams coming true, and what leads to failure. There are so so many messages. Calls, texts, emails, comments, whatsapp, Twitter, facebook, likes on Instagram, Viber, Line, podcasts, books, quotes, status message, just so many voices, and many times it’s difficult to distinguish which ones have true value. It’s hard to define what’s true.
For example, there used to be another term for the now popular “dad bod” and it’s “fat”. There used to be a term for someone who has big muscles and no brain and that’s “jock”. There used to be a term for beautiful ladies and it wasn’t “sexy” or “b#tch”, or “$lut”. It was simpler yet more encompassing it was the word “beautiful” itself. Society has a way of watering down, muddying, and then outright changing the definition of things, and in the process removing its meaning and significance. Without understanding the defined meaning of something, without appreciating its significance, we are easily swayed by society’s changing labels, raving over what color is “the new black”, what body type is better, and just going with the flow, using words we haven’t defined properly, and cheering things we don’t understand, with no mental fortitude to assess and ask “Does any of this make any sense? What is this really worth?” We don’t know how to discern value amidst the voices. When we cannot distinguish between voices, we will drown in them.
“Who are you listening to?”
“Who told you that what they’re saying is true?”
“Who told you that you’re going to be a failure?”
“Who told you that you’re poor?”
“Who told you that you’re ugly?”
“Who told you that you’re not good enough?”
“Who told you that you’re evil?”
“Who told you that you’re hopeless?”
“Who told you that the future is dark?”
“Who told you that money is the key to happiness?”
“Who told you that you need a spouse to be whole?”
“Who told you that you need to be a millionaire by 30?”
“Who told you that you’ve been disqualified?”
“Who told you it’s too late?”
“Who told you that you’re a fool?”
“Who told you that your best life involves your dream house and a healthy family, and that if you don’t have that, you’re doing something wrong?”
“Who told you that you’re the prodigal son?”
“Who told you that you’re a slut?”
“Who told you that your mistakes mean you can never be as good as the others who have made better decisions?”
“Who told you your dream is impossible?”
“Who told you to be afraid?”
“Who told you to live ashamed?”
So many messages and labels going around. So many stupid things labeled as valuable and so much unrealized beauty in people because we’ve been listening to the advice, the opinions, and the wisdom of people who are so ashamed of their own nakedness that they respond in the religious covering of themselves or in the rebellious justification of their nakedness.
People so afraid of the consequences of their own sins that they use scripture to limit others.
People so defensive about who they are that they convince themselves that they should fight the insecurity by flaunting the identities they’re are so unsure about.
Shame is the natural feeling that comes upon us when we know that we have been evaluated and have been found wanting. Shame is what makes us hide from God. Which is quite difficult, not to mention impossible, given that He is everywhere. When we are naked, exposed for all that we truly are, there will inevitably be things about us that we don’t want others to see. Which is why nakedness, maybe physical, emotional, or spiritual, is a scary thought. We may not be ashamed of everything but there is always something that causes us to be cautious.
But I really like the poetry of the Bible, God, all-knowing, asks Adam, who has actually been naked all this time because he was made naked, “Who told you that you were naked?” Why would he ask that?
Because nakedness isn’t the issue.
It’s who you’re naked with.
Nakedness between a loving husband and wife is not a reason for shame but a sign of both vulnerability and security, there’s a word for that phenomenon when both of those things happen at the same time. It’s called intimacy.
Adam and Eve were naked the whole time with God yet without shame. They did not notice their vulnerability because they were within the security of God’s perfect love. But when they disobeyed God, they broke the intimacy, and for the first time they looked at each other without the safety of God’s perfect love, and they felt shame.
Once again, nakedness wasn’t the issue. It’s who are you naked with.
Who are you intimate with? Who are you listening to? For me, I find that the voices in my head are always telling me I have to be better, I have to do better, to second guess my decisions, to be more cautious, to be afraid, to worry. This I see happens when I get so close to so many opinions and make the mistake of not focusing on the richness of simple daily devotions, that dedicated moment to listen to God.
I’ve realized that whenever I feel that I lack, whenever I feel that I need to do better, try harder, achieve more, be more of anything, I need to stop from listening to all the voices, all the calls, all the messages, all the expectations, sit down by myself, and pray, “Father, I’m going to listen to You. I hear all these things. I feel all these things. I feel insecure. I feel ashamed for the things I should have known better to do differently, for the things I failed to do, and I’m worried about the results of my life’s work. But here I am, without religious covering, without self-justification, without shame because I know Your desire for me is not a perfect David but all of David, and so here I am.”
That reminds me of a Psalm by a much greater David, the king, who wrote in Psalm 40:6-7:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire-
But my ears you have opened-
Burt offerings and sin offerings you did not require-
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come-…”
The sacrifice was all about imputing our shame on something else so that we can be presented to God without guilt. Here was David saying, “You’re not after the sacrifices that make me blameless because you’re not after a perfect me. You’re after all of me.”
This Psalm was actually a prophecy of what Jesus would say as Hebrews 10 tells us:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire-
But a body you have prepared for me;
With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then I said, “Here I am…”
I can’t say I understand all these verses. I’m not an expert. What I am is very curious. What I am is very hungry. (At this point, literally hungry too! Haha!) so I’m doing what I do with every thought that intrigues me, I chew on it longer, and break it down into simple ideas. What’s the simple idea for this post?
When the messages that are coming at you pull you down, when the voices in your head tell that you’re this or that, when you feel inflated with pride or deflated with shame, when you find yourself striving to cover with religion, or compensating for your flaws with manufactured glory, when the currents of life pull you one way and then another, when you don’t know what to do do, prioritize time with God and start with this prayer: Here I am, Father. Here’s all of me. Naked yet unashamed because I know that You who look at me love me most. Speak to me in Your word. You define me. I am listening to You.
“Father, I don’t like my body. Help me take care of it. Help me use it to honor You.”
“Father, I’m poor, but You said blessed are the poor in spirit. Show me how to receive Your provision.”
“Father, I’m confused. I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know what the future holds. But You said You would never leave me. Help me appreciate Your presence in this moment.”
“Father, I have this regret. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s been done. But You said that You take our sins far from us, and that You use for good what was meant for evil. Help me live in excitement of Your grace instead of guilt and condemnation.”
“Father, I can feel that our success is making me proud and too comfortable that I’m more selfish than ever. Help me go back to the simplicity of the Gospel. Let the praises of me not mislead me. I will listen to You.”
Whatever it is that’s bringing you shame, take it to God, and allow Him to challenge your rejection with the words, “Who told You I didn’t love You?”
Maybe it’s a heart that was once broken
Maybe it’s a promise unkept
Maybe it’s a dream you lost forever
Maybe it’s a regret you can’t forget
Maybe a million things
But can’t you see?
They brought you here to me.
– Connecting the Dots
Bible Stories I Hated
Yesterday, while watching the livestream of my new favourite preacher, my brother, Joseph preaching at Victory Fort Bonifacio on Samson and Delilah, I was reminded of how much I hated this story when I was younger. Samson and Delilah was second place to David and Bathsheba in my short list of Bible stories I hated. Every time the story of David and Bathsheba would be told in school or in church, someone was bound to say to me, “Hey David! Where’s Bathsheba?” which I found really irritating. Most of the time I’d just ignore it, but one time I said, “Where’s your ugly face? Oh! There it is!”
I’m nicer now.
Samson and Delilah on the other hand I found really irritating for two reasons. As a kid, I hated the fact that he got tricked by a girl. Boys weren’t supposed to lose to girls. Of course back then I didn’t know what falling in love was like – where boys willingly lose to girls and smile about it.
I know now that we boys always lose to girls – and aren’t always worse off because of it.
As I got older the real reason why I didn’t like the story of Samson is because I could relate to it so much. Here was this guy who knew at an early age that God had a specific plan for him and he also knew what he needed to do (Nazarites were very clear on their rules which included not cutting hair), yet found himself making unwise decisions, particularly with his decisions on women – Samson plainly chose the wrong girls – and had expectations on him that were much larger than his true character could handle.
Like I said earlier, I can relate very much to Samson. Like him, I was introduced to God early and to the “rules”. I even memorised verses. Like him, I’ve also had expectations on me from a young age – expectations I know are much larger than the true quality of my character. And I too have made wrong decisions, some of which include women.
I hated this story because I know how it ends, or at least I thought I knew, that because of his many mistakes Samson would suffer, and more than that he would miss out on his destiny.
I hated the thought of “missing out on my destiny”. It was an idea drilled into my head over and over, that I had a destiny and that if I made the wrong choices I would miss out and if I made the right choices I would find it. Missing out on my destiny meant suffering, dishonour, pain, and all the bad stuff. Finding my destiny meant success, respect, honour, dreams come true.
And that’s why I had a problem, because I was too much like Samson, and not just because I used to have long hair, a temper, and liked pretty women too much. When I would really search my heart and be honest with myself, when it was just me alone in prayer, no businesses or blogs or involvements to hide behind, I knew that my character, because of years of pride, of selfishness, of doubt, of lust, of impatience, of bitterness, many little seeds planted, my character would never be able to handle the great expectations placed on me by others and myself.
I see this most clearly in discussions with others. It’s very rare that I open up to anyone and not get one of three surprises: a surprised response (as if they’re surprised I need help at all), an incredulous response (as if they’re surprised in the silliness of my failings, particularly my lack of abilities in normal day-to-day things), or of friendly dismissiveness (as if they believe I can fix everything myself because I’m me). Being helpful and working hard has created an expectation that I’ll always be wise and do the right thing. Which of course isn’t the case.
In the Gray
Life isn’t always as simple as people like to say. Choices aren’t always clear, neither are consequences. I’ve gotten into trouble for bad things (as is expected) but I’ve also gotten into trouble for doing the right thing. It’s not true that doing the right thing always leads to less complications. Sometimes it leads to more complications. For example, loving your children (which is good) can lead to more emotional complications than being detached.
Another example would be a good kid who gets molested. What wrong thing did that good kid do to have his life complicated all of a sudden? To have a simplistic understanding that doing good leads to less complications and doing bad leads to more is not completely accurate because the actions of others affect ours, meaning, even if one were to live a perfect life, one would still be affected by the wrong choices of others, such as what happened to Jesus, who was perfect yet was crucified. Another reason is because we live in a world that is not only made complicated by sin (sins such as murder, greed, lust) but also a world of compounded and compounding complications, meaning generations of complications. An example of this would be a bad father who beats his kids, and the kids in turn beat their friends, and friends beat their future kids. This is a simplistic example but the point is to illustrate the pass-on effect of sin.
Now when I think about this sin-compounded world, and I think of my own inability to always make the right choices, to always be wise, and to always do the right thing (which is always harder since doing is more difficult than knowing), I must admit that my chances of achieving this incredible “destiny” are slim and get slimmer and slimmer.
Reading Samson always just reminded me of this.
I looked for Jesus.
As I read the story of Samson afresh this line hit me:
“the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’
And I was reminded of another Nazarite, the most famous Nazarite, Jesus, and how He too, like Samson was from a miracle birth heralded by an Angel (Hannah was barren and Mary was a virgin), and I started seeing parallels between the life of Samson and Jesus.
Samson’s name means “the light” and Jesus is the light of the world.
Samson was purposed from birth to save Israel. Jesus was purposed to save us all.
Samson was tempted three times. Jesus was also tempted three times.
Samson was betrayed for pieces of silver. Jesus was betrayed for pieces of silver.
But here’s the part that really affected me, like Samson, Jesus loved, in effect, the wrong girl, from the wrong race, with the wrong background, and the very people who would betray Him.
Jesus loved me.
It makes no sense why anyone would do that. Reminds me of Romans 5 which says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.”
The verse basically says it doesn’t make sense for most people to lay one’s life down for others, not even good people, what more bad people? ‘t didn’t make sense for Samson, a guy with a great destiny, to love a girl from the wrong side of town – a race with a wrathful destiny. It doesn’t make sense for a guy who has made right choices to be with someone who has made wrong choices.
But thank God the verse doesn’t end there. It continues “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
While I was still a sinner. While I was committing the acts that hurt Him, that betray Him, that default me of a “great destiny”, Jesus demonstrated His love for me by laying His life down.
It’s these little thoughts, among with other realisations that have led me to redefine what destiny is for me, as I’ve mentioned in my story I Found My Blue Sky, “Destiny, where I’m supposed to be, is not a moment in time or a place on map. It’s anywhere and anytime with the One I love and loves me most.”
The story of Samson is not so much the story of a destiny missed, though it does show very vividly the consequences of sin, which should be avoided, and how these pulled him away from God, but despite these, it’s the story of destiny found, not as Samson the hero but of Samson realising his place not just in God’s plan but in God’s heart.
I’ve been going back to the story of Samson over and over the past couple of weeks, and I especially like how it ends:
Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. – Judges 16:30
Many people say Samson missed his purpose, I beg to differ. Maybe he didn’t do it the best way possible, maybe it didn’t have to be as painful, as heartbreaking, for him and for the people who loved him, and hopefully for us it’s not as difficult a road. But in the grand scheme of things, and eternity is the grand scheme of things, to find God is the most beautiful of purposes to fulfil, not just to believe in His existence, which the Bible says even demons believe, but to accept His love with humility and surrender and learn to love others the same – through a life laid down.
And that’s how Samson’s story truly ends.
I said earlier that I hated the story of Samson because I knew how it ended – badly. But I now love the story because I know how it really ended. For Samson it ended with his greatest victory and a place among the greatest people of the Bible in a list famously known as the Hall of Faith, or a list of people honoured for putting their trust in God and achieving great things.
Hebrews 11 goes: 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
How does the poster-boy for bad decision-making make it to the ultimate honor-roll?
After all his mistakes, a chained and blinded Samson would find himself in the same place as all the rulers of the Philistines to deal them one final blow, a blow that would destroy the entire Philistine leadership. Even in Samson’s consequence, God had ordained his greatest victory.
Hebrews 12, after listing the heroes of the faith, goes on to say, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”
Which leads me the my final reason why I love the story of Samson:
Because it’s a witness of Jesus.
Where Samson was a bad judge, Jesus is a perfect judge. Where Samson failed in temptation, Jesus overcame. And in death, Samson would achieve his greatest victory. In death, Jesus would achieve final victory.
And Jesus loved me, the wrong person, His betrayer, and of no achievement to deserve Him.
Hebrews 12 goes on to say “… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When I read the Bible and fix my eyes on the characters or the morals I’m supposed to follow, I either feel proud at how well I’m doing or discouraged at how bad I’m doing.
But when I step back, take my eyes of myself and fix them on Jesus, I find, like Samson, I am redeemed.
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.