Last March 30, the “Good Friday” of the week long holiday break called Lent, I was bored out of my mind. There was an itch to do something, anything out of the ordinary. Puzzled by this out-of-place feeling, I looked deep down into myself. It was concluded that this was not a result of watching the same TV shows over and over again (though it was a deterrent to me watching the TV) nor playing video games for a long time (I did play DoTA for the past three days).
The ceiling of my room was not interesting enough, and so I looked around. I saw a book on our shelf entitled “Run50”, written by Pastor Ferdie Cabiling. I had finished it days prior, and remembered myself marveling at the tenacity of the Pastor to run 50km per day for 44 days. I thought to myself, “I could never do that, but surely I could walk”. For some reason, the thought felt right, and thus I decided to walk somewhere.
Lenten season is a season of penance for most of the Filipino people. Tradition such as no bathing, no playing, no meat, no work and no alcohol was the norm and thus, almost no one would travel to anywhere. For the more zealous kind, they’d walk a few miles while slapping their backs with leather straps and hang themselves on the cross, nails optional, in a simulation of what Jesus did on the cross. I thought to myself “That should hurt!”.
In a way, these people would be the closest thing to what Jesus did to the cross, at least for the physical pain. But at the same time, these people would also be the farthest one to understand why Jesus did what he did. It is said, “for without the shedding of the blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22, NIV). But the blood has already been spilled on the cross 2000 years ago! So why do it again?
The once-a-year peace in the roads of Metro Manila
Well, because of the Lent season, the streets of Metro Manila were as devoid of cars as it can be. It can be said that this is a yearly thing where one can walk along the highway with almost no risk of accident. Thus, with my trusty cellphone playing some Christian songs, I walked along the Katipunan-C5 road. I had a vague sense of direction in mind, but no real destination.
Along the walk, I thought to myself, “man there’s nothing to see here. Everywhere I look its just buildings and subdivisions!”. And since there are no people around, I sang some of the songs that I liked, and danced to the more upbeat ones. There were cars here and there, but they too were enjoying the highway that they didn’t pay attention to me, Thank God for that, it would’ve been embarrassing.
At a crossroad
Because there was nothing to think about, I thought about my research. I am a scientist, a PhD student in Physics, and there were a lot of deadlines, a lot of things to do and a lot of other things that I don’t know I would have to do. I am always in a hurry to do things. I always have to think about the next step in the experiment, or if this method is logical and defensible from other people in the field. My mind was full of such things that, while walking, I thought about it even if there was nothing that I could do about it. I mean, I am walking with only my cellphone with me! My heartbeat rose up to panic, why in all of creation did I decide to do this, but I realized that, again, I could do nothing about it. I mean, I could go back, but I was already an hour into my journey and I didn’t want disappoint myself. My heart then went back to beating normally, since when something is out of my hands, I might as well be relaxed while not doing it.
It was at this point (along the White Plains road) that I realized that I am alone. I realized that, while walking to some destination I don’t know about, there is no one around me. No one to talk to, and I didn’t want to turn on my cellphone’s data since it uses too much battery charge.
Thus, I decided to pray.
At the White Plains, there was a crossroad. One was going to Edsa, which then would lead to Makati, and the other one was going to someplace I didn’t know. I turned on my data, looked it up on google, and saw that it leads to BGC. It was here that I prayed. My heart wanted to go to Makati since it was something that I knew, something familiar at the very least. But when God leads you to something, sometimes the only thing that you could do is follow.
Walking anywhere, even on water!
Most of the time in our Christian walk, it is like that. There would always be two choices, and one of the choices would be something that we already know, something that is familiar and comfortable. But most of the time, God leads us to something uncomfortable. Somewhere we hadn’t encountered before and somewhere that makes us afraid. I remember Peter when Jesus walked on water far away from their boat during a storm in the sea (It was Jesus who told them to travel by this boat). The other disciples huddled in a corner of the boat where there is “comfort”, even if this comfort is an illusion. I mean, where in a boat is safe during a storm?
But Peter asked Jesus to “tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28, NIV). How incredible is that?! Everyone thinks they are going to die, and this guy thinks, “Hey, maybe I can walk on water!”
When faced with adversity and trials, Christians often times pray for God to give them strength, or to heal their sickness, or to give them provision and guidance. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s good that we rely on the power of God, on His promises written on the Bible. One of the most favored verses talks about His promise, that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
I asked myself, what does it mean to walk on water?
I think it means giving God glory in spite of adversities. When God allowed Peter to walk on water during a storm, he became a symbol of God’s glory and power. I think that’s what we, as Christians should aim to be. It is promised that we will face trials and tribulations in our life. We will face hardships, because we are Christians. We will be tested and tried because we are Christians. There will be a point where the world will be against us, because we are Christians. And the greatest thing that we could ask God during these trials is for God to show His power through us while we are at lowest. Not for God to take away the problem, or to ease the difficulty, but to completely give ourselves up to his plan and power. To completely step back from the wheel and allow God to steer us through the storm.
Being alone with God
From here on out, I was in a sort-of-conversation with God. Conversation here means me blabbering and Him listening. I talked about my life, my thoughts, my murky future (when you are a PhD student, your future is, by default, unknown). I talked about my mom, about how I miss my dad, about how my brother and sister is doing. About my insecurities, my fears, my desires, my mistakes (and boy was there a lot of them) and a plethora of other things that I never knew I hadn’t moved past on.
It was here that I realized all the weight in my heart is being lifted. You know that feeling when you finally remove your shoes after a long and tiring day? It was something like that. It isn’t even happiness. It was just relief that there is a God, and that God is my Father.
It is that peace when you finally understand that after a long battle with life, your life is His and His alone.
I then arrived at BGC after three hours of walking and looked for a cafe. I wrote stuff for a while on my journal, then went back home.
Generally, we don’t want to do things that are usually considered as a waste of time. And, frankly enough, I considered this endeavor as a colossal spending of time on something that does not give me anything. And most of the time, God’s commands are like that. You wouldn’t know why God would want you to do something as inane as walking without a destination when you could’ve been sitting at home, drinking your coffee and finishing that presentation for your boss, or preaching at this backwater countryside, where people are more conservative and more likely to spit at you when you could’ve been at a city where people would be more likely to accept God’s word. But God’s ways are not our ways, and His plans are more that we can imagine.
So when God gives you that urge to do something, go!
Wynn Improso is a PhD student. He is also a long time fan of foods and, oddly enough, walking.